So many people talk about becoming more productive and reading books like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People yet so few do anything real about actually becoming more productive. Like home gym equipment that’s collecting dust in the closet and doesn’t make you stronger or leaner, having a few books on productivity is not going to make you learn how to make better use of your time. Like one of my friends told his buddy once, who was a self help book junkie – “Stop watching porn and start having sex!”

Being more productive will necessarily make you a happier person for several reasons. First, you will accomplish more, you will have more reasons to be proud of yourself, and you will have more time for doing all the things that don’t require maximum productivity, such as relaxing, laying on the beach, going out, etc. Just as importantly, lack of productivity is one significant source of guilt that many of us experience, which results from underachieving and not getting done what we planned to finish today, this week, this month or even this year.

Here are a five very simple, practical steps you can take today to become more productive in just about any ares of your life – school, work, and social engagements:

1. Stop Wasting Time

You may think that you don’t waste time and you make the most out of your day, but I bet that if you looked at your life a little more closely, you would find many hours that go to waste each and every week.

Do you have a study or work partner or study group at school? If so, do you sidetrack 40% of your study time into the subjects that have nothing to do with your work, to only later stress out about not having studied enough and worrying about upcoming exams. If so, drop the study group. This doesn’t meant that you can’t be social and you can’t be friends with the same people in the group. It just means that you should be better at separating work time from play time. Also, getting your work done will make your play time all the more fun, as it’s surely easier to relax when you don’t have the outstanding stuff you need to get done hang over your head.

Do you hang on the phone with friends for hours listening to their issues and sharing yours? There is nothing wrong with discussing your problems with those who are close to you, and that’s what real friends do. However, if you spend more than 30 minutes on the phone with any given friend talking about nothing specific, you are likely wasting time – your and his/hers.

2. Minimize Commute Time

guy stuck in traffic

If you drive to work/school for longer than 30 minutes one way, something is wrong with the way your life is set up, and unless it seems like a very temporary situation, it’s your duty to change that. Many of us live in suburban areas where you have to drive 5 miles to get a cup of coffee. I could write a treatise about all the things that are wrong with living in such an environment, but for now – you need to focus on setting up your life in way where you don’t have to waste hours on commute every day.

We all know that being stuck in front of the wheel sucks  – it’s tiring and it’s one of the biggest waste of  time. If you can’t find a job or school closer to where you live, then move closer to where you go every day. Spend extra few hundred dollars on rent. It will be worth it. “It’s all about location” might sound like a total cliche, but it’s as true today as it ever was. Just try it. You can always move back, but I bet that once you taste a better life  – a life where you will be just a short drive or ideally – a quick walk from work/school will feel so much sweeter, that you will never want to go back to the way things were before, when you had to start your day on an wrong foot with a long commute on a congested road during rush hour.

3. Treat Small Segments Of Free Time With Value And Respect 

I meet people every day who tell me that they wish they had time to read and work out, but they do neither because they are too busy. I know that at the very list they have extra 10-15 minutes in the morning and 10-15 minutes in the evening to spare. 10 minutes doesn’t sound like a whole lot of time, but most of us can comfortably run a mile in that time. Running a mile every day or even every other day is quite a work-out and is surely better than not working out at all. During the same 10 minutes, you might be able to read 2-3 pages of a great book.

Just because you don’t have time to take a whole fitness class or read half a book in one sitting doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy those activities in smaller doses. Don’t dismiss small segments of time as useless. They are not. If an advertising agency can pack in so much entertainment and marketing in a commercial that lasts for 30 seconds or even less, if a comedian can make you laugh your ass off with his 2 min Youtube video, and if the President can address the nation in 20 minutes, who are we to say that 10-15 minutes of time cannot be put into good use?

4. St0p Spending Time On Issues That Don’t Deserve Attention 

line to pay parking ticket

I have known quite a few people who would fight the fights that were simply not worth fighting, like that guy who is making over $200k/year, and who hangs on the phone for an hour disputing a $4 charge on his phone bill, or this other guy who took half a day off work to fight a parking ticket that was virtually unwinnable, just because it was a matter of “principle”.

Maximizing your productivity demands picking and choosing your battles carefully. Fighting for the principle is a noble idea, but it’s only wise if you don’t end up the loser in that battle, even when you technically win. I doubt that a professional guy who takes half a day off work to stand in line to fight a traffic ticket ends up a winner in that situation even if he gets his ticket cancelled.

5. Stop Spending Time With Women You Don’t Like

guy bored on date

Do you spend hours every week with a girl that you know you are not all that into, because no one better has come along yet? If so, you are doing a disservice to yourself by not using that time more productive on developing yourself professionally, socially, physically, spiritually, or even meeting the kind of girls that you would really like. You are also hurting the girl by possibly leading her into believing that you like her more than you do. Stop doing that. Unless both of you have great sexual chemistry, you both are completely honest with each other, and you both understand that you see each other exclusively to satisfy your mutual sexual desire for each other, you are wasting time – yours and hers.

Increasing your productivity is as much about being more productive as it is about making sure that you don’t waste time or you waste less time today than you did yesterday on things that add nothing to your life.

Read Next: The Easiest Way To Explode Your Productivity