41 Productivity Quotes That Will Make You More Effective
Productivity quotes are all over the internet. I always like tips that give insight into someone’s success. But they need to be actionable too.
So, I picked out the best advice and put it all in one place.
Reading random productivity quotes from a bunch of sources doesn’t give you much context. It’s hard to take lessons and apply them to your work. So I’ve made categories for the super helpful snippets and explained why they matter.
I’ve included lessons that will make you a more productive person.
There are hacks for finding inspiration, managing time, and working hard for longer.
Productivity Quotes From Successful People
Let’s start with some lessons for living a successful and productive life — from people who have done just that.
1. “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer
Productivity doesn’t magically happen. You can’t expect great results without preparing for them.
There’s work that goes into becoming productive.
You have to show intent to do great work, develop a plan, and execute.
Consider these your foundation for improving productivity.
2. “Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it.” — Frank Sinatra
Opportunity is important — there’s no getting around that. But it’s so easy to put too much weight on luck. It’s just a very small part of the equation.
Success comes from converting opportunities when they arise. If you’re good at that, it won’t take much luck at all.
Rather than dwelling on lost chances, or waiting for a miracle, work on your talent. Learn how to you sell it. Be ready to execute when the opportunity comes.
3. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” — Bruce Lee
Sometimes you have to balance two conflicting ideas: doing it right and doing it fast.
This advice guides that choice. Speed wins, and over-preparing causes hesitation.
Question whether thinking about a task for longer is going to make it harder to start. Will your process become more complicated? Will the result be any better?
When in doubt, just do the thing. Get it started, work on solutions as you go.
Avoid getting stuck in your thoughts.
4. “It’s not knowing what to do; it’s doing what you know.” — Tony Robbins
Being committed, consistent, and proactive is hard enough. I find this advice useful because it reminds me to focus on projects I’m suited to.
Play your own game. Run in your lane.
Your skills, talents, and interests are unique. You will get way more out of your time if you focus on work that suits you.
You’ll probably enjoy it more as well.
5. “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” — Oprah Winfrey
People always want to believe there’s a secret to productivity. They want easy fixes. They search for motivational quotes that are going spark instant, amazing success.
The reality is less glamorous. But it’s also nice and simple:
You need goals, and you have to be willing to do the work.
If you want something, it’s your responsibility. But it’s also completely achievable.
6. “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” — Coco Chanel
Placing limits on your own potential is crazy.
We focus too much on the ‘probability’ of success or failure. People who don’t do this have a huge advantage. Because — turns out — if you think failure is inevitable, you won’t even try. You won’t put in the work or persevere through hard times.
And that’s exactly how failure becomes inevitable.
Don’t make this mistake. Instead, presume success is inevitable.
Sure, you’ll run into setbacks. But one day it will all work out if you keep doing the right things.
7. “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” — Thomas Sowell
The message is pretty clear here. People who struggle to be effective have the most to hide. They also have a lot more time to fill in than productive people.
The lesson is two-fold:
Don’t be the person that causes unproductive meetings — or any busy-work for that matter. Be the one who instigates shorter, fewer meetings.
Secondly, keep an eye out for this behavior in others. Value your time and your own productivity. Guard it fiercely.
Avoid meetings that you know will go no-where and suggest alternatives (like email memos).
Personal Productivity Quotes
These next productivity quotes deal with common life mistakes — trying to do too much and failing to focus on important work.
1. “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker
Possibly the easiest mistake to make when chasing productivity is trying to increase the number of tasks you complete.
This isn’t the first step.
You need to eliminate unnecessary, inefficient, low priority work first.
Spending time and energy trying to improve systems is only worthwhile if the outcomes are important. Do important work, and try to become more efficient at doing those tasks.
2. “Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest.” — Leo Babauta
Deciding to simplify your work is a great move. Do less to achieve more. But, how do you know what tasks to keep? What tasks are unnecessary?
I like this approach from Leo Babauta. Draw the line at ‘essential’.
Think about the goals that are the reason you want to be productive.
Then ask these questions to figure out what is essential:
- What tasks and work are necessary for you to reach your goals?
- Which tasks have the biggest impact on achieving your goals?
- What can’t be avoided or delayed?
Those are essential.
Everything else is secondary, and shouldn’t be your focus.
3. “You can do anything, but not everything.” — David Allen
In the process of deciding what is important, essential, and unnecessary, you’ll need to accept this reality:
There isn’t enough time to do everything you want.
