30 Productivity Quotes I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago

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Motivation is a massive factor to your productivity, but you can’t stay motivated without inspiration.

Hell, success comes from surrounding yourself with people who are better than you, so why not learn from the top of the heap?

To help, we at Process Street have put together 30 productivity quotes from the best of the best.

After all, whilst I’ve talked before about how to stop procrastinating and improve productivity, gifs are more memorable than words.

30 productivity quotes

Albert Einstein

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‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new’

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Aside from developing the foundation for modern physics, Einstein understood that in order to make the biggest breakthroughs, you have to make mistakes.

Through mistakes, you learn. Through failure, you explore.

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Bruce Lee

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‘If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done’

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Bruce Lee created a philosophy and system of martial arts based around removing the unessential.

This includes thought where there should be action – if you let your mind stagnate, it’s far more difficult to start again.

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Richard Branson


‘My general attitude to life is to enjoy every minute of every day. I never do anything with a feeling of, “Oh God, I’ve got to do this today”‘

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Richard Branson is a notoriously happy man, and it’s that positivity which keeps him moving forward.

The greater your enthusiasm, the better your results will be.

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Barack Obama

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‘If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress’

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With more than his fair share of achievements as president, Barack Obama is a firm believer in sticking to what you believe in.

Sometimes the best way to get through a roadblock is to just keep going.

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Walt Disney

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‘The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing’

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Going from being fired for a lack of creativity and an early bankruptcy to the family name we know and love, it’s hard to argue with Walt’s productivity.

At the heart of his success was the knowledge that nothing gets done until you start doing, rather than talking.

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Steve Jobs

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‘Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There’s no reason not to follow your heart’

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Sometimes the best motivation can be the harsh truth, and the ex-CEO of Apple is a perfect example of this.

Instead of sitting around and procrastinating, take the first step and get going. You have nothing to lose.

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Bill Gates

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‘Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose’

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Aside from being one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates is refreshingly wary of success.

Everyone makes mistakes and has the odd failure; the key to not letting it derail your progress is to stay realistic with the risks you take.

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Mahatma Ghandi

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‘Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it’

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No matter how much you account for failure, sometimes you’ll still slip, and that’s okay.

If you’re continually working towards your goals, you’ll always be improving, which in itself is a huge achievement.

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Frank Sinatra

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‘Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it’

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The music industry is cutthroat, but Frank Sinatra maintained that luck was only a minor factor to his success.

To be successful, you have to grasp the opportunities you can, and then put your all into it.

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Mark Twain

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‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started’

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Yes, it’s tempting to watch Tom Waits showing Rod Stewart how to sing, but that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do.

The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll finish.

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Warren Buffet

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‘You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life’

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If you sit down to work, you can’t allow anything to distract you. If you set yourself a goal, you can’t achieve it by saying “yes” to everything else.

Set your own agenda, and if you don’t have the time, say “no”.

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Stephen Hawking

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‘It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else’

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One of the smartest people alive, Steven Hawking is no stranger to difficult problems.

Despite his “Theory of Everything” proving elusive, he notes that getting angry about it doesn’t solve anything. Instead, to solve a problem, you need to give your mind space by working on something else.

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Muhammad Ali

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‘Don’t count the days. Make the days count’

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Muhammad Ali spent his life backing up his claim to be “The Greatest” by making every day count.

Don’t think “I’ve got this many days to achieve this”, but instead “How much can I do in each of these days”.

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Steven King

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‘You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will’

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If you hadn’t already gathered by this point, here’s another highly prolific success story telling you to get started already!

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Brian Tracy

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‘If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first’

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Although we’ve already talked about Tracy’s prioritization method, the point with this quote is to focus on dealing with your biggest or ugliest task first.

Do that, and everything else will feel like smooth sailing.

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Shia LaBeouf

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‘Just do it!’

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Whilst this snippet of a performance art piece has been taken out of context and used in countless parodies, the message it conveys is no less valid.

Stop procrastinating, and just do it (don’t let your dreams be dreams!).

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Benjamin Franklin

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‘Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve’

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First, don’t work yourself stupid – by taking breaks you avoid the extremes and make your efforts more fruitful.

Second, don’t dwell on injuries (physical or psychological) – it does no good and only prevents you from getting back on track.

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‘All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works… without meddling with anything else’

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Ihe forefather of Western thought is telling you to stop multi-tasking. Don’t do it.

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‘It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom’

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Waking up early is a common factor to a successful daily routine, so think of this quote when the snooze button is looking tempting.

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Tim Ferriss

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‘Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!’

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From the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, here’s another great reminder that getting started is the most important step.

Starting a project means you’ve invested time and are more likely to continue, so get going sooner rather than later.

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Ernest Hemingway

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‘Never mistake motion for action’

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A master of language and firm believer in getting straight to the point, Hemingway notes that just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean that it’s worthwhile.

Don’t trick yourself into spending time on pointless tasks – work on exactly what you need to.

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Pablo Picasso

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‘Art is the elimination of the unnecessary’

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Sometimes your efforts are best spent on getting rid of everything you don’t need (or don’t need to do), rather than ploughing onwards.

Learn to realize when to eliminate the unnecessary and you’ll not only be productive, but an artist (in a way) to boot.

