14 Characteristics of Extremely Productive People

Productivity is a highly sought-after skill because it’s associated with getting a lot done. Many people struggle with finding the time to do the things they want to do, but each person has just as much time as the next person since we all have twenty-four hours in a day.

So what is the secret? Why is it easier for some people to achieve the things they want compared to others?

Like all “secrets” to success, there is no secret, once you understand the simple steps productive people go through every day, you’ll be able to adopt it into your routine and practice to be just as productive.

Being productive comes down to three parts: planning, action, and reviewing. All the qualities and traits of highly productive people can be simplified into any of those three categories. We will elaborate below.

Continue reading to learn what it means to be a productive person, the difference between productive and busy, and the characteristics of highly productive people.

What determines productivity?

How do you know if you have been productive? What metric do you use to measure how productive you are?

The answer is that it depends on what your goals are. Productivity is determined by what you have intended to accomplish for the day.

Your goal and task list have been predetermined and planned out accordingly so that you know exactly what you need to work on each day. Productivity is then defined by how much of what you planned for the day gets done.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer because everyone has different goals to achieve, but the most important thing is planning quality tasks that help reach your goals and completing them by the end of the scheduled day.

What does it mean to be a productive person?

A productive person knows how to prioritize their goals and break them down into actionable steps. Being a productive person requires knowing the difference between a high-value task and a low-value task. Additionally, it’s about knowing how to use your time and energy efficiently to get the right things done at the right time.

What most people don’t realize when they idolize other people who achieve their goals is that it takes time. The difference between people who achieve their goals and people who don’t is that people who achieve their goals have a plan to take action and they follow through. This requires being consistent but also time.

If one person spends an entire year working on their goals and achieves them, it’s easy for another person to see that as quick or sudden. What they didn’t see is the dedication, hard work, and how long it took for that person to get there.

Productivity is about learning what’s important, learning to put first what you want, and organizing your day to where you are able to get to it. It requires self-awareness and the ability to work your capabilities, energy, and time correctly. Over time, repeating this habit will achieve your goals and you will get more done.

What is the difference between productive and busy?

One of the biggest misconceptions about being productive is that you have to always be working on something and that being “busy” is associated with being productive.

A person can spend their entire day running errands and checking off their to-do list and still be unproductive. Alternatively, a productive person can spend two hours a day working on one thing and be productive. Being productive is not about how much or how long you work but that you are working on the right things. You have to know the difference between a low-value task versus a high-value task.

Productivity is about working on the important things that matter to get you to where you want to be. A busy person can have many goals and tasks, but they suffer with prioritizing the right things.

A busy person likes to stay busy by scheduling many events and attending everything they can to stay active. A productive person knows when to say no to things and prioritizes their time wisely to get what they want done.

Having a long to-do list and a full schedule does not make you productive, but working on critical tasks that help you reach your goal is productive.

Characteristics of productive people

The 3 parts of productivity: Plan, Action, Review
Three Parts of Productivity

There are three essential parts that make up a productive person and they are plan, action, and review. As you go through the list, each trait falls into one of the categories. A productive person takes the time to make a plan, then takes action and follows through with the plan, and then they are constantly reviewing the results and taking notes to improve.

1. They know what to prioritize

Prioritizing is number one on the list because this is the difference between a person who knows exactly what they want compared to a person who just wants. Anyone can create goals, but the person who decides to put that goal first in their life is the one who will get there first. Busy people have goals, and productive people prioritize those goals.

Related: How to prioritize when everything is important

This also applies to prioritizing daily tasks. Many productive people follow the Eat the Frog method which is a method to work on your most high-value, impactful, and meaningful task first, to get it out of the way. Those tasks while important can also be the most boring, time-consuming, or taxing tasks on your list.

2. They are aware of time management

Productive people are good at time management because they are aware of time. They understand how valuable time is so they do the best they can not to waste it. Time management is about prioritizing important and meaningful tasks so that you have more leisure time doing the things you enjoy. Achieving your goals by being productive is not about working tirelessly day after day, it’s about finding the balance to work hard and enjoy other things as well.

Related: The 4 P’s of Time Management

3. They always have a plan

A goal without a plan is a wish. Productive people get more done because they have a plan. Whether that is a long-term plan, short-term plan, or even as small as weekly and daily, they take the time to strategize how they are going to get more done.

Many productive people always have a plan going into the day, and they prepare either at the beginning of the week or always the night or the day before. They always know exactly what their day looks like before beginning so they don’t waste any time and can get started immediately.

