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How to Be More Productive: My 10 Best Tips
Last Updated March 26th, 2018

I’m 99% useless, but that 1% when I’m not, I’m dangerous.

Here’s how I stay productive.

#1 What It Really Means When You Say “I’m Busy”

I’ll start with an infamous Derek Halpern rant…

The FIRST step to being more productive is this:

Eliminate the word “busy” from your vocabulary.

Here’s why:

#2 Get Macro-Focused

Being more productive means:

Getting more done in less time.

The only way to do this is to FOCUS.

In two ways…

The first is what I call “macro” focus.

It means:

You need to decide WHAT to work on.

The problem is that most people’s life looks like this:

Does this look familiar?

It sure does to me…

Making progress on different projects feels good.

The question is:

Which project will you finish?

My most productive – and profitable – time is always when I have macro-focus. That is, I focus on ONE main project and maybe one side project.

What’s YOUR main project?

#3 Get Micro-Focused

Once you have macro-focus, it’s time to actually get to work.

That’s what I call micro-focus.

This is getting harder and harder – and it’s not your fault.

The number of distractions and interruptions most people have to deal with every day makes it almost impossible to get any real work done.

That’s why you need a focus routine…

I wrote this complete guide on how to get into the zone and stay focused.

#4 Take Back Your Calendar

I have this great talent for working until I get burned out.


It’s a real problem for entrepreneurs. I’ve been through it myself more than once, so I have some suggestions on how to fix it.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is how to say “no.”

It allowed me to take back my calendar and free up time for my most important work.

The question is HOW I did it… Watch this video:

#5 Stop Procrastinating

You know what to do but you’re still putting it off until… never?

Procrastination is deeply rooted in our psychology.

That’s why it’s so difficult to overcome.

Here’s the behavioral hack that works for me:

#6 Limit Yourself

Creativity is weird…

When we need to come up with ideas we can’t.

Then, when we’re in the shower we turn into creative geniuses. The best ideas just seem to pop up.

Of course, this isn’t very useful when you need to come up with creative solutions on the spot.

So, what can you do when you’re stuck for ideas?

The solution is counterintuitive. You need to start thinking INSIDE the box… Research shows that self-imposed constraints boost your creativity.

Here’s exactly how to unlock your best ideas (by limiting yourself).

#7 Learn How to Write (Faster)

Chances are you need to write at work:

  • Outreach emails
  • Product descriptions
  • Social media updates
  • Blog posts
  • Presentation slides

If you could write better – and faster – would that make you more productive?

But for most people writing anything is HARD.

The result? It takes way too much time…

That’s why becoming a better writer automatically makes you a lot more productive.

Here are the 5 steps to writing better and faster (plus a free worksheet):

Want more writing tips? Check out my whole writing process and the tools I use.

#8 Eliminate Email Overload

The secret?

Don’t treat the symptom.

Cure the problem.

Here’s how:

(The best part? This works for any task that’s taking too much time out of your day, so make sure you watch the video.)

#9 Stop Wasting Time On Low-Value Work

One of my favorite quotes comes from Peter F. Drucker:

There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.

If you want to be more productive you need to invest your time the things that have potential to move the needle:

#10 Don’t Lie to Yourself

This is painful to admit but…

The biggest lie we tell ourselves is:

“I don’t have time.”

The truth is, we MAKE time for the things that matter.

I remind myself of this whenever I start feeling like “I don’t have time.”

Do you agree?

If All Else Fails, Do This

I really hope these tips will help you be more productive.


You can always use this amazing app:

It’s called “To-Do List Zero” and it works like magic 😉

Check it out:

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11 comments Leave a comment

I agree on everything Derek! I am a coach and I find another important element … my coachee do not get involved !!!!! congratulations for your article! (sorry for my bad english)

Annette Hohnberger

Derek, thanks again for some great insight. The park about being Macro-Focused is something I’d like to explore more. I often feel most satisfied when I have 100 irons in the fire but, I do get overwhelmed. I have to think this one through a bit. Thanx for the article.


Being efficient is not always easy- we should establish a firm priority system and delegate as much as possible. Great article, thank you for the insight.


Especially when I work from home i’m less productive. Great tips, hopefully that is in the past from now!

Ray Wilson

Awesome, Derek! Thanks so much. I liked your Tips Very Much am going to share this topic with my friends.


Thanks, Derek.

#1. My Main Thing
I got so excited about your blog post that I stopped reading and started working with some of your suggestions. I have transitioned from education to writing. In the past I have used a plan to set up my own consulting business. Today I made a plan for different aspects of my writing.

# 2. Sidebars
While there are no other sidebars at this time, writing has its own separate sidebar projects from finding an agent for the completed children’s book to freelance writing to blogging. I applied your graph idea to folders for essays on the writing life: “ For Germination, Just Started, 25% Done, 50% Done, 75% Done, and Finally Done.


That is a lot of things to read and remember to be more productive, but they are useful.

“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything” David Allen


Loved this, Derek! I have been struggling with this a LOT. How is it I work 12 hour days and still don’t get enough done by the end of the week?! Lack of focus, mainly! I work on social media managing so I get massive chunks of my attention drained way by bloody Bored Pandas and cat videos!! What I’ve found helps is meditation, regular breaks, a clear list of what needs to be done and the EXACT steps to do it, and just practicing pulling myself away from distractions or out of them, again and again!


Awesome, Derek! Thanks so much for this! Really needed to read/hear it today, as I’ve been floundering around in what-should-I-do-next mode!


Derek, I disagree on your point about “I don’t have time”.

The truth is, most people don’t have time for most things! And you can’t make time for everything. The trick is just don’t do MOST things!!! Just do 1 or 2 things like you said in an earlier point. You have to realize what you don’t have time for. If you want to do something you don’t have time for…you have to stop doing something else to make time for it. Time is the ultimate zero sum game.


Thanks for having this as a topic Dean . Helpful and Informative.

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