Thomas Green On Productivity

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. Today, I am answering the internet on the topic of productivity and the first question is:

What’s the best way to increase productivity? I find a lot of these may be subjective so when I’m answering the questions all I’m really saying is that they’ve worked well for me, and you may be drawn to these types of questions or looking for this type of information when you are struggling with your productivity. So, the frame that we’re putting on it is perhaps you might be struggling a little bit with your productivity and here are a bunch of things which may help to increase it. Music is, I think, a bit of an underrated one. In the short term, I think that music can really help get you going, so if you pick a piece of music which really helps you, sometimes the term is to change your state.

That can snap you out of the type of self-talk which might be hindering your productivity. I think people struggle with productivity when they’re either not doing something that they enjoy or it’s become repetitive or monotonous. And so, one way to tackle that is to either add some variety into your day or to learn something in addition to what you’re already doing. That might be a new or different way of doing the same task or it might be just up skilling in a certain area. Another thing that helps is a longer-term goal. So, if you know that your short-term activities are contributing towards a longer-term goal, I think that that can help. If you have a good reason why I think that can also help. So, if you don’t have any meaning behind perhaps getting through a tough or boring day then it can sometimes be perceived as more difficult. Whereas if you know that after a certain period of time all this hard work or all this repetition is going to have a more meaningful result then that can also help.

Lastly, something I often use when I’m struggling is breaking down bigger tasks into smaller ones. If we take the analogy of, let’s say, going for a run, there are lots of things that you have to do in order to get to the point where you’re actually starting. And it can be the case that you’ve actually built up this task, this run, as bigger than it actually is in your mind. And all you have to do is make it smaller or break down those individual things so it becomes a lot smaller. The first thing might be actually getting ready for the run, and so the question becomes, well is it a difficult thing to actually change into running gear? Or breaking it down even further, is it difficult to put running shoes on? And the more and more you break down that task to the point where you’ve done lots and lots of small tasks – and that’s all that big tasks are made up of, they’re just made up of lots of little tasks – and the more and more you break them down and the more you, sort of, tick tasks off of your list, the more you’re progressing towards that end goal.

To the point where you’ve actually reached the beginning of your run, you’re about to start, and then it becomes about can I just run for a minute? And then once you’ve run for a minute, can I run for a few more minutes? And you’ll often find that actually getting going is the most difficult part. And once you’re going you can achieve that bigger run that you wanted to do in the first place. And the run is a metaphor for any task that you have to do. I’m not saying you should take up running, you would just apply those principles to anything that you want to do, any task that you need to do, on a working day.

What are the most productive ways to spend time on the internet? Productivity is only important when it’s in relation to an end goal. So, you don’t have to be productive if there’s not something that you’re trying to achieve. If you are trying to achieve something then the most productive ways to spend time have to be smaller tasks which take you closer to your end goal. If you’re asking that question it probably means that you are spending time on the internet which happens to be unproductive.

If you list down a load of the things which have to happen in order to reach your end goal and then just pick easy tasks, pick little ones if you’re feeling unproductive, which will contribute towards that end goal. And then you can always ask yourself when you’re spending time on the internet, is this taking me one step closer to what I’m trying to achieve? If it’s not, then you can pick small simple tasks which will help contribute towards that end goal and can be defined as a productive way to spend your time.

What are three habits that highly productive people have on a daily basis? Based on the definition that I gave previously which is you’re being productive if you’re taking successful steps towards an end goal, one of them, I would say, is to not let anything get in the way of your productivity.

So, the overcoming of obstacles in order to complete those tasks. Another one might be prioritising, so I’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 principle which is 80% of your results come from 20% of your work, although I’m sure that the percentages may not be accurate there, I think the principle is sound. If you’re aware that most of your results come from only a certain amount of your activity, then you know that in order to be the most productive or perhaps to take larger steps towards your goal you need to do certain activities and prioritise them. And another one might be routine, so a formulaic way of ensuring that you’re completing tasks which will take you closer to your goal.

How can I make myself more productive or efficient?
I think having a plan for your day can really help. Often, it’s the case that people encourage you to set your goals or set, for example, a business plan and these are longer-term or midterm goals which I believe can be extremely helpful in order to help you achieve certain outcomes, but you can take that principle and apply it to shorter time frames. If you have a plan for your day, maybe it doesn’t go exactly according to schedule, but I would say the chances of you getting off track are less. And if you’ve got a certain list of things that you want to achieve on that day and are planned for doing that, you improve the probability that that’s going to happen.

