How I Stay Productive and Get Massive Amounts of Shit Done

How I Stay Productive and Get Massive Amounts of Shit Done

Just like anyone else, I battle distraction and opportunity overwhelm on a daily basis.

There are so many things I could do, that might be worth it. And there is always a deluge of interesting things passing by that pique my curiosity. A funny video on Facebook, an interesting article on Twitter, a new opportunity in my inbox.

The battle for focus is one that I wage daily. And the fight never ends.

I’m always curious how other people stay productive, focus on what matters and finish what they start. I asked you on Twitter if you’d be interested in hearing about how I get shit done and the overwhelming response was “Yes, do it!”

So, what follows is every tip, trick, and hack that I use to stay prolific, get shit done and win the battle for focus.

1. First, go directly to work

The first battle of the day often determines how the rest of the day will play out. If I can resist the temptation to get sucked into checking email in the morning, I can often get something meaningful accomplished right away. A quick win in the morning sets the right tone for the rest of the day.

I’ll admit, this isn’t always easy for me. Sometimes I struggle to not check email or Facebook. But if there’s one high leverage habit I’ve developed, it’s this.

If you’re working on developing your focus muscles, I would start with this simple practice and master it before moving on.

2. Start, often

The hardest part is often just starting. I’ve found that it’s especially hard for me to start when a task is difficult or complex. The more importance and weight a certain activity has in my life or business, the more I seem to put off starting.

However, if I can just get moving on it, even for a few minutes, it tends to get easier.

Because I know this about myself, rather than setting the intention to finish something, I resolve myself to start. The more often I start, the easier things get finished. Overcoming that first bit of inertia is the biggest challenge (just like getting started on a run, or the first push of getting a car moving).

Once things are moving, momentum is on your side.

3. Systems, systems, systems

For the longest time, I used to rebel against all forms of systems. I thought they’d limit me and get in the way of my creative spontaneity. Now, I can’t work without them.

The two main tools I like to use are Omnifocus (for my Mac and iPhone) and Basecamp (for team communication). I have them synched together with a service called Spootnik. It simple and gets the job done for me.

Whenever a task comes up that I need to make sure gets done, I simply enter it into Omnifocus and schedule it. Done. Now I don’t have to think about it anymore.

If you don’t have a system in place for getting things done, you’re likely losing a lot of productive time to repetitiveness and inefficiency.

4. Holding myself accountable

This is a big one for me. It can be hard for me to stay focused on what I really intend to do, and accountability helps with that a lot. Without accountability, fear, uncertainty and procrastination can get in the way.

There are two ways I hold myself accountable: with my team, and with a small, weekly mastermind I’m a part of.

Both help me stay focused and more importantly, follow through on what I intend to do. Community means everything to me.

(As a short side note for anyone that’s interested: I’ve tried the whole reward and punishment system many times before. But rewarding myself for doing something or punishing myself for not doing something just doesn’t work for me. However, knowing that I’m going to let someone else down if I don’t follow through is particularly powerful for me.)

5. Clearly defined tasks

I need to know what needs to be done, right now. However, if I just have a very vague, nebulous idea of what I need to do — like “writing” — I’m not very likely to follow through. In the book Switch, Dan and Chip Heath talk about the importance of shaping the path. The clearer the path is, the easier it is to get moving. I find this to be true for myself.

Whenever things are a bit fuzzy, I try to ask “What needs to be done next to move this project forward?”

Sometimes the answer is planning, sometimes it’s making a call or sending an email, or creating an outline. Whatever it is, I define it and then get started.

6. Firewalling

Every now and then I need to take drastic measures to ensure that I stay focused. Sometimes the battle for my attention is too much, and I need to admit my own weakness.

When that happens two things help me:

  1. Changing my environment. Usually a coffee shop or even moving to another room in the house does the trick. However, if that doesn’t work I…
  2. Firewall distractions. Because I work online it’s easy to get sucked into the social media black hole where all time is lost forever (until the end of time). I use an App called Focus that allows me to block social media websites and other distractions for a set period of time. It’s like training wheels for building focus. It helps limit my number of choices so I can buckle down and do the work.

7. Giving a damn

If I don’t actually care about what I’m doing, it’s very unlikely that it will ever happen. I have a very low zero tolerance for doing things I don’t like to do. It’s pretty much impossible for me these days. I have to be constantly making sure that what I’m doing is in alignment with my reason why and relates to my long-term vision. Without that, what I’m doing right now has no context.

As much as possible I try to spend the first few minutes of my day thinking about the life that I’m creating, the people that I’m serving and why I care about what I do. Keeping those things in the front of my mind helps me stay synced with my reason why.

Action: What helps you get things done? Leave a comment and share with the community.

photo courtesy of chris corwin

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Comment & Add Your Voice

techbizgurl February 23, 2012 at 7:20 am

This is such a great post! Thanks for sharing the tips and tricks you use to get things done. The part about systems is key. I think that is what I really need so that I can keep track of all the tasks that come at me during the day. Also I need to go directly to work like you said because I often get sucked into email and social media for sure. Great points all around!


Jackie Lee February 23, 2012 at 7:21 am

I love the concept of “starting” I definitely tend to focus on finishing, which absolutely makes it tough to get started when I don’t know all the steps that will need to be taken. Getting started… and asking what next step will move this forward are going to make a huge difference for me. I already feel lighter. :) Thanks!


