The 9 Habits of Productive People in the modern day

Ok, so that was a tongue-in-cheek headline – yeah, you didn’t think you were gonna be clickbaited in the Coven, did ya?


But picture the scene: a couple of weeks ago, whilst despairing at my own productivity, I came across  this list from Forbes. (It’s not even a lack of productivity that I have necessarily, but a lack of lucrative productivity – when I’m putting off the work I don’t want to do, I’m that old cliché with a clean house and a freshly baked banana bread and a fully up-to-date diary, but I’ve technically not earnt anything in that calendar day.) If it’s good enough for the world’s biggest businesses and richest entrepreneurs, I thought, it’s sure as hell gonna be good for me, right? WRONG.


Personally, I found some of their advice a little generalising, and definitely not tailored to the modern multi-hyphenate. Not that I think I’m a match for Forbes or anything, but here’s my suggestions for the 9 Habits of Productive People in 2018…


1.     “Cut your to-do list in half”. Yeah, I’m on board with this one. If your to-do list is giant and overwhelming, as mine frequently is (bullet journals do my nut in so I just have one giant list of everything my brain currently contains), break it down into doable chunks. Take it day by day – I try and force myself into it by writing “MANAGEABLE” on the page next to my Mammoth List Of Doom TM and picking out the bits that need to and can be done on that day. “Take a less-is more approach to your to-do list by only focusing on accomplishing things that matter” say ye olde Forbes, instead of expending precious energy on just thinking about the sheer enormity of your tasks. >> Break your to-do list down into manageable mini-lists. Listception.

2.     “Take more breaks”. Advice hasn’t changed since GCSES – shorter, more frequent bursts of activity are better than long, dragged-on ones. I’m not sure there’s a magical number of exactly how long said seshes sould be (I think it was 20 minutes followed by a 5 min break at GCSE, but a 15 year old brain is different to ours, we hope…whether it’s bigger or smaller I’ll leave to your own judgment.) But taking yourself out of the slog, recharging with a snack or a meal, going somewhere or just taking some time out quietly with yourself will have you back, ready to attack and lead the pack. >> Take regular timeout to avoid burn out, in time with your own clock.

3.     “Follow the 80/20 rule.” Apparently, according to Forbes, only 20% of what you do each day produces 80% of your results. They go on to advise you to break down your next project into steps and systematically remove tasks until you end up with the 20% that gets the 80% of results. I’m not sure this would work with my workload – then again, maybe I’m too apathetic to try – because it seems to me that it’d be easy to remove the little jobs that seem mundane but actually bring in a lot of shmoney. For example, it’d be easy to remove the hours of insta trawling from your day – that goddamn wormhole of inspiration, empowerment and comparison – but organic engagement on there boosts your visibility, and you don’t wanna get rid of that, surely?

4.     “Use your morning to focus on yourself”. Whilst a lot of crappy clickbait articles about how to become a morning person are just that – crappy clickbait – there is some truth to this one. By virtue of the brain having to wake up and your melatonin levels (the hormone that regulates your sleep, and thus your wakefulness), the first hour of your day isn’t prime productivity time, and it’s suggested you do something that doesn’t require sharp, 100% focus. Exercising, eating, meditating, packing school lunches, planning outfits – that’s all good stuff. Be gentle with yourselves, babes.

5.     “Tackle your challenging tasks before lunch”. Well, Mr Forbes, what if you’re not a morning person? The argument is that this is when your brain is most fresh, but some of us just aren’t wired that way, and that’s totally fine. Instead, I’d suggest working out when you feel most productive, and approaching each day planning to tackle your challenging to-dos then. Figure out when you work best, and work your damned best when it comes around.

6.     “Improve your email etiquette”. When I read this strapline, I was like ‘Yeah, fairdos’. Then it went into some weird stuff about how cc’ing people into emails is actually lazy and trying to put work onto other people, and it became a leeeeeettle tangential I feel. So, instead, I’m going to agree, but in a different way: try and practice sending emails that are polite and warm, but not lengthy and time-sappers. A lot of the time we invest in emails may be emotional energy; a lot of the emails women tend to send are full of apologies (“Sorry to nag” or “sorry for another email!”) and skirting around issues we KNOW we’re the bomb dot com at (“Would it be alright if” or “I’ve been having a little think”). Become surer of yourself, stop using phrases to diminish yourself, and spend that time crafting emails as brilliant as you. Write emails that you mean, not emails you think you should be seen as saying.

7.     “Create a system”. I feel the caveat should be as best you can. So many people’s working lives nowadays are unpredictable and therefore can’t really be planned around. However, you can at least identify some productivity-ruining habits you’ve gained over the years and manage some ways by creating a system you can slot in wherever to combat it. Evaluate some pitholes and fill those pitholes in for plain sailing (ok, my analogy’s fallen apart now)

8.     “Stop confusing productivity with laziness”. “A number of so-called time-saving methods – taking meetings, and emails for example – are actually just ways of getting out of doing real work.” Sometimes, yes. But here’s ya pinch of salt: don’t confuse productivity with over-working, either. Having your head down in your emails for half hour bursts before going to meditate on your break and ignoring all your coworkers may also make you feel like crap and lead you to burnout, and we do NOT want that. And stop confusing productivity with overworking, too

9.     “Stop multi-tasking”. Forbes, PUH-LEASE. DO you know who you’re talking to? We’re the generations of people who were BORN multitaskers. It’s the wait the world of work is going. So don’t be afraid of multitasking, but do be wary of multitasking all in one moment: focusing on one task at a time, as in literally task-by-task, may save some precious brainpower. It doesn’t mean you have to give up being a mama, baker, social media manager and monkey trainer as well. Single-task in order to multi-task effectively


So, what do you think?

Written by Ellie Kime

Sapphire Bates