Highly productive people have certain habits that other people don’t. What are they doing that sets them apart? How are they getting so much done, and achieving their goals? We all want to be successful, but what are we doing wrong?
Here are a few habits you really need to avoid, if you want to get on track with being highly productive.
Habit Number 1: Not Seeing the Bigger Picture
In the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Steven R. Covey states that beginning with the end in mind can help you to envision what you are trying to create. First you see it in your imagination, and then it becomes a physical reality. Once you can see the bigger picture, then you can begin to break the process down in steps, to see exactly how you’re going to get there.
Visualizing the end goal helps you to keep your eye on the prize. If you get discouraged or have a set back, focusing on the final project can help you get back on track.
When you can stand back and see the project in its entirety, it’s sort of like a puzzle. All of the pieces start to take shape, and you can see what you need to do to put it all together. If you are putting together a real puzzle, would you start with the borders? Would you put together a basic structure that frames the picture you’re looking at? Or would you first gather all the similar colors, and put them in batches? Formulate a basic plan that helps you see the picture you are creating.
Then the next question might be, which process or task really is the best starting point?
Habit Number 2: Working Without Priorities
When deciding what steps to take to reach your end goal, highly productive people don’t waste time on details that bog down the process. Streamline your path, putting the most important priorities first. Think of a stone path crossing a babbling brook, and assign a top task to each stone. Take one step at a time until you’ve crossed the brook successfully, avoiding side steps that pull you away from your path. If your energies are scattered by every little thing that comes floating by, you’ll find yourself stuck. Stay focused on what’s important.
Highly productive people know that doing one thing, and doing it well, before moving on to the next task, will allow them to get more done in less time. They see their time as extremely valuable, and don’t waste it on things that are not going to move them closer to their goal.
When you prioritize your tasks, you can see the progress unfolding as you go. And the most important thing that you start with will give the entire project wings. Each subsequent action falls into place as the previous task takes shape.
Habit Number 3: Procrastination
Author Mark Twain wrote,
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
True as it is, it can be the hardest thing. If we wait until the time is right, or you’re finally feeling inspired to begin something, you could be waiting a very long time. Many factors can pull us away from beginning our project. It could be we don’t quite know where to start. Or maybe other obligations are calling us away. Maybe we don’t have the confidence that we can do it. And then our phone goes off and there’s another reason to switch our attention elsewhere.
Highly productive people don’t wait for the perfect moment to do something. Setting a specific time each day to work on your project can assure that you will take that time to do it. Or setting a timeline for when each task will be completed can help motivate you to get started. Breaking it down in this way can be less overwhelming, and make it easier to begin. Even if you don’t accomplish as much as you wanted to at first, try again at your next session. Slow going is better than not going at all. And the more you do, the better you’ll get at it. And eventually, you’ll reach your goal. But you have to start to finish!
Habit Number 4: Working Long Hours Without Breaks
Put yourself first. You can’t do your best job if you’re depleted in energy, both physically and mentally. If you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to be in top form to do the job at hand, and also be available if the game changes or something urgent comes up.
Most experts agree that the ability to focus wanes after about an hour or so, and then you will start to notice a drop in your productivity. So if you’re not producing, you don’t need to work harder. You need a break! Take at least a 15 minute break to give your brain a rest and be ready to do more of your best work. And by the way, taking a break doesn’t mean checking your emails, or scrolling through your phone. Take real breaks, where you feel refreshed and nourished afterwards, like meditating, taking a quick power nap, or a walk in nature. Even spending a little time in a garden can be relaxing enough to clear your head.
Your brainwaves change throughout the day, depending on your level of activity. Alpha waves occur when you’re feeling basically calm and relaxed. When you go back to work, your mind speeds up to make decisions and focus on information and problem solving. At this point, your brainwaves will adjust to Beta or Gamma waves. Changing up your mindset and working conditions is vital. No one is productive if they are stuck in overdrive for long periods of time.
Working consistently, but not constantly, is the key. Stay on course and continue to follow the plan in a methodical and organized way to bring the best results. By recharging your batteries, you are energized to give the work your full attention.
American novelist Anne Lamott once stated,
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.”
Habit Number 5: Listening to Naysayers
To be highly productive, you need to focus on what you’re doing and stick with it. If you listen to all the input from every source, you could be drawn away from your plan. Not to say you can’t receive and appreciate feedback and positive suggestions at times. But beware of the negativity vampires who suck your energy, waste your time and leave you doubting yourself.
Sometimes it’s best to not even discuss your plan, in order to keep people from discouraging you before the project ever leaves the drawing board. If people are telling you it can’t be done, you may start to believe it yourself. Some people only see obstacles and problems. If they’re not helping you to find solutions and make progress, you might want to just tune them out.
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations”, says American Engineer, Physician and former NASA astronaut, Mae Jemison. If other people can’t see the vision, they’ll have limited ability to help you build it. If you do need help, find someone who can offer support and commitment to bring the project to fruition.
Highly Productive people have a plan, set priorities, and make steps to carry out their tasks. They are not side-tracked by obstacles and other people’s opinions about what they’re doing. In Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle Is The Way, he reminds us of what Marcus Aurelius said about things that seem to block our advancement. Sometimes the obstacle can not only be used, but maybe even necessary. In all endeavors, there will be challenges. There will be things that seemed like a good idea, but then do not end up producing the result you were hoping for. All that means is that you need to go to Plan B. There is no substitute for persistence. And if you want to successfully meet your goal, you have to keep going. Find another way to make it work.
The great inventor, Thomas Edison said,
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Highly productive people find a way to get started, and they find a way to not give up.