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm

@Jackie Lee Yeah, I think Marcus Aurelius (or some famous dead guy) had something smart to say on starting. It was definitely smarter than me. :)

TalkingPuffins February 23, 2012 at 8:08 am

Wonderful Post! Thank you very much for sharing your “not strong points” and how you get over them. I don’t feel quite so alone now!


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

@TalkingPuffins Absolutely. We all have room to grow.

michaelramm February 23, 2012 at 8:09 am

One way that I firewall my work is to create a special profile on my machine and only load the barest of apps on it. I don’t have any notifications for ANYTHING going off and really the only reason that I have network access is for the machine to connect to Dropbox (which is where I store most of my docs). I also use Byword text editor as a great distraction free full screen text editor (for the Mac).

Great stuff, Jonathan!


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

@michaelramm That’s actually genius Michael. Might have to try that next week.

Jon_Wilburn February 23, 2012 at 8:22 am

Wow! So it’s great to know I’m not alone in the distractions of this world. It’s also encouraging that there’s hope. Jonathan thank for making yourself vulnerable and pushing through, man.


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

@Jon_Wilburn you’re definitely not alone :)

JonGiganti1 February 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

Great article, Jonathan. Discipline is the key for me and I don’t always win, that’s for sure. The biggest eye opener was tracking my energy throughout the day and understanding my peak energy times. Then, making sure the most challenging projects/tasks I’m working on are worked on during the periods of high energy. This is when my creative juices are flowing and I get “shit” done. I used to struggle with the fact that I wasn’t very productive in the afternoons or evenings. Now, I know those aren’t my peak times so I move lower tier thinking stuff to those times (expense reports, processing email, returning calls, etc).

I’m a big believer in getting your edge for the day and nothing works better than starting off with a win. I’m right with you on banging out a key item first thing. Most people are fresh and clear-minded when they first wake up. Take advantage of it.

Another thing that helps me are timers (I use Cool Timer, which is free online….or Chronolite is good via the iphone). It’s a simple timer where I may set 10 minutes to work on a task…..I write like this a lot…..most of the time, the 10 minute bell rings and I’m in the zone so I keep going.

Great article!

Thanks for sharing.


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

@JonGiganti1 Great insights Jon. I consider you to be kind of a master on this subject, I so I really appreciate you taking the time to give your thoughts.

mattmedeiros February 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

I just met you and I feel like I’ve known you for a lifetime!

Some of the tools I use for tracking myself: Evernote, wunderlist, rescuetime

Depending on how you organize yourself (especially the GTD method) the most important part for me is the review. That’s one thing I still struggle with. Getting one day or time down to do reviews. Sift through all the stuff I have accumulated in the “some day” list and especially the “follow up” list

This is a great list of fundamentals! Keep it coming!


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

@mattmedeiros Haha, that’s awesome man. I feel like we’d have fun grabbing some beers.

Thomas Yates June 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

I have just downloaded the wunderlist app too, hoping to use this to become more productive. I have also downloaded Trello for the same thing. Good to hear you use it and are benefiting from it. Do you have any Wunderlist tips to help me get the most out of it?

Martina McGowan February 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

Discipline is the key to getting things done, and getting where we want to go. I like that you have listed some tools to help with this task.

And I completely agree. the first actions of the day set the tone. If you get sucked down that well of checking email, twitter, G+, etc, it is almost impossible to regain your footing.




JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

@Martina McGowan@martinamcgowan You’re welcome Martina!

ChristineAdnani February 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

The actual starting is what gets me. I get to thinking “procrastinating” thoughts. Then I realize that I just have to jump into it and I’m always glad that I do. I could do all the moaning I want but as soon as I jump in and get to it, I’m good.

And also if I’m not sure what I’m doing then it’s so easy to get off task. So I totally agree with #5 Clearly defined tasks! You gotta know what you’re doing!!

Thanks man!


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

@ChristineAdnani Yep, starting is the hardest part. Once you overcome inertia, things get easier. “An object in motion tends to stay in motion.”

PaigeBurkes February 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

That last item is the most important to me. Before prioritizing and starting, make sure that all the things on your list should be on your list.

I continue to struggle with the email in the morning thing. My brain isn’t very focused first thing and I’ve got my 3 little kids running around so I think mornings are my best time for email. I just need to learn when to shut it off.

I have the same feelings in the area of starting. I tend to put the big, important stuff off until all the little things are done “so my head will be clear.” Unfortunately that doesn’t always leave time for the big stuff.

Thanks for an awesome list Jonathan!


JonathanMead February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

@PaigeBurkes Glad that it was useful to you Paige. Thanks for sharing your input.

paulettereesden February 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Yes, you hit it good, especially number 1 and 2 for me. It is easy to sabotage myself before I even get started! But when I do, I ‘m usually on fire!

Thanks for laying it out to read.


CindyCummins February 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I somehow missed out on the PDX gathering with you … hoping to stay in closer contact for the next one … @JonathanMead @LoriPainter Thank you for your tips on kickass getting things done. Helpful for me, I also find that if I don’t run first thing in the morning my day gets shot all to hell.


