I'm looking for a verb that means "to make something productive" or "useful".

Example: If someone is wasting their time by doing something that's not productive, I might say "Spend your time [more] productively".

In the above sentence, I want to replace "spend productively" with a single word, so the new sentence would be "____ your time" where ___ is the word I'm looking for.

Is there a word (verb) that fits the above description?

  • 2
    Do something useful. Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 17:54
  • 2
    A word which fits is fructify but that's so dated it's all but unusable.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 17:57
  • Tell them to try being more industrious. Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 18:56

8 Answers 8


"Optimize" would work in your example.

To optimize your time means to make your time effective.

Make effective and make productive are synonymous.


The only verbs I can come up with that answer your question in a technical sense aren't necessarily idiomatic or a perfect fit.

Some possibilities

"Optimise your time" means "Make the most of your time"

"Utilise your time" means "Make your time useful"

"Profit by your time" means "Use your time gainfully"

"Occupy your time" means "Keep busy with your time"

I could go on. I could I suppose justify the above examples by citing dictionary definitions but I'll let you do that for yourself.

More prosaically and more idiomatically I support @Weather Vane's comment. "Do something useful".

The "with your time" part is unnecessary because all activities take time.

"Stop wasting your time and do something useful!"

"Stop wasting your time and do something productive!"

The problem is there are many ways to say what you want and I'm reluctant to give a list.

  • 1
    The OP was very explicit about wanting one word.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 21:02
  • @jsw29 - Fair enough, I'll see if I can come up with a single word (or at least a single verb - not all English verbs are mono-verbal). If I can I'll add it to my answer. If not, I'll turn my answer into a comment. Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 21:19

As opposed to wasting your time, I would say you should utilize your time:

: to make use of : turn to practical use or account
// I'm a great person for utilizing waste power
// — Robert Frost

In most style guides, there is now guidance to choose use over utilize; however, in this case, the particular meaning of utilize is far more relevant, because all that needs to be said can be said with a single word.

Instead of saying use your time productively, we can simply say utilize your time.


In the sense of " to deal with (something) usually skillfully or efficiently", One could say : (1) Address your time. or, more colloquially: (2) Handle your time.

These constructs are more familiar to us when they are followed by the adverb 'well', but one could very well leave them out and achieve the same meaning.


As with the other posters, the idiomatic ways to say "stop dawdling" or "wasting time" are (go) do something useful, the ruder (go) make yourself useful, don't waste (your/my/everyone's) time, and stop wasting time, if not simply stop (doing) that. If they're making a bad situation worse, the idiom would be stop digging or cut your losses. If they're about to, you'd caution quit/stop while you're ahead.

As far as a construction that works with ______ your time?

Eh, use your time but you need to follow it up with more wisely. Spend your time more wisely also works.


No. There isn’t a suitable word in English. Part of the skill in using a foreign language is to avoid translating literally from your own, but trying to recall how a native speaker would express an idea. In English we might say:

“Stop wasting your time”

or my grandmother would have said to my mother:

“The devil finds work for idle hands”

(because she was reading a book.)


If this is for a cloze or a multiple choice test, my suggestions for "____ your time" would be maximize or organize. However, a little more context to the sentence would be useful.

  • As with the comments to Tinfoil below, maximize doesn't really work here.
    – lly
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 15:48

Maximize your time.


Make the best use of your time.

Here is the definition from OED:

maximize v.
1. transitive. To increase to the highest possible degree or value (frequently in economic contexts); to enhance to the utmost, make the best possible use of. Also intransitive with on.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

  • The word maximize may perhaps be used in this way in some contemporary management jargon, but that use is potentially misleading. To maximize X, taken in its primary, literal meaning, is to bring X itself to the maximum possible magnitude. Thus to maximize one's time, taken at face value, is to make the relevant period of time as long as possible, and this may be the opposite of making the best use of the time.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 21:10
  • @jsw29: Feel free to read the dictionaries' definitions; I don't see any hints of jargon for the make the best use of usage—contemporary management or otherwise. Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 21:16

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