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10 productivity tips to work less and accomplish more

Do you dream of working smarter? As in staying focused, making a big impact, and having more free time to enjoy your life? I sure do.

Like many of you, I’m after that elusive work-life balance. I’m a sucker for productivity tips and systems, and I will click on pretty much any headline promising as much.

Fortunately, at Groundwork I’m surrounded by people who are largely self-directed, either as remote workers or entrepreneurs. Look around our space on any given day, and you’ll observe that people are focused. Headphones are on, keyboards are clicking, and mental gears are grinding.

So I figured who better to source for productivity tips than our own community of smart workers?

I mined a wealth of information on the various ways our members stay productive, and I’ve distilled them into a handy list here. I hope you find something that will help you make a big impact in the coming year.

1. Get the right software

Finding a tool to organize your tasks can go a long way. GW member Shonna Ryan uses Asana, a online project management software. For something simpler, Matt Medeiros recommends Todoist, a simple to-do list app that syncs across devices. For organizing marketing content and operational tasks, we use Trello here at Groundwork.

Be Focused timer

The Be Focused Timer helps you stay on task for timed intervals.

2. Use a timer

Mat Coes, a web designer, recommends the Pomodoro Technique, which involves setting a timer for short intervals of total focus. I’m a fan of the Be Focused timer, but you can use a regular kitchen timer as well.

Mat also recommends writing down distractions on a sheet of paper as they come up, so that you can set them aside and keep focus during your timed intervals.

To Do list

Keeping your to-do list short helps focus.

3. Edit your to-do list

To-do lists can get so overwhelming that they sabotage your productivity. Try this tip from Mat Coes: Write down ONE THING that must get done today, then the next two things, then everything else on a separate list.

4. Read less email

“If you get up and you start your day answering emails or working on things that are important to others but not to yourself, chances are you’ve already started your day in mediocrity.”

That’s a quote from The Vicious Circle of Mediocre Work, a great read that GW member Matt Medeiros recently posted to Twitter.

Try NOT reading email when you start your day.  Complete at least one task before cracking open your inbox, or at the very least set your priorities for the day first.

5. Write better email

Mat Coes also suggests giving your own emails a clear subject and one actionable item, to help the people you work with become more productive.

6. Use a buddy system

Jeff Golenski, a designer for Jetpack by Automattic, has experimented with a design buddy system. He describes it as design ping-pong, where bouncing concepts off another person can provide fresh perspective and also help maintain focus. Check out Jeff’s great blog post for more detail on the design buddy system and other focus tips for designers.

Get outdoors

Getting outdoors can boost your productivity and help you focus.

7. Engage in hobbies and outlets for your energy

Another recommendation from Jeff is to engage in hobbies to shift your energy and set work aside. For me, physical activity is a must to stay mentally healthy, and I love to hit the climbing gym to clear my mind on dark winter nights. Many other Groundworkers engage in the arts– we have several photographers, musicians, and artists who work in our space.

8. Just Say no

Learning to say no is key to maintaining focus. This great article on how to design your time rather than manage it speaks to the importance of saying no.

9. Control your intake

After coming to grips with my social media addiction, I deleted my apps and swore off all my social feeds for two weeks. It was a lovely break, and I noticed I was far more creative when I didn’t flood my brain with information to process. Now that I’m back in the swing of things I’m dedicating a couple days a week as “no intake days,” where I abstain from reading articles and scrolling feeds. These are typically days when I need to write, design, or plan strategically. I’m amazed at how much more I get done without taking in extraneous information.

10. Make your bed

Jeremiah Hernandez, Executive Director of EforAll Southcoast, reminded me of this popular video “Change the World by Making Your Bed.” The idea is to start off your day with a simple accomplishment, because if you can’t get the little things right you’ll never get the big things right. And if your day is a total failure, at least you made your bed!


When all else fails, join a coworking space and surround yourself with productive people.

So there you have it– ten productivity tips from Groundwork members. Oh, and here’s one more: join a coworking space. Surround yourself with other productive people and I promise magic will happen.

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