If you were to look at some of the visionaries of our day, you’d see that they all have some productive habits in common. These habits of highly productive people such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates all look similar. Let’s look closer into some of the traits that make them so successful.
Habits of Highly Productive People
They have a routine.
Consistency is key in life. The brain likes predictable. As we covered in previous articles, the brain even makes a feedback loop around building habits. Why not use this skill to our advantage? Having a routine that you follow daily ensures you are making the most of the time you have. Time is the only thing currently you cannot buy. We get the same 24 hours in a day as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Difference? They took full advantage of the time they’ve had.
They write things down.
Notepads, reminders, memos in your phone, are a couple ways you can keep track of what’s going on in your life. Buy an appointment book and use it to fill your day with productivity and to remind your mind of what’s to come. You don’t know if you’ll remember something important later down the line. We all think we will, and we do want to, but alas, we are human and prone to error. Writing down the important parts of your day or conversation with someone will reduce stress and frustration later.
They block out time for productivity and for down time.
Yes, this is an article on being productive. We are not robots and we cannot work 24/7. Our minds need time to rest, relax, and regenerate. “Yeah, but I can do that when I’m dead!” You have no idea how that can become a reality if you don’t also take time for yourself.
Not allowing the body and mind to rest has effects on the mind and body. The body does not have time or ability to process leftover cortisol from the day. This creates a more restless sleep. Lack of sleep means reduced focus, grogginess, and slower reaction times. Don’t forget about our article on building a good sleep routine and the risks of not getting enough sleep.
They make self-care a priority.
I’m not just talking about getting enough sleep and making sure you eat. I’m talking about using those blocks of down time to do things that enrich who you are. Take a dance class. Practice a musical instrument. Listen to an audiobook. Whatever you do that makes you, you, do more of it.
In my article on natural ways to reduce depression symptoms, I talk about the importance of self-care and the difference between distractions and meaningful activities. Do more activities that enrich your life. Mindless scrolling on your phone does NOT count.
They limit distractions.
Social media has become the biggest distraction of our generation. Mindless droves of people sitting on the couch. Ignoring their loved ones to scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or the like. If you were to look at all the time you spend in a day looking at your phone, how much time do you think you’ve wasted? An hour? 4 hours? 8 hours?! Imagine what you could DO with that time. Elon Musk is building cars AND rocket ships at the same time on a daily basis. What did you do today?
They do not multitask.
Anyone who says they can multitask, does so poorly. Everyone THINKS they can multitask but it ends up resulting in both tasks being done sub-optimally. Want to get the best out of yourself? Focus on one task at a time. Give that task your full, undivided attention. Not only will your task get done optimally, your brain is also working efficiently. No one does as well when they switch on and off between tasks. Each task asks something different from the brain. It’s like trying to drive to the store while putting your car in forward and reverse over and over until you finally make it there. Yeah sure you’ll get there, but we’d all agree it isn’t the best way to drive to the store.
It can be easy to get off track during the day. Meaning to clean the dishes, you forget because you got a phone call from someone. Or you go out for the day on a whim and come home to a sink full of stinky dishes. Prioritising your day doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It means getting the tasks done that need to be done first. Did you know that most tasks that people avoid often only take a few minutes, yet they procrastinate them for weeks? Why? Lack of direction and motivation. Productive people prioritise their day so that they can enjoy the down time they have. Not spend the down time ruminating about a task that needs to be done.
They set boundaries.
Along with prioritising their day, productive people have a habit of setting firm boundaries to achieve their goals. Setting boundaries isn’t about shying away from loved ones or punishing them for wanting to be part of your life. It’s about being able to get things done that are important to you so that you can be there and present with those loved ones. We’ve all seen either in movies or even in our daily lives, people who cannot disconnect. They neglect their families and their own interests. Setting boundaries to allow yourself to get the work done, allows that extra, stress-free, time with those people.
