There are 3 laws I live by when it comes to being productive. They are simple. They are effective. And they "move the needle" from where I currently am, to where it is I want to be.
1. Do What Is Important, Not What Is Urgent
There is a massive long-term difference between what is "urgent" and what is truly important.
"Urgent" tends to encompass a lot of little things: "I have to call this person back, I have to respond to this e-mail, I have to drop off this piece of paperwork." Yes, all those things have to and should get done--but not at the expense of what matters.
The important work is what moves the needle. It's finishing the book, it's launching the product, it's the big leap that will move you from point A to point B.
When you hyper-focus on what is "urgent," you forget and ultimately de-prioritize the important stuff. But if you reflect after the fact, you'll always see that what was at the time "urgent" was really not all that important. And unless you put in the hard work of doing the important things, you are most likely in the same position today as you were last week, or last month, or last year.
Do not mistake being busy with being productive. There is a difference.
2. Do What You Need To Do, Before You Do What You Want To Do
This requires an extreme amount of self-discipline.
Knowing where you want to go in life isn't the hard part. Anyone can write down a mission statement or a New Year's Resolution. Anyone can set a goal and talk about it. Very few people can actually take the actionable steps required to turn that goal or dream into a reality.
Doing what you need to do means doing it even if you're tired, even if you're worn down, even if you're burned out, even if you don't want to. Doing what you need to do is a habit, and a fundamental one required for any type of success.
If you are able to do what you need to do before relaxing into what you "want" to do, then you will start to see how quickly you can make real moves towards where you want to be. Things never take as long as we think they take. The only reason they take so long in the first place is because we tend to prioritize what is easy or what we "want" ahead of what needs to get done.
3. Remove All Distractions
Even if you live by the first two laws here, you still won't be very productive if you are constantly interrupted.
Doing what needs to get done is not always easy. If you have distractions around you, they turn into temptations the moment the journey becomes challenging. If you're tired, the T.V is right there. If you're bored, the Internet is a click away.
If you want to get something done, then get rid of anything and everything during that time period that could pull you out of your flow. Turn off the Internet. Hide your phone. Turn off the T.V. Put yourself in complete and utter silence.
It is vastly underestimated how much more productive you are when you go long stretches of time without being interrupted. It's in that flow that all creativity emerges. And every time your phone dings with a notification, or an e-mail pops up on your screen, you are taken out of your flow.
Remove all distractions. Find your flow. And get to work.