15 Productivity Quotes to Inspire Your Best Work

A woman works at a desk while writing in a notebook, next to a laptop and highlighters.

Productivity isn’t a trait, it’s something we all have to work at each day.

Whatever your daily life looks like, you’re probably searching for ways to be more productive. That may mean squeezing more work time in between meetings, or making your daily schedule more effective, or finding creative ways to maximize your impact

Tips and tricks are great (put your phone in airplane mode, delegate when you can, group your tasks together, etc.), but words of wisdom from people who have done it before can be just as helpful.

We’ve rounded some of the best quotes to inspire your productivity below.

What is productivity? 

There are lots of ways to define productivity, from massive economies to your everyday life. 

Economically speaking, productivity is easily defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs.

At an individual level, the definition can range anywhere from finishing a daily to-do list to having a successful afternoon of brainstorming for future projects. Productivity might be finishing a task, or it might mean being efficient or creative. In any case, we want to be productive so we can be successful. 

Economist and columnist Paul Krugman describes a country’s productivity this way: “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.” Higher productivity often means improved standards of living and bigger economies. 

Productivity quotes to inspire your work

Look to these quotes when you need a little inspiration in your daily work. Maybe you need a little push to get started, or a reminder to focus on one thing at a time. Productivity isn't about perfection; it is about progress.

  1. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” — Stephen King
  2. “And at work I have a rule that you’re not allowed to come into my office unless you’re coming into my office with a solution to a problem, and not (only) with a problem.” – Shonda Rhimes
  3. "Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games." — Babe Ruth
  4. “It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?” — Henry David Thoreau
  5. “Think of many things; do one.” — Portuguese proverb
  6. “I build in 15-minute breaks so that I can take some quiet time and close on one meeting before I go to the next. I’m a big believer in taking time to pause and reflect, particularly when you’re working on some of the big challenges in the world.” – Melinda Gates
  7. “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” — Dale Carnegie, American writer
  8. “There is no substitute for hard work.” — Thomas Edison
  9. “Perfection is the death of all good things, perfection is the death of pleasure, it’s the death of productivity, it’s the death of efficiency, it’s the death of joy.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
  10. “Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway
  11. “My writing partner, Will McCormack, implements a no-phones-for-an-hour rule. It seems utterly ridiculous that two grown-ups wouldn’t be able to stay away from their phones for just an hour, but there are many days when my phone owns me. And the rule helps.” — Rashida Jones
  12. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” — Walt Disney
  13. “You just have to keep on doing what you do. It’s the lesson I get from my husband; he just says, keep going. Start by starting.” — Meryl Streep
  14. “...sometimes bending the rules is absolutely necessary to making exceptional happen. Discipline and hard work can never be replaced and are the foundation for success, but coloring outside the lines is necessary to leave an impact.” — Ana Corrales, chief operating officer for Google Devices and Services
  15. "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." — Charles Darwin

    Getting started

    Even if you’re inspired, starting a project or a list of tasks can be difficult! There’s no right way to start, which can in itself be a little overwhelming (especially when you’re brimming with ideas). If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a slump, try these ideas to jumpstart your productivity: 

    Stick to a routine — Having a set routine can help you when you’re trying to be productive because it gives you a sense of structure. Try to stick with it even when you have some downtime. Sleeping, eating, and self-care routines are equally important when it comes to being productive. 

    Create a more effective to-do list — Are you a list person? Lists can help you visualize your tasks, but can become overwhelming pretty quickly. Try attaching deadlines to your task list or limiting your to-do list to just the top priorities. This way you’ll have some organization instead of a long list of items staring you down.

    Just do it — Yes, just starting is easier said than done some days. When that’s the case, challenge yourself to doing the work for just 10 minutes, and if after that you’re still feeling overwhelmed or uninspired, you can move it down on your to-do list. Procrastination is a tricky mind game we play with ourselves. But chances are that after 10 minutes, you’ll realize you’re on a roll and you’ll end up finishing what you set out to do.
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