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12 Surprising Productivity Tips for Getting More Done

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I can only speak for myself, but for me, the big battle I fight day-in and day-out isn’t finding great stories, creating motivating offers, or persuading bosses not to damage fundraising …

What really makes a difference is staying as productive as possible.

Those other things matter a lot. But productivity is the key. If you’re missing deadlines and letting important details get past you, it hardly matters how great you are at fundraising.

Over the years, I’ve collected some productivity actions that help. They work for me, and they might work for you…

Stop multitasking

This may be the most important tip of all. Because multitasking could be wiping out your productivity. It may make you feel super-human, like you’re gracefully juggling dozens of balls.

It may also be the most difficult thing to do. We have so many tools that enable and encourage multitasking. They often feel like they make us more productive. But they don’t. Because they fail to account for the cost of switching.

Here’s the thing: Multitasking is literally impossible. You can only do one thing at a time. That’s not just you and me. It’s everyone. It’s the way the brain works.

What we call multitasking is actually rapidly switching between two or more tasks. And every time you switch from one task to another, you spend time in an in-between state where you’re doing neither task. That time may be brief – just a few seconds – or long, as in several tens of minutes. But studies show that people who engage in a lot of multitasking lose as much as 40% of their productive time.

I sure don’t want to lose that much of my time!

The solution: Do one thing at a time.

Be conscious and vigilant about it.

A few of the productivity actions below are effective because they help you enforce “monotasking.”

Get less connected

The incredible level of connectivity we have these days can supercharge your productivity. As someone who works with many different organizations all over the world, I can say that connectivity makes my job possible.

But uncontrolled connectivity can also destroy your productivity.

Too much connection can be like trying to work in a roomful of energetic toddlers. Each one wants to be the center of attention, and they are in a sort of “arms race” to grab your eyes and ears. And hey – they’re all adorable and both need and deserve your attention. But you aren’t going to accomplish much in that room under those conditions.

Email is the biggest productivity thief we have. Instant messaging is just about as bad. So here are some tips for protecting your time (your most precious possession) from these thieves:

  • Don’t have business apps on your phone. Especially your email. Some of your most productive time takes place away from your desk – walking, sitting, thinking. You can lose with that ever-active noisemaker you have in your pocket at all times. Also, keeping workday apps off your phone will improve your work-life balance. That alone will make you more productive during the work.
  • Turn off notifications. You’re charging along in a high productivity state. Then a little chime sounds. It means an email has arrived in your inbox. You know it’s most likely unimportant and/or irrelevant, but you must check it! Turn off those notifications!
  • Unsubscribe from every email list that’s not useful, entertaining, or relevant.
  • Block notifications. Many applications have full-screen or no-distraction modes. Use them.

Have a not-to-do list

A to-do list can be handy. But it can also keep you feeling frazzled and unproductive. So in addition to your to-do list – or maybe even instead of it – have a “done list.” Write down things as you finish them. It can be quite satisfying, giving you a way to celebrate what you’re accomplishing. It can also help you plan subsequent activities based on reality, not just wishful thinking.

Pace yourself

It’s too easy to spend much of your day in panic mode, rushing to finish things in too little time. Remember “slow and steady wins the race”? That’s right, a panicked sprint almost never wins the race.

Take a moment to budget your time before you start a project. Be as realistic as possible to estimate what it will really take to finish at the quality you need it to be. Then work at a steady pace. This really boosts your productivity. And it’s far healthier than panic mode.

Give yourself unstructured time

Some of your best ideas in your life will come when you’re not working. It’ll bubble up from your subconsciousness while you’re doing anything but staring at that blinking cursor trying hard to write.

That’s why you should schedule unstructured time. You’ll get more done, and you’ll have bigger, more creative thoughts.

Walking. Looking at a view. Doing a jigsaw puzzle. Making music. Activities like these may look like goofing off, but they can be shortcuts to your highest level of productivity.

Let it happen!

Don’t demand perfection

You’ll never attain it. But you can waste a lot of time and effort trying.

There are times in life when it’s worth going the extra mile to make something as near perfect as possible. Not most of the time.

Good is good. Trying to make something perfect just stresses you out and wastes time.

Get plenty of light

Natural light is very good for you. If you have it where you work, you’ll sleep better (when you want to be sleeping), improve your health, and boost your productivity. Find a way to be near windows when you work.

Surround yourself with plants

Live plants in your workspace reduce stress, boost mood, clean the air. And have been shown to improve productivity around 15%. They might even look nice, too!

Listen to music

Music can help you focus, and it can block distracting background noise. It helps you overcome negative emotions, like stress, anxiety and depression. And it’s a proven productivity booster.

But not just any music. Music with lyrics can reduce your concentration. Pop music you like is more likely to reduce productivity.

Find a musical genre that works for you. That’s where you’ll find the productivity benefits you need.

Move around

Sitting at your desk all day makes you feel lousy. It’s very bad for you, causing digestion problems, increased risk of fatty acids clogging your heart, posture problems, back issues, lack of energy, and more.

Be sure to get up and move, at least once every hour. Even if it is a short walk to the water cooler. Doing so will meaningfully increase your energy and productivity.


Fresh air is nice. It smells good. And it fights the spread of illness. It also increases your cognitive and decision-making abilities. Open a window near you. If it’s too cold, get outside regularly.


No not that! Water! Studies show that even small decreases in hydration can lead to a meaningful reduction in productivity!

Make sure you’re drinking water. All day long. Find ways to make drinking water happen. The main reason we so often don’t get enough is because we simply forget, and don’t notice we’re getting dry.

Create and stick to routines and habits that will keep you hydrated.

Use all your new-found productivity to become a fundraising superhero. Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get the tools, the information, and the supporting community that will take you to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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