But, good news:
There is no limit on what you can do. You just have to choose.
By choosing what to focus on, you increase your ability to get that work done. Your efficiency will go up, and you’ll leave distractions behind.
4. “You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” — Seth Godin
It’s no secret, resolutions and yearly goals have pretty low success rates. People have good intentions with their goal setting, but that’s not enough.
You need commitment. Serious, unwavering commitment.
Sustaining effort is at least as important as the plans you make.
I recommend you keep this in mind when you’re making plans for this year or next. Aim for goals you are confident in working toward and stick at them.
5. “Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway
Busy-work is not productive work. It’s easy to look like you’re always working. But instead of trying to seem active, look at the outcomes you achieve.
Are you doing work that’s valuable, and moving you closer to your goals? This is real action.
And it’s also what you should be measuring your productivity with.
6. “Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso
Picasso made a lot of art and did well out of his trade. It’s worth knowing what he thought the most important factor was.
It’s not abstract thinking or fishing for inspiration. The foundational key is action.
And it seems to be a consistent theme.
7. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” — Stephen King
Writing a book requires about as much commitment as any project could need. There is no set path and no rules. And it takes a long time.
Anyone who writes a lot of books knows how to get work done.
Stephen King is well known for his daily target. He tries to write 2000 words a day, no matter what.
This kind of approach separates amateurs and professionals.
There’s no room to wait for magical forces like inspiration if you are going to be productive. You have to accomplish things when your schedule says.
The goal is the same whether you’re motivated or not.
You need to reach your deadlines as a habit, not just an ideal.
8. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” — Walt Disney
Even if you have the best intention, there comes a time when you need to get started.
Sharing ideas makes you feel better. It can even make you feel productive. But, it’s not.
Talking about doing work is not the same as getting it done.
Have you ever said, “I’ve been thinking about this idea for a podcast?” What about “I’d like to start making videos about this thing I’m really interested in?”
Well, this only begins when you start actually doing it.
9. “Surfaces are not for storage. Rather, surfaces are for activity, and should be kept clear at all other times.” — Francine Jay
Avoid clutter at all costs.
It takes a mental toll and makes you feel overwhelmed.
Trying out minimalist living makes a lot of people more productive, but this lesson isn’t about strict rules. The point is to have the space to spread your work out as you need.
Your space is for the activities, so make room for them.
10. “Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” — Martha Stewart
We are surrounded by chaos. Whether we interact with it or not, mess is always trying to creep into our lives.
Our brains like order. They benefit from structure and organization. If you’re going to keep your life under control and be productive, you have to value order.
Work toward tidiness, regular schedules, and good habits.
Make your life orderly.
11. “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” — David Allen
David Allen wrote one of the world’s most successful productivity books based on this idea (it’s called Getting Things Done).
You can’t be productive if you are keeping all of your tasks in your brain. Record them externally so that they don’t weigh you down.
Keep them in lists based on where and when they need to be completed, and then stop thinking about them.
This lets you focus on any one task at a time, which is more effective than carrying around everything at once.
12. “Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” — Nathan W. Morris
Picking the right projects and scheduling tasks is just the beginning. Real productivity is achieved when you review your systems regularly.
You need to evaluate how successful your current efforts have been. During this, identify what has and hasn’t worked. Keep making plans to improve results.
I do this with a weekly review.
I sit down and look at what I got done the week before. And I also look at my personal goals, career goals, and check that the things I’m working on are my priorities. Then I schedule tasks for the next week.
A system like this gives huge productivity gains. It forces you to stay focused on the work that matters, without wandering too far off course.
You have to be ruthless about anything that isn’t a priority, and this kind of ‘editing’ is the best way to do it.
13. “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” — Tom Peters
Productivity seems very personal. We focus on our lives and our work. But, it’s important to remember other people are involved.
Most of us work or live with others. All of us interact with people. Get more out of situations and yourself by being open to others.
Listen to what they say, help with their needs. Receive instruction and advice. Give positive attention by taking an interest and proactively engaging with them.
You’ll receive better information, be more effective, and improve everyone’s results.
Inspirational Quotes For Productivity
Inspiration alone can’t finish your tasks for you, but it can get you started. Often, that’s the hardest part.
The key lessons here from these productivity quotes are to do work you think is important and not put limits on your own potential.
1. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs gave out plenty of tips about being successful, creative, and productive.
This one stands out.
We are consistently told there is no shortcut to success. It’s said that productivity is earned. It takes focus and effort.
And with all of that effort, you want to be satisfied at the end. Get that by doing ‘great work.’ Commit to things you will be glad to have done. Better yet, do work that you love doing, whether it works out or not.
You will be way more likely to focus and persevere.
2. “All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.” — Plato
Plato didn’t quite get to see the Industrial Revolution, but this lesson remains valuable:
Results are better when we specialize.
Don’t worry about doing lots of things well. Do the things you are best at and do them better than anyone else. Use your talents and your experience.
Trust other people to do the same.
When we combine these efforts, quality, productivity, and enjoyment all go up.
3. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” — Franz Kafka
‘Getting more done’ isn’t the most inspiring objective.
‘Doing things you were never able to do,’ sounds far more exciting.
Gradual and consistent improvement leads to new possibilities. Through consistent productivity, outcomes that you once couldn’t have imagined come true.
Simple acts become huge gains. Productivity is worth investing in.
4. “It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.” — Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett has made a pretty decent career out of speculation. In fact, he’s one of the most successful investors ever. It’s easy to put that down to extraordinary talent that the rest of us don’t have. This isn’t the case.
He advises that no single act or decision was remarkable.
Extraordinary results come from consistent steps in the right direction.
Daily effort isn’t glamorous, but it’s how great success is achieved. You don’t have to be doing extraordinary things today to get incredible results long term.
5. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last long. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar
There’s a cycle I see a lot. A person watches a video or reads a great productivity quote. They jump up and dive into their project with 100% effort.
Then they stop after a while. They get distracted or hit a roadblock. They run out of motivation.
The trick is to actively work on staying motivated.
Keep your goals nearby, on display. Look at them every day. Remind yourself what outcomes you are working toward and why.
You’ll be way more productive with daily doses of motivation.
6. “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
If doing work seems like punishment, you’ll resent it and achieve less.
A simple solution is to look at your mindset.
Use this productivity quote from Roosevelt as a reminder that you are fortunate to be doing the work.
You are lucky to get to choose what you work on. Instead of trying to trick yourself into doing things you dislike, learn to celebrate the opportunity.
You chose to do this for a reason, and people rarely regret working hard.
7. “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” — Stephen Hawking
Humans like to do things. We need to, actually. Life is empty without activity. This draws together a few of our important lessons.
If work is what gives your life meaning, and it’s a great opportunity, then do work you like. It should enrich your time, and be something you’re glad to have done.
Instead of working on things as a means to an end, look for things that give a sense of purpose. Then be excited about getting to do them.
Productivity Quotes About Time Management
Time management is a pillar of productivity. It could be the most important skill of all.
There’s plenty of advice flying around so let’s first establish the importance of learning how to manage time.
1. “Time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends.” — Brian Tracy
Time management can look like an aspect of being productive. Like it’s one minor factor.
Actually, it’s the factor.
There are lots of different time management techniques. You need to have a system.
If you fail this, you fail everything. It doesn’t matter how you do it, or what tasks you’re attempting. Even if you get yourself motivated and work hard — it’s not enough.
Time must be managed.
2. “The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.” — Henry David Thoreau
We’ve established that time management is necessary. It’s also important to account for it.
When something costs money, the price is tangible. It’s obvious.
Spending time is no different, and you need to remember this.
When you give time to a task, that’s time you could have spent doing any number of other things.
Ideally, you need to make sure your time expenses are worthwhile. Or at the very least, understand how much time they cost.
You will be better able to chose what you work on, and what should be avoided or delegated.
3. “Ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.” — Arthur Schopenhauer
You’ve already rethought time — as a resource with value. Therefore, you need to have a mindset of getting more value when you leverage it.
Use time, rather than just spending it.
Whether this is just a mindset or an actual calculation, think about the results of your time investment.
You should be using the transaction to seek better outcomes. Otherwise, you really are just spending it.
4. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey
If you schedule without proper thought, you will end up prioritizing the wrong things.
A foundational key to productivity is to work on the things that matter. Therefore, those are the tasks that go on your schedule.
They get the time slots when you are most productive.
Also, avoid scheduling things that don’t matter, and you won’t waste time on them.
5. “Drive thy business or it will drive thee.” — Benjamin Franklin
If you let it, trying to be productive will consume your entire life. That won’t make you very effective in the long run.
