8 Top Productivity Tips That Are All Wrong (And What To Do Instead)

1. Balance is Bogus

A phrase we see all the time is, “how to balance work and life.” It’s a buzz word and phrase that makes us feel like we SHOULD have every area of our lives evened out, when in reality that will never actually happen.

I know this is a different opinion to have, but it’s actually about finding harmony in the different areas of your life. There are going to be times where one area is needing more attention than the others and that’s OK. It’s about finding ways for them to work together. If you’re going hardcore for some work goals, perhaps, then we’ll want to make sure that you’re personal and your family goals are not quite as rigorous. If you have a really big personal goal, your family goals and your work goals should be a little bit easier because harmony is about these three areas working together to create a happy lifestyle. It’s not about them being perfectly even because that is not going to happen, not in real life.

The very first time I mentioned this, was in the very first episode of my podcast. That first episode was part one in a three-part series on the anatomy of goal setting, where I walk you through personalizing your goals and making them achievable. I encourage you to swap the word ‘balance’ for the word ‘harmony.’ It changes your mindset and actions so that you’re going after achievable goals that really do bring harmony into your life, not the constant need for balance.

“It’s time that we look at how we’re spending our time at work, home and in our personal lives, and assess what changes and improvements need to be made so that our personal priorities are actually being prioritized.”

2. Eat the Frog

Maybe you’ve heard the popular productivity tip to eat your frog – meaning to complete your biggest, hardest or most despised task at the start of each day, so that the rest of the day feels easier. But I’m here to advise you NOT to eat the frog, but to eat the elephant.

By eating your elephant, I mean to take your big goal or dream and break into bite-sized and achievable pieces. This will actually start your day off more positively and motivate you to keep going on to the next tasks… even ones you don’t want to do. Do we really want to wake up each morning or get to work and begin our days with the task we hate most? That doesn’t bring about a good mindset or set up your day for success. I believe in this productivity tip so much, that I created an entire podcast episode about eating the elephant with many more details and strategies for getting started cutting you big goal into mini-goals.


3. Multitasking

Many people take pride in their multitasking abilities (I used to!). We even see it in tons of job descriptions as a requirement. But what many are unaware of is that multitasking is killing our productivity. What multitasking really is is switch tasking – going back and forth between tasks so that we never actually focus in on one of them. The key here is monotasking, and this is all about being effective, not efficient. I know it’s not easy to shift the way you’ve been thinking about work, so in episode 010, I give you the 5 keys to monotasking to make it easy and doable.

Little things you can easily implement: eliminating distractions, turning off technology, how to organize your work space and more.

Even better, when you monotask instead of multitask at work or in school, etc., you will avoid burnout at the end of your days and weeks because your brain is less tired from switching back and forth!


4. Planning your entire week

I know a lot of people who sit down on Monday and write down what they’ll do each day that week… and then life happens, right?

You never know when school might be canceled, or your car breaks down, or you have a friend coming into town. We have that saying… “it’s always something” for a reason. When one day is changed, that means your next few days will be too. I recommend planning each day in the morning as it comes. You can always write down your main tasks and appointments for the week in a longer list and then dedicate each task to a day at the beginning of that day.

I go over my own system of planning in episode 012 if you need more ideas on how to use your planner and technology to plan out your days and weeks in a productive and achievable way.


inkWELL Press Weekly Kickstart for your weekly task organization and plugging in goals, projects, and task into each day for daily and weekly planning for home or for work.


5. The Pomodoro Technique

This method was invented by Francesco Cirillo, and he said to work in 25-minute bursts with 5-minute breaks, giving yourself a timer. While I fully believe in taking breaks to boost your productivity and creativity, cutting into your focused work time won’t help you work more effectively.

Research has shown that it takes 23 minutes to get back into your focused work zone after being distracted. With that in mind, how might you feel if you were interrupted by your time every 25 minutes? As soon as you’ve gotten into your deep work, you’re pulled back out for a break. Once you’ve hit a stopping point in your task or if you’ve completed it, that is a great time to take a coffee or tea break and walk around a bit. Don’t create distractions for yourself because you THINK you’re supposed to be taking a break every 25 minutes.


6. Early morning routines

You’ve seen those articles that tell you how much more productive morning people are when they wake up at 5 a.m. Here’s what I want you to know… you don’t have to force your EARLY morning routine. What’s important is that you do have a morning routine that fits for you. Even if it’s ten minutes of drinking water and coffee, stretching or listening to music, schedule in a few items that will begin your morning how YOU want and need it to begin. Your most productive times may not be in the early morning, and that’s OK. We’re all different, and we need our habits, routines, schedules and systems to work for us and our lifestyle.


7. The Traditional To-Do list

Creating a long list of tasks for your day or week can actually just feel daunting. I’ve discovered a way to categorize our tasks into three sections so that we can easily see what is important and what’s not.

In fact, I believe in this Priority list system so much that designed the inkWELL Press Daily Planner around it. Each page has a section dedicated to this list (along with room for your daily schedule, daily boxes, etc.) with the categories: immediate, important and insignificant.

I go in depth about these section in episode 033 of the podcast, if you need examples and tips on getting started with that. But you don’t need the Daily Planner to make your own priority list. You can write that out each day anywhere you see fit. This way, you’re seeing your tasks in a more succinct way, focused around your personal priorities.

inkWELL Press liveWELL Daily Planner with the new Priority System - Important, Immediate and Insignificant task categories make the to-do list better than before.


8. What being productive really means

The stigma around being more productive is seen as getting everything done. It’s time to stop looking at your to-do list and only seeing all that you didn’t complete, and then feeling defeated. Our definition of productivity at inkWELL Press is actually about getting the important things done. Those tasks and projects that propel you toward your mission and goals in life are the important items. Spending time with family and honing in on your hobbies will make you more productive, successful and satisfied. So it’s time that we look at how we’re spending our time at work, at home and in our personal lives and assess what changes and improvements might need to be made so that our personal priorities are actually being prioritized.

What about you? Do you know of any productivity tips that you’ve read about or heard of from friends that you don’t think actually work well for you? The main takeaway I want you to get from this blog, is that everyone is different. Our lives all look different and we have to create our own productivity systems that align well with the environment we’re in.

We can’t just look around and think that whatever works for someone else will work for us. It’s time to think about productivity a bit differently… let’s start with how we plan and how we perceive our own productivity.


Comment below what productivity tips you’ve tried, but haven’t seemed to work out for you. Was there something different you did that did work for your lifestyle? I’d love to hear about it!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton