Favorite Quotes on Productivity: Ben Franklin, Paul J. Meyer and More

Favorite Quotes on Productivity: Ben Franklin, Paul J. Meyer and More

I’m a collector of funny or inspirational quotes. They’re great for tweeting or motivating, and as a writer, I appreciate other people’s ability to sum up key messages in as few words as possible. For a long time, I had the following quote by James Thurber scribbled on my whiteboard:

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.”

It was there to remind me to write now, perfect later.

More recently, I started thinking about my favorite quotes about productivity that would apply more broadly to WorkAwesome readers. My favorite?

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” –Paul J. Meyer

I like it because it reminds me to stay focused and take responsibility for my own productivity. Too often, I think people make excuses that external factors prevent them from meeting deadlines when they should buckle down and plan ahead.

A few more gems …

“There’s a tendency to mistake preparation for productivity. You can prepare all you want, but if you never roll the dice you’ll never be successful.” ~Shia LaBeouf

I agree with the sentiment (this idea that on some level, you need to stop preparing and start doing), but not the context. Mr. LaBeouf was talking about why he turned down a scholarship to Yale, and frankly, thousands of students would love to be in his (probably designer) shoes. It certainly raises the question of street smarts vs. book smarts, but I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive of one another.

“Remember that time is money.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Most workers would agree with this truism (or with most Franklin quotes, for that matter), but that old “time is money” model is shifting. Used to be that a cobbler or a blacksmith’s income was limited by the number of hours he could work in a day. But now, with the rise of passive income streams and freelancers or consultants charging flat rates, you’re no longer always trading time for money. Mr. Franklin may not have seen this coming, but now if you work smarter, you just might earn more in less time.

“In a society that judges self-worth on productivity, it’s no wonder we fall prey to the misconception that the more we do, the more we’re worth.”  ~Ellen Sue Stern

Of course, doing more doesn’t guarantee a higher ROI, as Ms. Stern so sagely reminds us. Often people race around completing meaningless tasks in the name of productivity, but sometimes focusing on a few important task can prove more valuable. As the old proverb says, “less is more.”

(Image courtesy of jessica.garro under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution generic license.)

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe, Mint.com’s blog, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog, UrbanMuseWriter.com, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach on the 29th October

    I personally like this Ben Franklin quote:

    “A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.”

    Saw that sooo often in my corporate days….

  2. Colin the Creative on the 29th October

    I love collecting quotes too, pretty much for the same reasons you do. When I’m stuck or have hit a wall, I always go through my list of quotes and its amazing how reading a small, but succinct, peace of text can get you moving again. My favorite at the moment is…

    “Make more mistakes… you learn quicker” – Susan Kennedy

    …something that reminds me not to allow my perfectionism to stop me from doing things. Good luck! Colin.

  3. Adam Bluhm on the 29th October

    Good quotes! Thanks for sharing!

    I constantly need to remind myself of the “Don’t get it right, just get it written”. I’m definitely a perfectionist.

  4. Michael Lund on the 29th October

    “The key to failure is trying to please everyone.”

    I got that in a fortune cookie, in 10th grade, and it is still taped to the border of my computer screen.

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