LynnHess February 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm

These are all great tips (and I’ve been meaning to do the firewall thing) — but the one that will make or break me is “clearly defined tasks.”  I have proven to myself time and time again that unless I have a very specific list of short, discrete tasks to refer to, I will quickly sink into complete confusion and overwhelm and get absolutely nothing done — yet leave the desk feeling as exhausted as if I had just put in a full day’s work in a coal mine or something.  It’s insane!
And this is off-topic, but I think it’s kind of funny:  I work at a large corporation (I won’t mention the name, but it’s in financial services) and we have a firewall that blocks certain websites (mostly Twitter, Facebook,, etc… know, the ones employees hang out at instead of doing their work).  I tried to click on the link to this post from work today and discovered that Illuminated Mind is blocked, too.  I wonder what it is you’re saying that The Man doesn’t want me to see?  ;)


Thatmanstu February 23, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Some great points for issues that never really go away. It is always good to hear that most of us are fighting the same battles and that we can get things done when and how we want and need to ….


CrystalsQuest February 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I love that your posts always have great stuff I can use, but I also love that you have such quality people reading and I get even more great tips out of the comments!  
For me, it’s noticeable that if I slack off when I first get up, it’s pretty much guaranteed the day will be largely a write-off.  I use timers lots myself, since it’s easy to get going when you know it’s only 10 or 15m, and on the weekend when I have way too much to fit in (commuting 3-4hrs daily during the week) I work best with the ‘unschedule’ method – ie I allocate times for my relaxation breaks, and am only allowed work in between those breaks, only for the full half hour at a time.  Maybe because I’m Irish so I like doing things backwards from what everyone else does [grin]. Sometimes I mix it up – read a chapter, do a task (or two), read another chapter.  Amazing how fast you get through a book when you keep having to put it down – even more amazing how fast you get through chores when you’ve had to close your current read at a particularly cliff-hanging point!
Simpleology is a great methodology too, but because it’s all online I can’t use it except for the principles.  There’s no phone connection, let alone web, during my entire trip to work, and I firewall myself away from the PC for most of what I want to do on the weekend.
PS Snap with Matt.  My GTD ‘review’ pile has been sitting there way longer than I’m comfortable thinking about…


PositiveParadise February 24, 2012 at 2:03 am

The vast majority of people in the working world have no option on what time to get up. They have to ‘go directly to work’ They have to take the kids to school, be at work for 9, get a half for for lunch and are back home at 6. They just get on with it. 
Most of the time they have a boss telling them what to do and when. This is the world most people inhabit.
They can’t see a way out, they work hard, and generally they make it a few years past retirement if they’re lucky, then they die. 
Move up a notch in the working world and you have people who sort out their own daily schedule. They still have a boss, but how they organise their day is up to them. These people are heavily tech reliant, and use the systems you mention a lot. Then you have what I think are very interesting people, the people who come here to read, learn, and comment, often they are making a living from blogging etc and are very good at it, they are tech savvy and use it to their advantage. Finally you have someone like me. I don’t fit into those categories. I didn’t like the average working world, so I don’t do it. If I go to work, I get paid, if I stay at home, I don’t get paid. Simple as that. 
I work as a ‘Retained’ Firefighter. I am on call via a pager pretty much 24/7, ready to respond at a moments notice to emergency calls, However most of my time is spent on other projects at the fire station, admin, training, staff issues etc. I’m a Crew Manager, and I’m responsible for a team of Firefighters, I choose how much work to do and when, but nobody makes me do it. If I didn’t go in, someone else would pick up my tasks. Thats how it works. 
I love writing my blog, and it is a beautiful process, but it doesn’t make me much more than the price of an occasional coffee, but that’s OK, those coffees taste all the better for it, and these are early days. For me it’s the journey not the destination. 
I try to stay away from electronic programmes to tell me what to do and when, or devices to block me from social media. As far as I’m concerned it’s one step towards being a machine. I’m human, my brain is the most incredible computer known to man. And I have billions of my own ‘apps.’
At the end of each day, I reflect on what I’ve done, think about what I want to have happen tomorrow, and then switch off for the evening. Come the morning, I get into a meditative state, and using a ‘future screen’ in my mind,  I programme my tasks for the day in detail. I find that more often than not, what I programme, tends to happen. I’m not saying it works for everyone, but it works for me. If you don’t programme your day, you have to wonder who else is?
I enjoyed your post, but I think people have too much reliance on technology to get things done. It hasn’t been around that long, and people did amazing things for thousands of years without it. 


Thatmanstu March 1, 2012 at 5:42 pm

 @PositiveParadise A very interesting and refreshing take on establishing your own reality and the belief in your own human abilities.The human mind created this tech world. Another human mind created the marketing which leads us to believe we need these creations and in fact need tomorrows creation today and that yesterdays creations could not possibly be of use today ….

