A Guide to Productivity

How to take your productivity to the next level with a simple system based on making lists & other tips.

A Guide to Productivity

Productivity is been talked about endlessly. It seems every day there’s a new app or a new book or a new something out there that will change your life and revolutionize your productivity to take it to the next level.

But will it, really? Or will it give you yet another thing to do before you realize it’s not for you? How much will you have to pay for that course or that coach or that subscription? How much will that money be worth when you realize the only system that works is one that works for you?

And really, the only person who can make it work is you, by creating a system designed for your specific needs. So let’s get to work on creating that system.

We can get started with a simple technique called making a list.

All you need is a good list to make a plan. You can quote me on that.

A Todo List

You need a To-do list to keep track of things you must do. Like commitments or assignments or anything that needs to be done. You could take this further and categorize your list by due dates (this week, next week, next month, etc.) Everything that must be done goes on this list.

A Watch List

The watch list is everything you need to remember or wait for someone else to get back to you, or follow up on.

A Later List

Everything else goes into another list of things that you want to do when you have the time or wish you could do sometime later.


If something doesn’t fit into any of these lists, then it must not be that important since you won’t even want to do it later, so just ignore it.

Every day you will look at your To-do list and pick out 3 to 5 things that you want to do that day. Then you will try as much as possible to get those things done. If you do them, it will be a good day, and you will feel accomplished.

If you get into this habit, you will realize how many days went by before when you didn’t get a single important thing done. But every time you do something, you get to cross it off your list and get that rush of endorphins, making you feel all proud and productive.

A cool thing about this list is that if you find yourself procrastinating on a particular to-do on your list, you can pick something else to do in the meantime!

As John Perry, a philosophy professor from Stanford would put it:

The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

Only check your email twice a day

Doing email only twice a day will make you more productive the rest of the day. That’s because you’ll be distracted less often and will have more time to focus on the tasks at hand. Anyone who absolutely cannot wait until the end of the day will try to call you, text you, or reach you via smoke signals. Emails kill your flow and take away your ability to focus on something long enough to be productive.

You can take this further by categorizing your email with labels and filters, so all messages go into an Action, Pending, or Review folder. Everything else you should archive as soon as the conversation is done.

Turn off your notifications

Same as with email, being constantly notified of your friend's latest adventures/meals is distracting and interrupts your flow. It’s best just to turn off all the notifications and check your phone when you have time.

Don’t answer the phone

Unless you’re waiting for an important call, just keep your phone on silent and let all calls go to voice mail. If it’s important, they will leave a message. Then when you have time, go through your voicemail and return the important calls.

Don’t ever answer calls from random phone numbers. There are a lot of robo-callers, spam marketers, and even scammers out there. Don’t fall for that.

I only ever answer calls from known numbers that I have in my contacts. That’s it.

Start the day right

No matter what you do or what time you wake up, just make sure you start the day right. That might be by having a nice breakfast or a light workout, or even some meditation. Whatever suits you, it’s important to have a chance to peacefully collect your thoughts and prepare mentally and emotionally for the day ahead.

It will also allow you to review your To-do list and gather anything you need for your next task!

And that’s it! Do you have a different productivity system already in place? Let me know in the comments below!


PS. Other people recommend making a To-Don't list to identify busy work that isn’t helping you meet your goals and help you focus on the work that is.


Adrian Cruz

Web developer, consultant, and author. Open-source maintainer at atomic-fns.dev. Sharing tips about JS, Python & #WebDevelopment. I like music too.

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