5 habits of highly productive people: Do them for 21 days and spot the difference in your life

What sets productive people apart from the normies? Picture: Pixabay

What sets productive people apart from the normies? Picture: Pixabay

Published Aug 21, 2023


Durban - We all want to be more productive but do not always know where to start.

Here are our top picks of habits from highly productive people that you could try today.

A to-do list

It seems impossibly easy that just writing out all the things you need to accomplish throughout the day can make you more productive, but this habit has been proven.

Psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik was among the first in the field to look at the efficiency of these lists in the 1920s.

The results from her research revealed the “Zeigarnik Effect”.

This being that the act of planning daily activities reduces the executive burden on the brain by freeing the brain from having to worry about unfinished tasks.

More than a century later, modern studies still confirm that Zeigarnik’s findings were legitimate.

An early start

As the old, clichéd proverb says, the early bird gets the worm.

According to Harvard biologist Christoph Randler, people who are early risers tend to be more proactive; consequently, they anticipate problems they may face in their day and figure out how to minimise them efficiently.

Research conducted by Jama Psychiatry also suggests that waking up an hour earlier than usual may also reduce the risk of depression.

So, you will get more done throughout the day if you simply make the effort to start your day early.

Eliminate distractions

It is very difficult to focus on tasks when you have distractions taking up your physical and mental space.

From noise, clutter to 30 open tabs, eliminating distractions will help you keep your mind on what matters.

Here are a few ways to get rid of distractions:

- Put your phone on ‘Do not disturb mode’. This setting mutes calls, alerts, and notifications on your mobile device.

However, you do have the option to customise which notifications, alerts or calls you wish to get through.

- Work in a quiet environment. If this is not an option for you, consider investing in noise cancelling headphones.

- Set boundaries. Let those around you know of the times you will be available, and tell them not to disturb you unless it is an emergency.


Being productive does not have to equate to you overexerting yourself, which can lead to burn out.

Due to having a structured and planned day, productive people have time to take breaks and have enough time for family and friends.

This means also prioritising time for yourself. You have a life outside of what you can produce. Put effort into sustaining this often-elusive work-life balance.

Getting enough sleep

According to the US’ National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides expert information on health-related issues concerning sleep, sacrificing sleep for work and then working more to make up for lost productivity can become an exhausting cycle.

“Trying to work while (you haven’t had enough sleep) can significantly impact job performance. Without enough sleep, processes throughout the body work sub-optimally.

“Neurons in the brain become overworked, impairing thinking, slowing physical reactions, and leaving people feeling emotionally drained,” said the foundation.

So, it is imperative to get in eight hours of sleep per day for a healthy and productive mind.