The 4 Thieves of Productivity (Avoid Them At All Cost)

“…at any moment in time there can be only ONE Thing, and when that ONE Thing is in line with your purpose and sits atop your priorities, it ill be the most productive thing you can do to launch you toward the best you can be. Actions build on action. Habits build on habit. Success builds on success.”
— Gary Keller, Jay Papasan from
The ONE Thing

One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it. Give up the following four thieves of productivity in order to get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t. Let’s get into it…

1. Inability to Say “No”.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid saying yes to most things unless they’re connected to your most important goals. If you’re afraid of saying no to someone because it might hurt their feelings, come up with a way to say it that you’re comfortable with. Here’s Seth Godin on saying no: “you can say no with respect, you can say no promptly, and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.” Love it.

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2. Fear of Chaos.

Stuff happens. Messes occur. Wives (and husbands) get angry. These things happen. But it doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals. Chaos is natural. In fact, the more you focus on what you want, the more of it you’ll probably get. That’s okay. In fact, problems are a good thing. When you’ve got problems, it means you’re taking action. You can’t grow unless you take action. And the more action you take, the more problems you’ll face. In fact, one of the biggest differences between productive people and unproductive people is this: when productive people come across a problem, they keep going — they take action. When unproductive people come across a problem, they stagnate — they stop.

Create time blocks to control the chaos in your life and remain as productive as possible. Use your time blocks to work on your most important projects, and protect them with your life. In time, you’ll learn to deal with the chaos in your own unique way. But don’t let chaos control you. YOU control the chaos… by focusing on one thing at a time. One time block at a time.

3. Poor Health Habits.

Poor health habits— especially poorly managed energy habits— are one of the most underestimated thieves of productivity. Your health and your success are intertwined with one another and depend on each to survive and thrive. For maximum energy management and productivity, plan your days to include the following:

  1. Meditate / pray for spiritual energy.
  2. Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy.
  3. Spend time with friends and family for emotional energy.
  4. Set goals, plan, and calendar for mental energy.
  5. Time block your most important goals and projects for business energy.

4. An Environment That Doesn’t Support Your Goals.

Did you know that if one of your close friends becomes obese, you’re 57{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} more likely to become obese [1] as well? Crazy, eh? This is because the people we see and spend time with most tend to set our standards (see: The Law of Averages).

The final thief of productivity is about getting your game up! It’s about raising your standards in every arena of life — your goals, your habits, and your surroundings. I think Oprah’s got a great little nugget of wisdom when it comes to this: “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.”

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It’s about the journey.

Here’s a quick recap of the four thieves of productivity — avoid them at all times, unless you want them to highjack your productivity:

  1. Inability to say “No”
  2. The fear of chaos
  3. Poor health habits
  4. An environment that doesn’t support your goals


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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