How to Get More Done: 10 Habits of Highly Productive People
So, what are the habits of productive people?
Everyone is constantly striving to be more productive. It doesn’t matter what you do or where you work - everyone is looking for ways to be more productive on the job. In this digital age, staying on task and avoiding distractions is harder to accomplish than ever before.
Excessive amounts of caffeine also don’t help you get any closer to reaching peak productivity levels. Cultivating the habits of highly productive people can help you maximize your productivity and achieve great things in life.
So, what are the habits of productive people? Below you will find a list of 10 everyday habits of highly productive people that will help you stay on track and achieve any goal you set for yourself.
1. Don’t Multitask
Tom Ziglar, CEO of Ziglar Inc., states, “Invest the first part of your day working on your number one priority that will help build your business.”
What task will have the biggest impact on reaching your goal? Are you focusing on that one task? Or are you letting yourself get swept away by too many other things that have taken away your attention?
Research has shown, multitasking significantly slows you down. You may get by with multitasking on low-level tasks (ie. chores, laundry, etc.), but when it comes to your higher-level, big-picture goals you can’t multitask.
You might think you’re getting more done, but jumping between jobs actually hinders your cognitive processing. The most productive people spend several hours on a single task which allows them to get into a deep state of mental concentration, producing the best possible results.
When you try to do multiple things at once, you will fail to do any of them as well as you could have if you had just spent dedicated time on each task instead. Multitasking causes a loss of speed and accuracy due to the fact that your brain is actively switching attention between each item. Focus on one important thing at a time, and you'll get a huge boost in productivity.
2. Eliminate Distractions
“Stop getting distracted by things that have nothing to do with your goals” - Rahual Jain; art historian and author
Related to point number one, you can’t focus on your most important task if you are swamped in distractions.
In our deeply networked world today, we face distractions everywhere. We live in a world that is continually stimulated by electronic communication. Text messaging, the virtual worlds of social media, and mobile email capability can become serious time drains if handled inappropriately. Smartphones and social media can be wonderful at times, but they’re also a major distraction.
There are many apps you can install on your devices to increase your focus and productivity. Or to get into focus mode, consider putting your phone in another room. A study by the University of Texas showed that people who do this while working on a task were significantly more productive than people who had their phones sitting next to them on their desks.
As wonderful of a tool as email is, it can also be your biggest distraction. The most efficient workers delegate fixed times for checking and replying to messages. Spend the rest of the day with your inbox closed and out of sight.
Also consider setting up your environment to be distraction free. A cluttered workspace can limit your productivity. Distractions add up, and they can be different for everyone. Consider a productivity audit. Start your day, then track whenever you get sidetracked. What distracts you? How much time do you spend on each distraction? In total, how much time is wasted? Then try to eliminate these distractions. Without things distracting you and taking your attention away, you can better focus on your most important tasks.
3. Don't Be Deterred by Failure
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." Dale Carnegie
The most productive people aren’t afraid of making mistakes. They take action without over-analyzing the consequences and treat each failure as an opportunity for improvement. Taking risks is essential if you want to evolve into a productive, efficient, and confident worker.
When faced with a challenge, overcoming fear, or coming back from a “failure,” successful people are focused on growth more than they fixate on the outcome of failure. Some people beat themselves up and dwell on their mistakes. People who learn from their mistakes and try to prevent themselves from making the same mistake in the future, perform better at work. But failure can be a critical step on the road to success. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. Productive people have the ability to make incremental improvements in their performance and ask themselves: Okay, what can I learn from this? What can I do better?
4. Have a Consistent Morning Ritual
“Wisdom is a measured routine.” -Benjamin Franklin
While not everyone is a morning person, studies have proven that your willpower and creativity are strongest in the morning. When you’re awake and energized before the rest of the world, you have more alone time to prepare for the day. It’s a few extra hours before emails start coming in, before your phone starts buzzing, and before you have to work with clients.
Most importantly, a consistent morning routine is important for the rest of your day to be productive. For example, starting your day with a healthy breakfast, light exercise, and reading can help you have more energy throughout your day. A good morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day and helps give you the momentum to get things done.
5. ‘Eat the Frog’
'Eat a live frog, first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.' - Mark Twain
Highly productive people ‘eat the frog’ first thing in the morning, or start the day with their hardest task first. A theory made popular by motivational expert Brian Tracy in his book ‘Eat That Frog’. By crossing off the worst activity on your list, the rest of the day will flow easily in comparison, and the hardest jobs never get pushed into tomorrow.