It’s not possible to say yes to everything, and you’ll drown if you try.
The key idea behind this quote from Franklin is control.
You need to control what tasks you take on, and how much of your time they get.
Motivational Quotes About Hard Work
Being productive over a long period of time is going to involve effort.
You will need to learn how to push through challenges and avoid procrastination.
1. “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” — Albert Einstein
Talent versus effort is an age-old debate in productivity. It’s easy to make excuses for failure — blaming your lack of ability or opportunity. Einstein suggested this isn’t the case.
You might be solving complicated physics problems. Realistically, you’re probably not.
Either way, they’ll be accomplished through persistence.
2. “Nothing is particularly hard when you divide it into small jobs.” — Henry Ford
Facing huge challenges often leads to procrastination. They seem daunting, and you can’t comprehend finishing them.
The key is to get started. Do this by separating big projects into small jobs. Achievable jobs.
Suddenly you not only make progress but also see progress. That fuels more progress, and then you’re being productive.
3. “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus” — Alexander Graham Bell
When you do something — focus on that one thing. I use the Pomodoro productivity technique for this.
Give a task your full attention and effort until it’s done. Don’t multitask or compromise yourself.
This is how you unlock deep work. And it’s through this intensity that the best outcomes are achieved.
4. “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein
Fear of imperfection frequently causes procrastination. That’s a problem — the cost of taking too long to get started is way higher than the cost of errors.
Not to mention the tangible value of learning from your mistakes.
Mistakes are going to happen when you try new things — it’s unavoidable. And it isn’t a reason to give up or delay.
Embrace errors, acknowledging that successful people have failed as often (actually, way more often) than everyone else.
5. “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” — Henry C. Link
As we’ve seen, mistakes are inevitable. Successful people make them. This sums that up well. Hesitation is the enemy of productivity. People are separated based on their ability to dive in and try.
So don’t just expect varied results, rejoice in this reality.
Get busy making mistakes.
6. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” — Muhammad Ali
There is no great success in safety. To change the results, you have to change the approach. Enter the unknown. This feels risky, that’s to be expected.
But what’s the alternative? Take no risks. Then you can expect to achieve nothing. No success, low productivity.
Having the courage to take the leap is mandatory for accomplishing your goals.
7. “Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.” — Michael Jordan
Regardless of the result, your effort should be the same. As much as you can give.
If you take this approach, you won’t be affected by bad outcomes.
Judging yourself on effort focuses on things you can control rather than outcomes you can’t.
This is a huge step toward resilience and consistency, which will bring many more good days than bad.
8. “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” — Tim Ferriss
Chasing your dreams is frightening. It’s easier to stay comfortable and avoid risk. It’s often not the happier choice though.
If something is scary or stressful, that’s probably because it’s important.
We’ve covered how productivity benefits when you do important work. But this is about overcoming the hesitation to even start that work.
Acknowledge it. Accept it. Dive in.
Don’t avoid it because of fear.
9. “Soon is not as good as now.” — Seth Godin
The best way to stop procrastinating is to avoid it. Nip it in the bud before it grabs hold and becomes laziness.
Seth Godin has given the essential point: just do something. Build habits and systems habits for making progress today.
Whatever method you use, it should always be designed to stop you from delaying tasks.
Key Lessons From Productivity Quotes
These productivity quotes provide a lot of lessons and advice. The patterns and key ideas that run through them all are:
- Focus on work that is relevant and important to reaching your goals. Prioritize above everything else.
- Avoid the distraction of everything that doesn’t move you closer to your goals. You have to focus on fewer things to be more productive.
- It’s easier to be productive if you work on things you enjoy. You will find it easier to motivate yourself and stay focused.
- You have to learn to manage your time if you want to be productive. Do this by scheduling important work and taking control of the tasks you accept and complete.
- The best way to tackle big projects is to break them into small chunks and start doing actual work as soon as possible. There’s no secret that doesn’t involve focus and effort.
- Defeat procrastination by deciding not to delay or over-prepare. Mistakes are inevitable, but letting fear stand in the way won’t help.
Alright, there you have it.
No single productivity quote can fix all of your problems. Each of these can solve one or two, though. Build up momentum, and be patient.
Even the most successful people in the world say it takes time. But you’ll get there, just like they did.
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Originally published at https://dansilvestre.com on April 29, 2020.