Stuart Mills February 24, 2012 at 3:14 am

Hi Jonathan,
Strong and useful tips, and yet how much of it is common sense that we don’t take? In logical terms, the best way to start a project is to…start, but we find a number of other things to do that look shiny and appealing at the time. Our brains don’t want to think about the big project in front of us – instead, it tries to find an escape from ‘hard work’ and seek something immediate and pleasurable. And this can go on for an entire day.
Giving a damn about the task definitely helps in completing it, but sometimes, we have to accept that hard work may be hard and it may be work, but it’s also necessary to get anything meaningful done in our lives. On the other side of hard work lies reward, and the satisfaction that we beat our bad habits at least once :-)


sparklyscotty February 24, 2012 at 3:21 am

Amazing article that any freelancer needs to read.  Thanks to @Stuart Mills  for mentioning!


anneso87 February 24, 2012 at 3:22 am

Great tips, Jonathan. One more thing that keeps me being productive is setting myself a deadline. This makes me write faster, think more focused and stay on track. Of course, you must be very self-disciplined in order to not cheat yourself and simply postpone the deadline or you can tell others about it, so that there is no way to back out. 


PJ_Ferguson February 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Great tips! Planning helps me lots. If I prioritize everything at the beginning of the day, I can stay focused because I know I will get to things in their due time. Planning may seem distracting to some because that time could be used to being productive, but without it we can just end up being busy. 


PJ_Ferguson February 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Thanks for the great list! Planning can be a great tool as well. Sometimes I feel reluctant to plan my day, but have found that when I don’t quickly plan ahead, I end up just being ‘busy’. When I plan, I know I can get to everything that needs attention, so I can focus on the task at hand, and end up much more productive.


NiGHTandRei February 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Thanks for the great tools and apps. I feel that I am mindful of all these tips on a regular basis, but often have trouble physically organizing….


Bronwyn McBride February 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm

thank you for a fantastic article! 


nochnoch February 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

i might have to firewall too and block distractions so i can get things done!!Noch Noch 


MichaelMedlock March 4, 2012 at 7:16 am

Good advice. I’m writing a book at the moment and I’ve found the best possible firewall – I write with a pen and ban myself from switching my computer on until midday.


tonyf7 March 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Hey Jonathan, love this. Very useful. I also love the book Switch. Truly an awesome book. 
One thing I’ve found to be a productivity booster is to throw yourself in the fire. 
For example, soon I’ll be quitting my job and moving to Arkansas. Having no income and living in a new city will put me under a certain amount of pressure which I believe will allow my vision to focus in only on what is most important. It’s like trying to hit a target with a gun to your head.
The pressure heightens your senses and increase your odds of success. 


Jon_Mills March 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Thanks Jonathan, God we are so alike its freaky man  :)  Great advice and reminders I need to hear.


JanusNg March 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm

These are some really helpful tips Jonathan!  I can totally relate to them.  I also use  #1 “going to work directly” which is very effective because you can accomplish more before you get distracted by other opportunities. 
I also use my Alexa rank as a way to measure my progress and sort of hold myself accountable.  I think this is huge.  I don’t suggest that the Alexa rank is that important, but it’s a way to help me keep track of my accomplishment. 
I would keep a journal and record my daily Alexa rank along with what I have done daily to my site (i.e. blog posts published, blog comments made, guest posts published, activities on social media sites, etc.).  Within a short period of time, I notice that my ranking drops rapidly.  I find this activity very effective for me.


FireflyMedia March 14, 2012 at 8:21 am

Great Great points!!!! I’m going to look into getting that Omnifocus App next month with my Business Account. I just love your blog and your perspective, and so glad that you share it with us! Your article about Giving Up hooked me onto your blog and now I draw constant inspiration from your blogs and emails. I’m looking forward to starting  your seminar with my friend @HauteonVintage on the 29th! I’m working from home doing what I dream and you’re one of the people I am thankful for on this journey!- Take Care, Tiana Star with


blainelight March 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Hi Jonathan, thanks for this great article. I’ll be sure to 


blainelight March 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Hi Jonathan, thanks for this great article. When you “Clearly Define Tasks”, do you write a list of to-do’s? Or is it more of an unwritten plan of action?


JonathanMead April 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

 @blainelight It’s a clearly defined set of actions, based around a context. Each day I plan my day before I jump into things. 

DarrenButt March 30, 2012 at 8:46 am

Hello i am Darren Butt I enjoying reading your articles I am looking forward to read more post from you.


justinmiller06 April 2, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I definitely have an issue with doing things I don’t like to do. My motivation and energy for them is simply no existent. Focusing not the things that make me happiest and surrounding myself with like minded people really help me to buckle down


andyenright April 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

I feel like starting every week by reading this post.  In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now. This is the kind of practical advice I need to maintain focus in a world of distractions.  Too many times I’ve allowed a lack of discipline to result in so much wasted time that it can be discouraging to even try to get back on track.  Starting with the end in mind and refusing to surrender to impulse is imperative.  Thanks Jonathan!


Michael Wiebe April 25, 2012 at 9:48 am

Pretty good post, but your site seems too snake-oily for my tastes.


GordiPhonekeo May 27, 2012 at 3:46 am

Jonathan this post helped me blast through my assignments today at home. As an aspiring personal trainer and coach I have to complete my certificates to become one, but they are so boring!
I had to dig deep today and use the thought that the sooner I’m finished the sooner I can help people look sexy haha.


m. July 25, 2012 at 3:09 am

Good post! I found out that I need a to do list to help me with stuff. It used to be a classical paper one but later I moved on to which is lovely, minimalistic and simple as hell to manage :)

And I divide the tasks into smaller pieces, everytime. People usually need to do that only with the big ones but I’m really struggling with procrastination and doing basicaly anything so I need to divide even the smaller things. But that doesn’t matter. Nobody is to judge you on how you do things as far as it works for you to finish them and put the tick on the list.

