10 Quotes from Great Minds on How to be More Productive at Work

Ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and think, “I’m going to do all of the things today!” with a plan for how to be more productive at work—only to find that by 11:30, you haven’t accomplished a single thing on your list? It happens…even to those with the best of intentions.

how to be more productive

So what do you do when your dreams of productivity are squashed by the day-to-day nuances of work? How can you be more productive at work and shift gears into “get stuff done” mode?

Well, to help you do that, we’ve pulled together wisdom from some of the greatest minds we could think of to share some tips on how to actually be more productive. These men and women are masters of productivity, and if anyone knows how to crush a to-do list, it’s them.


“I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and that sequence of calls moves me forward.” –Richard Branson

Take it from one of the richest men in the United Kingdom—list-making is a powerful tool to direct your energy and drive productivity at work. Take it a step further and make sure your list is properly prioritized so you can work from the most urgent task down to the one that can wait until tomorrow.


“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” –Stephen King

Sometimes it’s not about waiting for that perfect moment to get started on a new project. This famed writer says it best when he says the best time to start is right now. Stop putting your work off—just dive in!


“When we truly need to do is often what we most feel like avoiding.” –David Allen

Productivity consultant and writer David Allen is all about “Getting Things Done.” And for him that means even on the days when the last thing he wants to do is work, he’s got to push through it and stop the procrastination before it begins.


“One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we’re idling in front of our computer screens.” –Joshua Foer

So true, don’t you think? Foer, a writer and TED Talk speaker, points out that the very medium through which we’re supposed to be productive is often one of the biggest sources of distraction. Close your tabs, turn off the email notifications, and focus on one task at a time when you want to be more productive at work.


“Understanding your employee’s perspective can go a long way towards increasing productivity and happiness.” –Kathryn Minshew

As CEO of The Muse, Minshew knows all about how to manage employees—and how looking at situations from the viewpoint of your employees is a great way to break down the barriers of productivity at work. The better you understand your employees, the better the team can function smoothly.


“Don’t worry about breaks every 20 minutes ruining your focus on a task. Contrary to what I might have guessed, taking regular breaks from mental tasks actually improves your creativity and productivity. Skipping breaks, on the other hand, leads to stress and fatigue.” –Tom Rath

Rath, a NYT bestselling author, is wise to point out that when it comes to productivity, you have to prevent burn-out with frequent breaks. Working too hard for too long will only make the creative juices stop flowing—and you’ll simply become overwhelmed.


“You cannot mandate productivity; you must provide the tools to let people become their best.” –Steve Jobs

When it comes to managing others and getting the most out of the work day, Jobs explains that even the best team can’t perform at the highest level without the proper tools (i.e. mentorship, equipment, encouragement—you name it.) How can bosses make employees productive at work? They’ve got to motivate and empower their people.


“As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.”-Leonardo Da Vinci

Multi-tasking is the kiss of death to productivity. Even Da Vinci knows that how to be more productive at work is to focus on one thing at a time. When you really need to get things done, shut the door and pour your energies into one task. Just one!


“In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example – and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.” –Rupert Murdock

How to be more productive at work: Connect with people—get them excited and make them feel involved. Pro tip: Use brainstorming sessions rather than all-day meetings to get people motivated and thinking creatively.


“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”-Thomas Sowell

Speaking of meetings… Sowell, and economist and author, knows that meetings are high up on the list of ways to kill productivity. Have you ever been productive while sitting in a three hour meeting? We didn’t think so. (Also, here’s how to have more productive meetings, too)

Don’t listen to Mark Twain when he said, “Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Bad advice, Mr. Twain! Being more productive at work is all about getting motivated and diving in. We hope these pieces of advice are just what you need to get back on track.

Any pieces of wisdom you’d add to this collection?

Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.


  1. Love RB’s advice on lists Kaleigh because this RB uses them too 😉 Thanks!

    • I can relate! My goodness, over the years my list making habits have become a bit of a problem — I use Evernote for to-do lists for work, my Reminders app on my phone (which has like 12 different lists for different things for my personal life), and sticky notes of lists around my desk for anything and everything else. Ahh! Too bad I don’t share the same initials though. 😛 Thanks, Ryan!

  2. like the one said by Steve Jobs.even practially he prooved it too.really he is the leader of the era.

  3. Carmen Damocles says:

    I guess any great mind would say, rise about the din of ordinariness and be more aware of yourself and others than anyone, even yourself before.

  4. I motivated from your post. I am Steve Jobs fan and i like his quotes.

    Thanks for sharing..!!

  5. No one like Steve Jobs. Your post reminded him . Thanks for the nice article and great quotes

Speak Your Mind