Another benefit of "eating the frog' first thing in the morning is that you can make that frog your most important task. Ask yourself "If I can only get one thing done today, what would that one thing be'? If you can cross off the most important thing on your to-do list everyday, you'll naturally reach higher levels of productivity.
6. Apply the 80/20 Rule
The important thing is the 80/20 rule: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means that if you’re doing ten tasks, two are going to be vastly more important than the others. - Brian Tracy motivational public speaker and self-development author
Here’s another great way to increase your productivity - use the 80/20 rule.
Also known as the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule states that eighty percent of your results come from twenty percent of your actions.
You likely work with your head down while forgetting about the big picture (it happens to all of us). To be productive, however, you need to understand what activities bring you the best results. With that understanding, you can spend more time focusing on the tasks that move you forward, and less on the ones that don’t. Try to eliminate the things that don’t matter during your day -- the aspects that have a minimal effect on your overall efficiency and focus on the small handful of tasks that will get you 80% of your results.
7. Use Productivity Apps
“Productivity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential, eliminate the rest.” - Leo Barbuta
You wouldn’t show up to a gym without gear, so why tackle your office workload without the best tools? There are hundreds of brilliant apps available to dramatically boost your productivity. Automating some of your simpler tasks with apps can also help you be more productive.
For example, you could use tools to:
- Organize your mail with email filters to automatically file emails into specific folders
- Delete spam
- Pay bills
- Schedule appointments
- Perform any repetitive, low-level task
When you automate recurring tasks, you can use your time and mental space for other bigger tasks that will move you in the direction of your goals.
8. Take regular breaks
“I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” - Philosopher SÃ¸ren Kierkegaard
Taking a break to walk outside the office boosts productivity: Workers who walked for 30 minutes over their lunch breaks returned to work feeling more enthusiastic and capable of coping with stress, according to a recent study led by the University of Birmingham.
Even the most super-human high performers know when to take a break. People cycle from being alert to being fatigued about once every 90 minutes according to Tony Schwartz, author and founder of The Energy Project. Schwartz himself used to put in marathon 10-hour days writing his books. But learning to manage his energy more effectively, he now writes in three focused 90-minute intervals, with breaks inbetween for exercise and socializing, has doubled his productivity.
Just like your body needs a chance to recuperate after working out, so does your brain. Avoid the computer screen during your lunch, break, exercise or meditate and get outdoors if possible. This helps you return to work mentally refreshed, with a renewed sense of purpose.
9. Know where your time goes
Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller states, “To this day, I keep a schedule that is almost minute by minute.”
If you’re still wondering how you can be more productive, track your time.
When you feel like you waste time each day but aren’t sure where it’s actually going, you just need to raise your awareness. Being conscious about where your day is going, will make you more conscious about your time so that you can notice and change it.
Take out a notebook and record every single thing you do, and be incredibly specific. Observe where you spent your time. If you are happy with the spread, don’t change a thing. If you are unhappy, consider what you can do differently and create a strategy to rid your time of distractions and tasks that don’t bring you value.
10. Learn to Say ‘No’
Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say 'no' to almost everything.”
As an overachiever, you want to do anything and everything. After all, you never know what may lead to that next breakthrough. And although you want to take every opportunity, you need to keep in mind what your most desired goals are.
This is one of the most recommended tips on how to be productive and is one of the best time-related activities that you should practice. Because if you say yes to tasks that don’t contribute to your end goals, you’ll end up wasting time and resources.
Truly productive people don’t feel awkward about saying ‘no’. They understand the value of their own time and view it as a precious resource. This doesn’t mean you have to be rude or dismissive - simply explain your situation, offer an alternative avenue of help, or empower the person with the right advice so they can do it themselves.
To achieve your goals, you need to be deliberate about your time. Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes every day. Don’t give them away easily.
The common notion of productivity is the ability to get a lot done in a short span of time. While it is true, it is not complete. True productivity is the ability to create high impact results in a short amount of time. This is the kind of productivity that matters, not busy work that creates no impact in the long term.
You might have mastered a few of these habits already, but even the most productive people are still human. If something works well for you, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, drop it and try something else. Productivity is an experiment that is forever changing, so don’t let that discourage you! If you’re looking to learn more about productivity and career development, check out the Meratas blog!