I sometimes feel little depressed about how nobody sees the massive amount of effort I had to put just in the little things. At that moment I remind myself about the feeling I had when I finished it and focus on that, no matter what anybody else thinks about it. I felt proud and happy and that is the only thing important.

And yes, a big help to make myself do something I do not want to do – I imagine that I’ve already done that and soak in the emotion of happines and satisfaction. I imagine the good feeling about finishing the task and you’d be surprised how much that works. It usually kicks me just enough to be immediately active and wanting to do it and to get that feeling :)


Nina August 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

@JonathanMead – I JUST wrote a post on this today about my shock when i used the history button to look for something and SAW what i had spent my whole day on – mainly gmail, FB, other peoples sites that had nothing to do with my work – just compare and despair type of stuff

so now im on parole – no email or FB till 7pm



John Corcoran October 4, 2012 at 11:40 am

Jonathan: You had some great recommendations in here of stuff I haven’t heard of before, so I appreciate that. Honestly, switching to using Productive Flourishing’s planners helped me become far more productive. Whenever I get at a loss for what to do next, I go back to them. I can also plan out each day and what work I’m going to do during that part of the day, so I do the key stuff when I’m most productive.


Angelique December 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Thank you. Just stumbled across you while desperately searching for something – ANYTHING – to help me get out of the unfocused,overwhelmed, drowing in a to-do list on steroids muddle I am currently in. I have a job I ADORE but which is very diverse – I do a lot of social media, a lot of writing and a lot of client work – and I am a writer and blogger outside of work hours. I also have a family and cats (the latter are more demanding than the former). My brain feels like it’s running in overdrive all the time. I’m good at what I do but am surrounded by piles of “started and not finished” and “oh my God, you needed this WHEN?” so I am always in a state of panic and exhaustion. I’ve just noted the entire list above and I’m implementing it NOW – starting with Concentrate. For the first time in months, I actually feel like I can get on top of my workload, be productive and add value to my clients. Thank you.

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Max January 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Clearly defined tasks : I like to use the term “baby-steps” like Zen Habits does. I think the more we divide the task, the more it clarifies, the more concrete it becomes and the easier it gets to accomplish it.

The ONE thing that helps me get things done is my TODO list. Every morning, I prioritize 1-2 items that are “must” items. When I have cleared those items, I recheck my list and complete more easy or fun tasks.

Reply January 3, 2013 at 5:04 am

Awesome! Its actually awesome paragraph, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.


namenamenom January 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm

“In front of computer in the light of the computer reading the screen”
I hate to laugh at certain times but you really are a genius and hope you do exceptionally well in whatever it is you are choosing to choose. present me, in a different form time and place space time continuum


Robin January 29, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I set the alarm on my phone for 30 to 45 minute sessions. When I goes off I can linger through one snooze, and then I have to move onto the next type of activity/task. I also have a basic outline and I rotate the tasks. I also find that music can make almost any task alot more fun.


julia February 4, 2013 at 1:52 am

Do you know? It all seems like children are taught exacly the reverse of all your great strategies in school!

like/ shaping your own path? non-existant in school.
/ focusing on the subject? Yes; for like 45 min max.
/ creating community? Well, outwardly. But only with people EXACTLY your age. and no copying! No helping durin a test! No talking to your neighbour!

etc. you get my point; and now we have to unlearn all this.

xxx great blog!


Laura Simms February 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Great ideas. I’ve started a morning ritual where I don’t check email or get on social media until I’ve done 2 hours of work. I’m amazed at the difference this makes for my productivity and my mood.


Maria Paulina Mejia February 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Awesome post! Besides the information being useful, what I really loved about it is how natural, spontanous and transparent you sound. It’s not rigid at all… hate rigid posts where people seem to be making a huge effort to sound like intellectuals.

I work online, too, so I can easily understand what you mean. I’ve had the tendecy to push myself too hard and I can find myself working for hours and hours non-stop. Now, I’m learning to break my work into 90, maximum 120-minute blocks in order to give my brain a break, refesh it and keep going for another 90 to 120 minutes. When you set up a limited time to your assignments, you focus better and actually get things done.

I make a checklist of a realisitc # of tasks I have to get through during the day; I break them into blocks (as I just said), and go. This also allows me to assess how productive I was able to be. If I got everything I planned done… fantastic! If I didn’t, mmmm… I either overplanned or was getting distracted in the middle of my work.

I’d love to keep reading stuff from you. How can I do it?

Good job!


Ilissa February 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm

What if you really can’t find any reason to care at all? Like I’m havering a lot of trouble caring about anything such as my appearance, what I want to be doing, where I want to go… Nothing. I find myself just staying in bed and not doing anything for days… I don’t have any motivation anymore.


Happy April 1, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? With thanks


Matthew T April 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Thank you for this wonderful post!

Particularly good ones the ‘Start, often’ and the ‘Firewalling’.

For me also the best solution if I changing my enviroment, this method is boost my performance! :)


jesna April 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm

This one is so inspiring and detailed. Thanks for the share!!


More April 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Great article. That is certainly precisely what I was looking for. I like your blog and My spouse and i liked your energy. Ones write-up is quite of great help for me personally or anything else to work out. I am going to definitely keep coming back on your own website for a lot more things. Best of luck for the future threads.


Aaron Morton April 19, 2013 at 2:40 am

When I am at my most productive I find I:

– Know exactly what I am doing
– Time box what I am doing
– Blank out distractions
– Keep fluids high and food intake frequent
– Review the work I have done.

Aaron Morton


Tierra B April 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Thank you so much for this post, it brought a lot of things that I am guilty of to light.


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Stevie June 4, 2013 at 8:42 pm

speed helps too!!
Hahaha just kidding


The Dude June 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

Sounds exhausting.


Sophie | Spark June 24, 2013 at 4:41 am

I get the most done when I make it a habit – for me, I’m most productive if I get up every day at 6am and sit down to write. If I break this habit I quickly lose the momentum and hit the snooze button instead. At my computer, my favourite productivity helpers are Self-Control (to block distracting websites) and Ommwriter, which is a beautiful clean interface to write on.

Thanks for sharing your tips!


Stu McLaren July 3, 2013 at 2:43 am

I smiled when I read the part about creating “systems” because I too avoided them thinking that it would stifle my creativity.

Now however, I’ve started to realize that designing these little “hacks” are actually a creative process in and of itself. The question I’m now asking is what system can I create to streamline this process and give me more time to only do the things I’m best at?

I recently did this when it came to capturing my ideas “on the go”. I outlined the process here:

I’d love for you to share any other “systems” or “hacks” that help you get more stuff done as well.




Mariana July 3, 2013 at 8:33 am

Great advice, I find great that you get to keep focused; It turns really hard for me sometimes anyway, thanks for sharing!


Christine July 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Finally!!!! Someone understands what I have been dealing with all my life. I am a creative person so I couldn’t stay focused or master one thing that I am creative at and make a living because I wanted to do it all. Thank you so much for the guide lines. I have searched books, magazines and none was helpful than what you wrote. This needs to be published in a magazine to help the masses who are having the same problem. I just shared this sight with my sister who is also sharing it with a friend who is having the same problem. Thank you again.


Anwell Steve July 31, 2013 at 3:14 am

Getting things done is indeed hard to achieve, especially if you rule over procrastination than priority. Jonathan, your tips are great and I would also suggest that anyone could have a project management software which is a great GTD system that will help you become more productivity with your work. As technology arises, we must think of something that could go along the trend and will help us stay foucs in a productive daily living.


DeciBell August 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

I read this article while procrastinating ..
And then I left a reply.
I wonder what’s on breaking news?


Isabelle August 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Great post! Recently I had problems with self motivation and productivity butthen I found the GTD system. I started to implemeting it using Evernote, but it was tough in some way. Lately I found the app that let me got back to the GTD and it’s awesome. SmartTM app I use is really great and it works with EN so I didn’t have to copy all my recent tasks again to the new tool.


Sebastian October 16, 2013 at 5:10 am

Working first thing in the morning is BRILLIANT. I’m going to get started right now. Thank you!


jim October 17, 2013 at 8:31 am

I sometimes shut off the computer, get a cup of coffee and do my work on paper. I find I can be much more creative this way and I usually come back to my computer with a new outline or a new problem solved and then I can knock it out on the computer.


Mark October 25, 2013 at 7:38 am

After being told I needed to attend an interpersonal seminar and researching sites, I came upon this page. I have to ask, how do you deal with “learning to pick your battles”? I often find this slowing me down, making me less productive.


Lasse January 2, 2014 at 6:18 pm

This is a great post, I have been working on this aspect myself lately. Knowing what I like to do, and what helps my business and life move forward in the direction I want. Things like meditation and exercise also help me maintain focus, even my dietary choices and my relationships are factors I consider. Can I ask how do you manage to get so many people to engage on your blog, its quite impressive!


bear January 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Like someone mentioned above, it is all about discipline (and habit). I feel like a regular exercise routine helps me to kick start my days. On the weekends, if I am trying to get some work done but just can’t seem to get myself around to it, I go for a jog or a rollerblade run or a swim, etc. Then I come home feeling refreshed and ready for anything pretty much.


ken arroyo February 18, 2014 at 9:38 pm

i really need this… my lifes quickly turning into a mess


Stephanie February 21, 2014 at 11:16 am

I am a stay at home mom who is fun (at least my kids think so for now at ages 7 and 9) and I like to fly by the seat of my pants. For some reason, I volunteer to you know, clean house, do dishes, laundry, that sort of thing… AND run a Cub Scout Den and be the PTO Room Parent Coordinator for the grade school AND be the secretary for the Scout Pack Committee and coach cheer and teach fitness classes, therefore committing to subbing classes. I realizing that flying by the seat of my pants is great and fun, but I don’t accomplish much. Then, when I have to buckle down, I do, but my body and personality resists with such a vengeance. It’s painful. Then, I start a new system and it works great for a little while. Then three weeks later I am back where I started because I don’t follow through.

