8 timeless productivity tips from ancient philosophers

Their witty remarks and clear thoughts are as relevant now as they were centuries ago.

1. Start small

The journey of a thousand li begins with the first step.
Lao-tzu
the fifth-century B.C. Chinese philosopher.

To achieve any goal is important to make this very first step. In fact, it is not so easy: we are stopped by fears, doubts and self-doubt. But the only way to eat an elephant is to take a bite out of it.

If you have a huge task in front of you, divide it into smaller ones, and then do them one by one. It will be much easier to get started that way.

2. Don’t always try to do as many as possible

Beware of the futility of a hectic life.
Socrates
the ancient Greek philosopher of the 4th and 5th centuries B.C.

Constant busyness and productivity are not the same thing. Learn to distinguish between the two, or you will not only fail to achieve what you want, but also drive yourself to burnout.

Don’t try to get as much done in a day as possible. Instead, focus on the results that matter most to you – choose quality over quantity. Don’t accept all offers, and try to avoid multitasking.

3. Live in the present

There is no better proof of an orderly mind than the ability to stop where you are and be alone with yourself.
Seneca
Roman stoic philosopher of the first century

We think a lot about the past and the future, but most of us find it difficult to be in the present. Because of this, we often don’t notice what’s around us, we don’t appreciate what we have. And we experience more stress.

Try to return to the here and now more often. Meditation is a good skill to develop, but if you don’t enjoy meditating, that’s okay. Go out for a walk once a day without your phone and pay attention to the world around you.

Try keeping a journal. While you’re waiting for someone, look out the window instead of at your smartphone screen. Set up some notifications to remind yourself that it’s time to get back to the present moment.

4. Focus on what’s important and minimize the rest

Create little if you wish for peace of mind. For most of what we say and do is unnecessary, so if you cut it all off, you’ll become a lot freer and more nonchalant.
Marcus Aurelius
Roman emperor, second-century philosopher

Being productive doesn’t mean working 24 hours a day. You’ll accomplish more by working less, but directing your energies to priority tasks. For example, taking the next step toward your goal and spending time with your family.

Think about what’s most important to you, and try to cut back on other activities. Otherwise it will turn out that you spend the whole day doing little useful things, and on your priorities you do not have enough time.

5. Concentrate on what’s in your power

Use what’s in your power as effectively as possible, and take the rest as it comes.
Epictetus
the ancient Greek stoic philosopher of the first and second centuries

Don’t waste your time resenting or lamenting when things don’t go your way. Some things you just can’t control.

For example, your colleague is sick and you have to do his job for the next few days. Of course, this is annoying. But there’s no point in wasting time and nerves thinking about the unfairness of the situation. Make a plan of what needs to be done, and if you see that you can’t cope, ask for help or to reschedule deadlines.

6. Remind yourself of your motivation

When you are inspired by a great goal or an extraordinary plan, your thoughts break your bonds.
Patanjali
2nd century B.C. Indian philosopher.

What do you get out of bed for in the morning? If you’re having trouble answering that question, productivity has nowhere to go. Think about what motivates and inspires you. Add that to your life if you don’t have a lot of motivation in your life right now. Then you will be easier to manage time and work effectively.

And remember, inspiration doesn’t always come by itself. Sometimes you have to go looking for it: read books, listen to podcasts, watch interesting people speak.

7. Enjoy what you do

Enjoying your work leads to perfect results.
Aristotle
Greek philosopher, 4th century B.C.

When you’re passionate about what you do, it’s easier to be productive. Being passionate about your work energizes you and helps you stay focused. And it also fuels faith in yourself and motivates you to move forward. If you are dissatisfied with your work now, try to find at least something in it that gives you pleasure.

8. If you want to do well, take your time

Haste in any endeavor leads to mistakes.
Herodotus
the ancient Greek historian of the 5th century B.C.

Of course, you should not fall into perfectionism and try to bring everything to perfection, but too much haste is also not the best option. There are situations when you need to complete a task in a very short time. But when you do something serious and significant, remember the proverb “Measure twice, cut once”. Otherwise, you run the risk of making mistakes and then regret.

If possible, allocate a little more time to important business than necessary. This will allow you to quietly check whether you have done everything correctly, and if necessary, correct the mistakes.