How can you maximise productivity when working from home? I think this question is poignant for a lot of people at the moment. One thing which can help is I think routine is very important on this one and that also helps if there are other people that you have to share your working environment with. If you’re always available to other people in your home then interruptions are likely to be a lot more frequent, and if you’re never available then that also applies.

If you can’t ever be disturbed then that probably doesn’t make for a nice home environment. Whereas if you have a specific time when you’re going to, for example, go on your lunch break and then a set time also when you’re going to finish and these rarely change, then at least the other people in your home know that you’re going to come out a particular time, you’re shutting yourself away for a specific period of time, you stop work at a particular time, and then you start it up at another time. They know when they can talk to you about certain things and if they have to ask you something they know exactly when you’re coming out. I am a believer in the to-do list. If you have a list of things that you do want to get done that day, even if it’s the case that you don’t finish them all or perhaps if the list grows, then you can just take it on to the following day. And I find that if you make progress early on on the easy ones then it gets you into the rhythm of being able to also complete the bigger tasks. And I do believe in focus, so minimise the number of other tech distractions that you have going on. I think having tunnel vision on certain tasks is very beneficial. So, when I’m working on my laptop my phone has a very low priority for me, and when I’m on a call I don’t get distracted by any workers on my laptop. You can have lulls throughout the day where you feel less productive than others and that’s where you break down tasks as much as you possibly can because it is just a problem of perception. It’s become bigger in your mind than it actually is and therefore in order to tackle that you just break down the task into smaller parts and that’s how you stay productive throughout the day.

How can I plan my day to become more productive? I think having one major thing that you want to get done on that day, one goal for the day, I think that gets you into a good habit for goal setting and also it states what your priority is for that day. So, over and above anything else here’s what I want to achieve. I don’t always do it but if you want to be super productive then you can break your day down by hour of the day, and I find calendars can help for that. Google Calendar is what I use. It’s a structure for your day rather than it is a schedule. I also find that this helps for not forgetting anything, and if you start your day out with that one main thing that you want to achieve which is going to take you one step closer to your goal, my view is that if you achieve that then it’s going to be a successful day for you.

What are some easy habits that can make a person much more productive? There’s a phrase which says measurement improves performance. So, if we apply this to the question, in order to improve your performance and how it relates to productivity you would just measure as much as you can about what your activities are. And what you’ll most likely find is that you’re not spending as much time on things which take you closer to your goals. And if you do start measuring accurately then you’ll find that there are certain things that would be beneficial for you to remove from your day, so start recording what you’re doing on a daily basis. Do more of the good stuff and start removing some of the things which are not taking you any closer to your goal.

What is the best way to clear your mind every morning and start a productive day? I said at the beginning of this video that some of this stuff is going to be subjective. I actually think this is probably one of the questions which is the most subjective in the sense that different people have different ways of clearing their mind. The easy recommendation for this one for most is going to be exercise or meditation or something like that, but I actually don’t start my day off that way. If that’s a way for you to do it then I definitely think you should do that.

If you are required to clear your mind in order to have a productive day then, by all means, do those good things which have a beneficial impact on your day. I’m a bit of a night owl. I probably do my best work in the evening and feel most alert at that time, but you still need to be able to be efficient, effective, productive, during the morning regardless of whether you feel like it or not. And that is where you use some of the tactics that I’ve alluded to, for example, breaking down bigger tasks into smaller ones in order to change the perception of those tasks in your mind. Remember that every single big task is just made up of smaller ones, and smaller tasks done well will mean that you can do the bigger tasks well.

How do you remain productive throughout the day? I think you should enjoy what you do and I think that enjoying what you do makes that a lot easier. You, of course, can’t always enjoy what you do, but if you really dislike what you’re doing then it’s going to be significantly more difficult to remain productive throughout the day. Add some variety into your day and be working towards something, but if you don’t have that major end goal then you should have smaller goals broken down to ensure that it’s not just getting through the day, you are working towards something.

What is the most productive thing I can do when I am bored? Coming back to what our definition is for productivity, tasks which take you one step closer to your goal, I think that the best answer for this question is doing things, easy things, which need to be done but don’t require a lot of effort on your part. So, they are simple tasks which do help in the overall grand scheme of things but don’t require a lot of brainpower from you.

And what you’ll find if you can do those simple tasks, at least many of them, is that you start getting a rhythm and when you get that rhythm, you’ll be able to do some of the more difficult things and perhaps you won’t be quite as bored. Now, if it is a short-term thing if you’re just in the short term a little bit bored of doing whatever you’re doing for that day but it’s not a regular occurrence, then that’s just life. But if you’re bored on a regular basis, like, I’m just bored with what I’m doing every day, I would say that you need to make a change in some format because life is short and you don’t really want to spend it being bored. Now, there are multiple ways of doing that so don’t read too much into what I’m saying, but the main point is that you don’t want to spend your life being bored.