Point is, I googled how to be productive and get more done and so we meet. I love your post. So no nonsense and so realistic. I am printing this out and posting to my bed, on my bathroom mirror and in my kitchen where I will see it every day, wherever I am in the house. I may even post it in my jeep. Thanks, man. I appreciate the directive and simple approach.



Dotty March 12, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I read this to procrastinate. Need more text.


Ieva May 11, 2014 at 4:18 am

Amen to #7. At the moment I’m in deep procrastination and I’m realizing that it’s because I feel that I need to do tons of shit which is totally useless in my longer perspective.

And, talking about deep procrastination (I’m struggling with my studies), I loved these words from the other blog: It marks that key transition where the momentum of “this is what you need to do” — the momentum that carried you through high school and into college — begins to wane, leaving you to discover a new source of propulsion — not just new, but also more durable and more personal.


Lucia Williams July 29, 2014 at 8:19 am

I have no idea how old this post is – it’s very helpful BTW – and I haven’t read all the comments so this might have been flagged already, but your affiliate link to Concentrate isn’t working :(


josh October 5, 2014 at 4:32 am

How I stay consistently focused on achieving my day.

First, before anything else, exercise, I go for a swim or a run each and every morning to prime my system for action.

I’m lazy, extremely lazy. I got a gym membership to a gym that is directly on my route to work so I have no excuse to miss a day. I pay a premium for this membership, but because it’s in my travel path and i’ve been doing this for the last six months I haven’t missed a day during the week.

Vision and strategy, each night before it’s great to lay out what i want to do tomorrow, I have my big three items that must be accomplished to grow my side business.

That’s all fine and dandy, but in my day job I walk into a world on fire every day, I never know what is going to distract me, so my first two hours is dealing with that before I even sit down to start my day.

Once I sit down though, I review what must be done, usually it involves some form of writing, data analysis and ideation or marketing. I immediately open my writing program, my marketing plan and my spreadsheets that I am going to work on today.

Then, I cut the cord, I know that I work best in 45 minute blocks, so I turn off the wireless router, forward the phone to voice mail and lock my office door for 45 minutes. The plug it back in for 15, I repeat this cycle until I complete my three biggest tasks for the day.

Once that is done, everything else is gravy and I can work for tomorrow.

That’s how I stay productive, I have to cut myself off from the world because if I didn’t other people would monopolize my time and intentions for the day.

Thanks for reading – josh


Emory October 23, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Awesome list! And totally true, especially #1, 2, and 3. The idea of getting started is often scarier than the process of actually completing a task, so we create all sorts of barriers for ourselves.


Hua October 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I find myself resonating with a lot of your thoughts here. I used to do reward-punishment system too which left me less productive than before. I really like your tips #1, 2, and 4. I also find myself having a LOT of initial inertia but can remain really fired up after building up momentum, and I also find that having the mindset of caring about my teammates’ feeling also really helps. Thank you so much for the post.


Danea November 30, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I love this post. I thought I was the only person in the world that struggled with this. I thought I was just lazy or had a problem. IT is SO hard to focus on what will make my life so much better. I have had this problem for years. The main reason I am still in undergrad and I should have finished years ago. I have been beating myself up for so long that I just had to find some type of relief. When I came across this article I just knew it was for me. It has been hard to get simple along with challenging shit done. I thank you so much for your passage. I am creating a list from your list to help me stay on track. I have tried all of these approaches and am a witness that they do work for me. I just have to try again. Again, thank you.


Daniel @ SaveWithDan December 22, 2014 at 11:04 am

Hi, there!
I tend to overthink everything, always trying to plan for the perfect, impossible outcome. I just learned that I should too just start and let it go. It’s not perfect right now, but I can fix things on the go. It makes me vulnerable and it makes me eager to perfect. But at least it’s out there and sometimes I realize the “not-so-perfect” for me is totally perfect for everybody else!


Saad Asad January 30, 2015 at 1:39 am

Being specific and clear about what needs to be done is such an amazing insight. This advice alone has allowed me to get 10x more stuff done simply because when I have specific tasks planned at specific times, I find it hard to procrastinate.

I am loving this blog.


Joseph February 7, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Very useful and informative! Thank you very much


Nixie April 21, 2015 at 11:56 am

Thanks for the tips! I realized in reading this my big problem is thinking all the little ‘tasks’ of the day are either unimportant and I don’t like them so I don’t do them, or even worse, that they are too complicated to be done quickly. So I “save” them for when I have time to concentrate on them, and guess what… never get there. Any ideas for how to not be intimidated by things I think are hard or don’t really feel good at doing?

Thanks so much!


Jason May 7, 2015 at 12:55 pm

hi sir,
your affiliate link is broken


Jason - KAC May 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

Being ‘productive’ is always at the forefront of the achievers values list. How can we get more done using the little time we have?

I like the distinction by Tim Ferriss between ‘efficient’ and ‘effective’, and I’ll share is here, as I think it’s valuable.

Doing something un-productive ‘efficiently’ does not make it an effective use of your time. However, if you tried the reverse, to do something un-productive ‘effectively’, I dare say you’d find it won’t work.

