5 Thieves of Productivity


June 6, 2024
5 min read

While we can’t create more time, we can learn to maximize the time we have.


Day by day, minute by minute, second by second, time faithfully passes us by. It’s one of the most precious commodities and one of the easiest to take for granted. While we can’t create more time, we can learn to maximize the time we have. Making the most of our time isn’t easy, but the greatest leaders have learned how to use time to their advantage — the key is productivity. 

Productivity is the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services. More than just checking off a task on the to-do list, it’s about harnessing our resources to achieve meaningful results. 

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are in a battle for our time. Maintaining productivity demands a strong defense against the things that threaten to steal our time. Here are five things we’ve discovered to be thieves of productivity. 

1. Forgetting What You Committed To

As the number of commitments grows, so does the responsibility to steward them well. Forgetting important tasks can be a hindrance to productivity, leading to missed deadlines and lost opportunities. We can combat this with practical steps — utilize a calendar, make a to-do list, and set important reminders. 

One of the best skills we can develop is the ability to prioritize. A helpful resource is a time management matrix, based on a quote by President Eisenhower: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent things are not important, and the important things are never urgent.” In his popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey laid out four quadrants that can help us prioritize and make decisions:

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important

This section includes items or tasks that demand immediate attention. Start with items in this quadrant.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent and Important

Tasks with upcoming deadlines but not yet an absolute necessity. This is a key stage of productivity. Move to this section after completing the items in quadrant one.

Quadrant 3: Urgent and Not Important

Many of us are guilty of thinking that all urgent items are important, but we can learn to recognize that not all urgent tasks are the most important to tackle first. Knock out these items third.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important

These tasks are lowest items in order of priority. Determine what can be eliminated and what can be delegated.

Source: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

2. Inability to Say No

So many leaders fall into the trap of saying yes to every opportunity, many times out of fear of missing out on a new experience or connection. While our intentions might be good, this pattern will leave us stretched thin and needing rest. 

Strong leaders understand that their no is just as powerful as their yes. As we begin to let go of people-pleasing and choose to walk in wisdom, it can feel unnatural to say no at first. But the ability to pass on opportunities that don’t align with our vision or goals creates space in our lives to say yes to the things that matter most.

3. Fear of Chaos

Let’s be honest — many of us want to be in control. We want to manage our circumstances and outcomes. Underneath the desire to control is often a fear of chaos or disorder that can leave us feeling paralyzed. We can establish structure and processes that provide order while remaining flexible and allowing space for creativity.

One of the best things we can learn is to choose to step outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s in the midst of the unexpected that we experience the greatest breakthroughs.

4. Poor Health Habits

Neglecting our health can have a detrimental impact on productivity. Poor sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of exercise can drain our energy and leave us with brain fog. Not only is prioritizing health stewardship of the bodies God has given us, it actually improves our productivity during the day. Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating food rich in nutrients, and drinking plenty of water should be regular parts of our routine.

Taking care of ourselves goes beyond our physical health. Just like Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” The thoughts we think about ourselves matter. What does your self-talk look like? Do you argue why you aren’t good enough? Do you tell yourself you don’t have time? Our thoughts ultimately determine our direction. Healthy productivity requires a healthy mind.

5. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

Our environment plays a vital role in shaping our productivity. If our surroundings are cluttered or uninspiring, it’s more difficult to stay motivated and focused. Curate an environment that supports your goals and encourages productivity. Whether it’s a clean and quiet space at home, a local coffee shop, or ambient music in the background, work through the trial and error process to discover what environment supports your effort the most.


Productivity isn’t about working harder, it’s about working smarter. By identifying and combating these thieves of productivity, we can learn to maximize our time and potential. 

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