What do you do to stay motivated and productive all day? I actually don’t think that you can be motivated all day. I think motivation can get you going and is a useful tool that you can use, but the reality of achieving something, at least achieving something difficult in the long term, is it’s tough and you’re not always going to feel motivated to do it. What you do to stay productive is to ensure that the tasks you’re completing are taking you one step closer to your goal. If you can be successful working towards it, I would say it’s a matter of when you get there rather than if, providing you persevere.

What are all the ways in which a smartphone can increase your productivity? I certainly don’t think that I will list all the ways and it’s very possible I might be a contrarian on this issue. I don’t think smartphones are designed or particularly good at increasing your productivity. I think that they are a good backup for, let’s say, if you’re not working or if you don’t have access to your work at that particular time, you might be able to reply, you might be able to talk to someone, which may help take you a step closer to your goals. That’s at least my perspective on practical work-related productivity. I think the major way in which a smartphone can help is in relation to learning.

So, what Tony Robbins would call ‘net time’ or ‘no extra time’. So, if you’re walking, if you’re travelling, commuting, whatever it might be, you can listen to something which maybe teaches you to do a particular thing a bit like this, that gives you a strategy or tactic on how to increase your productivity. And when you apply that, that is where the increase comes in, not from the practical work application. The questions I answered on mindset talk about immersion, immersing your mind with positive messages and the smartphone can be excellent at doing that.

What are the best books on personal productivity? I liked Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. That’s got some practical things that you can do, but it’s worth noting that it’s very possible that a book could be something which is getting in the way of you doing the activity which is taking you closer to your goal. So, a book potentially could be unproductive, as long as this is not hidden procrastination of some kind, meaning you’re not taking time out of your working day in order to read a book, this is time that you wouldn’t be working anyway, for example, and by all means look at books on productivity. But often it’s the case that we already know what to do, so we have the education but we’re not using the application. Remember that the bigger tasks are just made up of smaller ones. Do lots of small tasks on a regular basis which are taking you closer to your goal which means that you are being productive.

Each day I sleep with the guilt of not making my day productive but the next day I waste it again. I am getting depressed now, what should I do? This sounds like more of a conversation than a quick answer from me. Based on the information that I have I would say that a lot of the reasons why people don’t act is that they actually don’t believe it’s going to work. What I mean by that is if I 100% believed that I was going to go out and I was going to achieve a particular thing, all I had to do was go and do it, there wouldn’t necessarily be anything that’s going to stop me from doing it. And a lot of the reason why people don’t do the things that they want to do, and it may sound like a bit of a cliché but it happens to be true in a lot of instances, is fear of failure.

So, I’m not going to try because I don’t think it will work, and even if I do try maybe I don’t put 100% into it which doesn’t end up getting me the results I want which then feeds the belief system that I have which makes me take less action again. I think it’s been referred to as, like, a feedback loop. So, I think in a lot of cases people have this voice in the back of their head which is telling them that it’s not going to work or that they shouldn’t try because it’s just going to go wrong, or I’ve never done this before and therefore it’s probably not going to work for me. And there is a phrase, I think I heard from Tim Ferriss, and I believe it is to test your assumptions. So, rather than having a pre-formed conclusion, whether conscious or unconscious, about an outcome of a particular activity, look at it very much like an experiment. So, I don’t know necessarily what’s going to happen if I take this particular action, but let’s do this to the best of my ability and let’s just see what the conclusion is. And what you’ll find is that by taking a particular action your comfort zone grows a little bit each time. So, continually test your assumptions, have an end goal that you’re working towards, and feel free to give me a specific example in the comments if that doesn’t apply to you.

How do successful people stay productive working long hours? I would say the easy answer for this one is they’re trying to achieve something in particular and they’re not going to stop until they’ve achieved that thing, and they will work the number of hours that is required until they achieve that goal. Now, for anyone who doesn’t necessarily have that goal or that outcome in mind, working productively for long hours is quite mystical, quite strange, or seems difficult, but if you have a reason why an outcome in mind, a goal that you want to achieve, you’re going to do the thing that’s required in order to achieve that goal. And if you need to work long hours in order to get that outcome, that is what you have to exchange in order to get the outcome you want. And so, if you’re serious about getting that outcome then that’s what you do and that’s the reason why successful people can stay productive working long hours.

I hope that helps in assisting you to be productive. If you’ve got questions, feel free to put them in the comments, and if you need help with your digital marketing visit us at and I’ll speak to you soon.