The key is to recognise when you are being effective vs. efficient. It’s easy to fool yourself with ‘efficiency’, however your bulls*&t meter will go crazy if you try covering up your efficient blunders…

Great post!


crystal x July 25, 2015 at 7:11 am

It’s actually very complicated in this busy life to listen news on Television, therefore I just use web for that reason, and
get the most recent information.


patrice August 6, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Wow, i read these posts, and think how very similar we all are, but that makes sense, or we wouldn’t be reading this info in the first place. Here is my number 1 for getting shit done. When i wake up, my temptation is to pour a coffee, and snug back into bed with my laptop to ‘check’ email. I might as well kiss the day goodbye. So, I leave my laptop out in the living room, on a nice table, with flowers if i have any in the garden. When i get up for my coffee and go get my laptop, just sitting in a chair instead of lazing about in bed changes my day 100 percent!! It astonishes me that such a simple action makes such a huge difference.


wendi December 3, 2015 at 9:47 am

My biggest problem with getting things done: I’m a night owl in a world run by day people. I’m at my best around 7:00 pm to 1:00 a.m., no matter what time I rise.
Right after I hit my stride I’m expected to go to bed, only to get up and struggle through another day with a muddy brain that is as efficient as those of a morning person–at 10:00 at night.


Nicholas Pizzi December 20, 2015 at 11:14 am

Ha! It’s like you’ve been spying on me, lol. These are exactly the problems I have. Definitely going try the methods you suggest. Thanks!


Mike January 30, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Your website is not mobile friendly. Get that shit done.


Peter Fritz December 1, 2016 at 8:24 pm

Jonathan, I’ve found the three most powerful allies for me have been:

1. Having a purpose that’s bigger than me and therefore more deeply rewarding than the transient pleasure derived from buying shit for myself. A fancy car/home/holiday/motorbike will only motivate me for so long. I’ve found that doing something in the service of others, something that I believe makes a difference, provides sufficient motivation to do what I need, even when I don’t ‘feel like it’.

2. Setting no more than 3 important things to do each day and don’t even think about #2 until #1 is complete. This helps me to START every day, the moment I wake. I get up, make a cup of tea and START. I don’t exercise of do anything else till I start working on my #1 task.

3. Listen to or read something useful or inspiring every day – whether it’s a James Altucher or Fizzle podcast, some Instagram posts or a re-read of one of your emails (from the 365 Days to Freedom series). I figure it’s like taking a shower – I have to do it every day or else the shit starts to stick!


Scott Elmgren December 2, 2016 at 4:43 am

Thanks for the early morning kick in the ass, Jonathan!

I couldn’t agree more with what you said. I’d also like to add my secret weapon: waking up early.

I still have a full time “survival job,” and so I need to be very diligent and efficient when I have time to work on growing my passion business. I’ve found that I’m most productive in the early morning before most people in the world are up. Sure waking up three hours before I need to be at work isn’t fun, but if I didn’t I’d just be accepting my current situation and waiting for something to change.

It wasn’t easy to develop the habit of dragging myself out of bed, but I found that putting my alarm clock on the other side of the room as far away from me as possible unlocked my mystical morning world of productivity. Now, it’s just second nature, and I’m even getting up at the butt-crack of dawn on the weekends too. Thanks again!

Building momentum,


Nataly Delgado December 14, 2016 at 7:40 am

Everyday when I get home from school, I eat, go online, and I end up falling asleep. I love the rest that I get but it’s starting to affect my daily routine. I start procrastinating and by the time my mom comes home at 1am she catches me doing things I’m not supposed to be doing. I hate my afternoon naps, but it’s a recharge? help!! How can I stop sleeping?!


Rachelle Megan October 8, 2017 at 10:11 pm


You have got some great ideas here. One problem I have is when the work I am trying to get done involves growing my social media. I sometimes get sidetracked or pulled down fascinating rabbit holes. I think having social media automation tools and some kind of firewall as you describe would be a brilliant strategy!




Cedric October 17, 2017 at 7:50 am

I can definitely relate to this Rachelle ;-) You can use automation, or at least a plan with what you’re going to post / when. And you could also plan dedicated slots during the week to post on social media. If you check your social media accounts first thing in the morning with your coffee, you get sucked into the rabbit hole and your day is gone!

studio651 February 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

@JonathanMead @ChristineAdnani


studio651 February 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

@JonathanMead @ChristineAdnani I’d also add that once you start, and start crossing of the first item on your GTD list, I find there’s an extra boost of confidence that energizes me to WANT to continue, no forced focusing required.


TalkingPuffins February 24, 2012 at 4:16 am

 @JonathanMead  @ChristineAdnani I have the “procrastination”/inertia tendency sometimes as I well…I know it.  I also know it is not going to be as “bad” as I think it is to just get it done….so why do we still procrastinate when we know these things?  
I sometimes think, in my case, it might be a self-sabotage because of a fear of success. 
I have found some success in saying to myself, “OK.  You can delay the start of this must do task until 1pm, then, no excuses, you WILL get started!”  
Maybe we procrastinate (sometimes), because deep down we don’t like being told WHEN we have to get some tasks done?  Or could it be a way of exerting “control” over some part of our life when we feel we have no “control” at all?
I don’t know…I’m still trying to figure it all out!  I feel, if I can figure it out, I can be better, do better, and feel better!


blainelight April 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm

 @JonathanMead Ya, I saw that in #5; it would be great to see an example of a list that you created. You can even blog about how to create a clearly defined set of actions. Thx


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