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Neil Strauss

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‘In life, people tend to wait for good things to come to them. And by waiting, they miss out’

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If you wait for opportunities to come to you, or for things to sort themselves out, you’ll only be wasting time before you need to take action.

Again, getting started is the first step to completion.

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David Ogilvy

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‘Big ideas come from the unconscious… But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process’

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Even legends like Ogilvy couldn’t work on a single project and expect to have fantastic ideas. Creativity comes at random, not at will.

The best way to encourage creativity is to fill your head with information, then take a break.

Your subconscious is a master at recalling the good stuff.

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Mark Zuckerberg

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‘People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard’

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This is more for organization managers and employers; you can’t expect your workforce to go at full throttle if they aren’t engaged with their work.

Make sure that your employees know how to use your product and truly believe in its value.

Whether you do this with a solid onboarding process or by thoroughly vetting candidates in your interviews, you’ll reap the benefits through increased productivity across the board.

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Sergey Brin

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‘The only way you are going to have success is to have lots of failures first’

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One of Google’s co-founders just told you that failure is necessary to success; do you believe it yet?

If you let the fear of failure stop you from trying, then you’ve already lost.

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Usain Bolt

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‘Worrying gets you nowhere. If you turn up worrying about how you’re going to perform, you’ve already lost’

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If you don’t let fear of failure stop you from starting, the next hurdle is to not let it affect your performance.

Focus on your success and how to reach it, rather than fall because you were looking down the whole time.

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Henry Ford

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‘Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more’

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Better productivity doesn’t come from working more or killing yourself trying. Productivity is efficiency.

Don’t work longer hours, instead make the hours worth more – focus your efforts to get more done in the same period.

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Thomas Jefferson

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‘Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you’

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To round us off we have another of America’s founding fathers stressing the importance of action.

Words are all well and good, but it’s what you do that has meaning.

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Put those productivity quotes into practice!

You have the gifs and productivity quotes to power your success, so now it’s time to put those lessons into practice.

Remember to:

  • Just get started
  • Focus on what matters
  • Act instead of just talking
  • Never be afraid of failure
  • Learn from failure when it happens

Are there any that I missed? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

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Ben Mulholland

Ben Mulholland is an Editor at Process Street, and winds down with a casual article or two on Mulholland Writing. Find him on Twitter here.


This is what keeps me going:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” -Calvin Coolidge

Thanks for that one Jaime!

Great stuff, and totally agree; it’s not nice to hear it, but biting the bullet and being persistent will trump all else. 🙂

I was a teacher for many years at both high school and college. I was always stressing planning and developed a number of truisms I call Frank’s Filosofys
Frank’s Filosofy #134 “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”

Hey William,

Aye, it’s vital to have a set goal in mind, otherwise you’ll never know when you’ve succeeded, and you’ll be caught in a spiral without feeling like you’re achieving anything.


I never realized how gender-divided the motivational market was until I started looking for motivational images to share with my team members and workers, ~80% are women. There are messages that appeal to men, messages that appeal to women, but few creators that seem intentional about appealing to both genders. It seems to be the unspoken assumption that it is just one or another, not both.

My favorite example of an audience niche is a Youtube video for motivational speeches by women 5 foot 3 or shorter. My email said, hey, this seems oddly specific, but thought you might like it. Response was positive.

Great point David – in my search for well-known and successful names, I don’t believe I ever stopped to think about the lack of women in this list.

I can assure you that is wasn’t intentional, however. 🙂

Here’s a few from strong female figures too:

Marie Curie: “Life is not easy for any of us, but what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted in something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

Michelle Obama: “Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.”

Nora Ephron: “What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications.”

Amelia Earheart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

I agree with David, and I’ll make it direct. I’m pretty shocked that 0 of your 30 productivity quotes are from women. Especially since you’re in tech: please do better.

Hey Pamela,

Sorry, it honestly never occurred to me as to the weight of the quote’s sources. The greater focus behind the quotes was intended to be their message and really driving the points of how to boost productivity home, rather than purely who they are from.

I’ve listed a couple of strong female examples in reply to David, but apologies again for any unintended offence caused.

I might be a little too modern, but I like productivity apps. I’ve tried using motivational quotes. I’ve tried different tricks, but I seem to not function this way. Productivity apps and tracking apps seem to work best for me. Going back to the quotes, I think that one that inspires me the most is “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” by Zig Ziglar

Ben — the fact that this didn’t occur to you at all until commenters pointed it out is actually the problem. The fact that representation doesn’t occur to you is a problem. The fact that you don’t think “who they are from” matters very much (yet don’t have any women) is a problem. What percent of Process Street team is women? Or does it not really matter, and also it’s 100% men? Why have you not improved the article to include the quotes from women that you found for David to be in the actual article with their own gifs? Do better.

this is nice, i love it Productivity apps and tracking apps seem to work best for me. Going back to the quotes, I think that one that inspires me the most is “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win

Hi Ben,
Love the article, can I use the summary on one of my work presentation decks?

Remember to:

Just get started
Focus on what matters
Act instead of just talking
Never be afraid of failure
Learn from failure when it happens

Thank god women never seem to utter this kind of platitudinous b.s., which must be why all the quotations are from men.

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