“I love you but I need some space to work.”
They set deadlines for themselves. (and stick to them!)
How many times have you set a deadline for yourself only to have it come and go without you achieving it? How did that feel? Were you disappointed in yourself? I bet you were. What did you DO with that disappointment? On a podcast, Gary Vee talked once about how when he sets a deadline, he also sets a punishment for not meeting that deadline. For instance, if he didn’t get a project done on time, he’d burn a $50 bill every hour until the task was completed. What did this do? Created a sense of urgency and commitment to the completion of the task. Set deadlines and achieve them. Reward yourself for that achievement. Miss a deadline? Connect a punishment for letting yourself down. Follow through.
They review what worked.
In every task, there will be things that went smoothly, as well as missteps. Knowing WHAT worked and WHY it worked well is the foundation of creating a routine around that task. Did you enjoy the task and so you were able to completely focus when doing it? GOOD! Do more of that! Was it good communication between team members that helped solve a big issue the team was having? Reinforce that communication by letting the team know how their contribution effected the success of the project. Know what you’re good at.
They recognise what went wrong.
Besides knowing what’s going well, knowing your weaknesses is just as powerful. Being open minded to the idea that you were not perfect in your thinking or execution means the ability to better optimise your work habits to find better balance. This is one of the harder habits of highly productive people, they examine their failures as much as their strengths.
They are always learning.
Evaluating your performance is a key habit of highly productive people. But, just as important, is their desire to always learn. As we grow, leave school, and get on with our day to day life, it’s easy to fall into the trap that you don’t need to keep learning like you did in school. Nothing could be further from the truth. Highly productive people have an ingrained habit of seeking knowledge, for knowledge’s sake. We all up skill as required for our jobs, but this goes further than that. Bill Gates carries around 37 books with him at any given time and will finish them in a working week! When you schedule your time productively, there is time to learn something new every day.
They ask clarifying questions.
Highly productive people have no time for ambiguity. They know what they know and know what they don’t. This is why they are always learning and asking questions. If a task is ambiguous or unclear, ask those questions for clarity. Don’t force yourself to have to go back and fix something because of misinterpretation. Ask the questions you need to fully understand the task at hand. It will save you time and frustration in the long run. In the same vein, don’t give unclear responses or directions to others. Just like you, they are not mind readers. Errors will be avoided with a short clarifying conversation or defined expectations.
They automate and delegate tasks.
Do you think that Elon Musk HIMSELF is building all those Teslas? Although Musk is the brains behind the concept, he is not involved in every aspect of building those cars. Musk hired out a team of specialists, the best in their field, to come and help him make his dream a reality. That team has built and put into place robots to assist in making cars faster and more efficiently. He delegated tasks to the team and automated the process of car manufacturing. Now, Musk has more time to learn how to build space rockets. This is an important distinction in the habits of highly productive people. Their ability to delegate tasks and find more efficient ways to finish tasks set before them.
They expect obstacles and brainstorm possible solutions.
When the economy is in free fall and jobs are uncertain, the smart option is to be sure you save all you can. Do any of you know someone who picks this as the time to commit to a brand new car sale or a fancy new phone upgrade? It’s like they are tempting fate with their ignorance.
One of the habits of highly productive people is to look at what’s going on around them making their judgement based on reason and logic. People who booked their vacations for March and April 2020 in January/February 2020 are feeling pretty silly right now. The news of coronavirus was out there. The experts suggested it could get bad. Why then book a trip? Erring on the side of caution, in this situation, would’ve been less stressful and likely save them money. Productive people anticipate these kinds of situations as potential obstacles and plan around them. Perhaps they delayed their travel or decided to stay locally instead.
The habits of highly productive people all have things in common. First, they center around trying to beat procrastination. Procrastination is the killer of dreams. And second, they ask the individual to be honest with themselves to get the work done.
Which of these traits do you have? Which are you working on? Let me know in the comments below!