Tips to Improve Your Productivity

productivityBusy mental health professionals can often be time-challenged, between seeing patients, keeping up with billing demands, and trying to market their practice on social media.

We are always complaining about how overwhelmed we are or how little time we have to complete an assignment. Yet we are constantly tempted to look at our phones, read our emails, and respond to text messages. We want to be productive, but this can be more challenging than we think.

It may be difficult to manage time during the day, but if you take a step back and stop the things that get in the way of completing your task, you will be able to produce successful work and feel that you have accomplished your goal.

Easier said than done? Read on for tips to manage time more effectively and increase your productivity.

Eliminate distractions

Turn off your phone, television, and other electronics, and go to a quiet place. Put in ear plugs if that will help. You need to find a place free of distractions so that you can focus better. For some people, listening to music in the background helps them to focus.

For example, I often tell parents who have children with ADHD to eliminate distractions in order to help them focus on a task. However some children benefit and focus better when listening to music. “Music strengthens the areas of the brain that, in the child with ADHD, are weak,” according to Sharlene Habermeyer on “Music builds and strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain.” So in other words, whatever environment helps you be more productive should be used to your potential.

Set up goals and break them down into smaller tasks

The goals should be realistic and you should include steps to help you follow through on your goal.

For example, if you want to write an article for a website or an industry newspaper, set up smaller goals to help you reach the desired goal, which is to “finish the article.”

Start by writing on your list (1) chose a topic, (2) pick an audience, (3) research the topic, and so on. It may help to designate a completion point to accomplish a small task. Remember to spread out your tasks over several work days and cross off items on the list, which will help you see progress.

Learn to say “no”

You can’t do everything. You have to be aware of what you need to do versus what you are capable of doing. You do not need to say “yes” to something just because you are capable of doing it. Doing what other people ask can delay your commitments and make you feel unproductive.

For example, a professional who owns her own private practice, runs a group at a hospital, and is a director at an after school program may have a hard time saying “no” to additional work opportunities. As a result of constantly saying “yes,” she struggles with completing her own commitments and has no time to focus on her clients and students.

Create a to-do list

Cross items when you complete them. This will make you feel that you accomplished something. If you do not get to finish everything on your list, don’t worry. Just complete them the next day.

Remember not to make your list long and exhausting. For example, if you are going to write all your progress notes for the week today, maybe it is not a good idea to schedule an hour-long meeting too, since it may take up your time reserved for getting your notes done.

Look at how long it will take you to complete each item on your list and make a decision on how many items you should put on your to-do list for a particular day. Write your to-do list the night before. This can help you to start your day with momentum. It will also help you to sleep better at night knowing that you won’t be thinking about what needs to be done the next day.

Don’t do more than one thing

Being a multitasker will not help you to feel productive. If anything, you end up completing half of one task in order to start another. Focus and finish one thing before you move to the next task.


Look at what needs to be done first, second, third, and so on, and make sure to complete the important ones during the day. You can even designate letters such as A – things that need to be done immediately, and B – things that can be done later.

For example, if you do not finish writing your article today, you can put it on tomorrow’s to-do list. Or, if there are two days left to file taxes, maybe it is a good idea to place that under A, and article writing can go under B.

Take breaks

Breaks can help with your concentration and help you maintain a level of performance. If you work at a task for a long time without any breaks, you may feel sluggish and your performance may decline.

For example, schedule an hour in your day that you don’t have clients. You can use this time to grab a coffee with a colleague, make phone calls, or even take a power nap.

Reward yourself

If you achieve something, whether big or small, take time to do something that you appreciate to celebrate what you have accomplished. This will motivate you to continue working on your goals and will make you feel good about yourself.

Focus on today

You may have endless assignments or projects that need to be completed by the end of the week, but focusing on tomorrow can lead you to lose track of today. Narrow your focus to what you need to complete today.

Enjoy what you do

Try to make your task fun. This can increase your productivity. Try alternating boring tasks with tasks you enjoy.

Learn when your prime time is

Figure out when your productivity level is at its highest and base your work around it. Some people are able to produce more positive results when they wake up early and work on a task before they go to work for the day. Others are able to do a better job during the night when their family is sleeping or when it is quiet. Know when the right time for you is and use it to your advantage.


If you do not get enough sleep, you will wake up feeling tired and unable to think clearly or concentrate on what needs to be done. It is important to get enough sleep in order to feel refreshed and ready to tackle your tasks.

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Tips to Improve Your Productivity

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist who works in her private practice and outpatient mental health clinic in New York. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.


APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Tips to Improve Your Productivity. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Mar 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2015
Published on All rights reserved.