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4. They Take initiative

Productive people take initiative and know how to make decisions for themselves. When everything feels important, nothing is important. A productive person knows how to make the difficult decisions to prioritize one thing over another. Especially when it comes to your life, your goals and your priorities are different from other people. Everyone is at different stages of life going through different things, so you have to decide for yourself what is important to you. What is important to you and what do you want to focus on at this point in your life?

Taking initiative and prioritizing your life cannot be done by anyone else. You are in charge of your life and it will take energy and effort on your part to get to where you want. Be the leader of your life and make decisions for yourself. The more you practice this, the more confident you will be.

5. They limit procrastination

Something to understand is that procrastination is normal. The biggest reason people procrastinate is because the task that they need to work on is not fun. It’s going to require energy, time, and effort, that’s why we put it off. Think about all the times you procrastinated, was it because the task was going to be hard or boring?

Unfortunately, these tasks are not fun but they get us to where we want to be, so we have to push past it and do it anyways. Procrastinating is normal but the difference between a productive person and everyone else is that they are aware of when they procrastinate and have a system to reduce or stop it.

Related: 5 Smart Tips to Stop Procrastination

6. They minimize distractions

It’s hard not to get distracted these days with so much technology that alerts us when we get notifications. It’s natural to get distracted here and there when you are working on something, but truly productive people know how to get back on track faster. They have identified their common distractions and have found a way to remove or reduce them.

7. They follow a daily routine

Taking action is important when it comes to productivity, but to get the results you want, you have to turn it into a habit and be consistent. This is not only apparent in productive people, but highly successful people as well.

Something people don’t talk about often is that success is boring. Getting things done and achieving your goals requires doing the same thing day after day. Imagine if your goal is to lose weight, you will have a workout routine and a meal plan that you must stick to for many months and even years to lose weight and maintain it. The process can become boring, but that’s what it takes. Building up a business or a following on social media requires showing up every day and doing the same thing consistently until you get the results you want.

Productive people follow a daily routine because they already know what the plan is, and they understand the consistent effort it takes.

Read here for ideas to start your most productive day.

8. They problem solve

If you are pursuing a goal, what happens when you run into a problem? Do you stop? No. You find a way around it and keep going. If you stop every time something gets hard or face an obstacle, then you failed because you didn’t reach your goal.

Productive people find ways around their struggles so they can learn and improve, giving up is not an option. Learning to be productive is a journey of self-improvement and self-learning because you get to see what you are capable of. You start to develop a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.

9. They say no and set boundaries

Being productive is not the same as being busy. When you are busy, you say yes to things and keep your schedule full so you feel productive, but in actuality, being productive is about learning to say no to things because you are aware of how valuable your time is. Setting boundaries and knowing where to spend your time on what’s important is being the most productive.

10. They have a positive mindset

The journey to success is never easy, and sometimes your worst enemy is yourself. Our brain doesn’t want us to do anything outside of our comfort zone because it wants to protect us, but learning to overcome the inner voice can only strengthen our abilities.

Our mind controls our reality, so what we think is what we become. Practicing a positive mindset by eliminating negative self-talk can make a big difference in achieving our goals. A productive person knows the importance of a positive mindset and how it can affect them daily.

11. They see the bigger picture

There’s a reason someone is productive, and it’s because there is something they want. When they take the time to plan, it leads to something bigger. So they are dedicated to staying on track and staying productive because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They understand where all their hard work will lead to.

Whether a goal is short-term or long-term, it requires time. Regardless if it takes one month, one year, or more, the daily tasks to get there can be challenging and make you lose sight of the end goal. We don’t get instant gratification for working on our daily tasks, and it can take days or months to start seeing results. The people who reach success are the ones who stick with it to see it through.

Many times people quit too early because they don’t get the results they wanted fast enough.

12. They always look for ways to improve

How do you get better? By looking back and analyzing what went wrong and what went right. Learning from your mistakes and learning that failure is an opportunity to grow is vital to improvement. When you practice a growth mindset, your mind opens up to more possibilities because you crave to learn.

Read here to see if you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

13. They learn to balance

Productivity is not about doing the most things, but about doing the right things. So instead of planning things to stay busy, they plan and schedule valuable things. This way, the extra time is left for doing things you enjoy, and more leisure time for family, friends, or hobbies.

14. They are self-aware

Productive people become self-aware. They start to learn about their capabilities, their skills, and the time and energy they have. Over time as they collect this data, they use it to their advantage to help them perform better.

For example, if you are not good at a skill, you can either learn or delegate it to not waste time. They also know when they have the most energy so they schedule valuable tasks at that time so they can devote full brain power to work on it. Alternatively, they know when they are low in energy and when it’s better to take breaks and rest. They know their limits and don’t push for more or less.

They understand their surroundings and become better at navigating so their time and effort are functioning at peak levels and divided efficiently.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

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