Five Tips to Keep You Productive

Last year, my husband and I hosted 24 people for Thanksgiving. This time last year, I was writing shopping lists, figuring out where everyone would sleep, and cleaning the house in anticipation.

This year’s Thanksgiving will include four people and a celebratory toast courtesy of ZOOM. I’ll miss the large gathering, but since I’m not hosting, instead of worrying about whether all of the casseroles and side dishes are on the table, I’ll be able to enjoy some concentrated family time. I wonder how many other things, when we look back over this time of the pandemic, we’ll realize were positives.

For me, I’ve had the opportunity to share my love of books through Zoom with my nine-year-old grandson living in California. Since he’s home-schooled right now, I get to read with him. We finished “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and are halfway through the charming “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” It’s brought us closer together and provided an opportunity for us to discuss everything from abalone shells and cormorant skirts to how fun it would be to flood and cool the basement and have our own family of skating, tobogganing penguins.

I’m also grateful that I have fewer distractions. I’ve been more productive than ever before. I’ve even had time to watch YouTubes on the subject of productivity. My favorites are performed by the charming Cambridge doctor, Ali Abdaal. I always get tips and often end up ordering things he’s recommended. I’m now the satisfied owner of a package of his recommended pens, which truly do glide wonderfully—contact me if you want the name—and I’m drinking peppermint tea in the evenings which he believes helps him stay productive longer.

Here are five of my favorite productivity tips, some of which are based on Ali Abdaal’s advice. I’d also like to mention the “fun factor,” which is that if you can make something like exercise fun, and you love playing pickleball or hiking for example, exercise will not be work. So try to bring fun into your workday.

1. Before going to bed, refine your “to do” list for the next day, highlighting the most important. Ali Abdaal prefers to do this in the morning, and humorously calls it his “morning dump,” but I find if I do it the night before, I think about it during those half-awake moments and sometimes get a jump-start on the hardest, creative challenges.
I like to organize my day by difficult tasks first, leaving mundane chores for the end of the day when my creative juices have wrung dry. Ali Abdaal advises using apps such as Evernote or Notions for the “to do” list. I prefer paper, but each to his own.
This one act may have you starting work minutes after getting up. The list eliminates the excuse of “I don’t have the time.” We have the time. We just need to prioritize. It also helps with motivation since we want to complete as much as possible on our lists.
2. Write down ideas or chores as soon as they pop into your head, so you don’t forget them.
3. Limit your TV time. Ali Abdaal and I agree that TV is a huge time waster. I can get the weather and news updates on my phone or in the morning papers.
4. Stay focused. Don’t multitask but concentrate on the task at hand. Follow the efficient Pomodoro Technique of working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break.
5. Take care of your health. Yeah, you know this. Eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and move. Taking care of your body also takes care of your brain which will give you more energy, help you be more productive, and lift your mood.

Think about it. When we look back over this time, what will we have learned to appreciate? What will we regret not doing? How can we start today to find a satisfying answer to the big question: “I’m glad I used this time to _____.”

4 Replies to “Five Tips to Keep You Productive”

Gayle Rosengren

Leave it to you to take the isolation and disappointment of holidays spent apart and turn it on its head so it’s an opportunity for something special that otherwise might not have happened!
Happy Thanksgiving!


I’m fortunate to love my work and to have the chance to connect with kindred spirits. Thanks for reading.

Sue Berk Koch

How fun that you’re reading to your grandson via zoom! I love that. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Amy Laundrie

Thanks for the reply, Sue. Having a chance to share books with my grandson who’s thousands of miles away is truly special. We’re reading “Because of Winn Dixie” right now.

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