This past year, my goal was to take more action. I had so many things I knew needed to get done but somehow I couldn’t get myself to do them. I realized that wishing for something was one thing, and getting things done is another. So I decided, I was going to get things done. I would write, more, publish more, ask more, and simply do more. I discussed this in the lessons learned from a month of reading and reflecting. I also constantly reminded myself that 80% of success is showing up. I have learned that highly productive people stick to some habits that set them apart.
From these decisions, I have been more productive and I have learned that there are some habits that I needed to be more productive. Here are my 10 proven habits of highly productive people.
1. They reduce distractions
One tip that is crucial for productivity is avoiding distractions. In this era of smartphones, the highest form of distractions we have is social media. When we have our phones close to us, every notification makes us jump and before we know it, we are snowballing in hours of scrolling through social media.
To reduce distractions, I have learned to put my phone away and switch off the internet for certain periods of time so I can focus on my work. In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport advises that one way to get deep work done is by quitting social media. He has a point, but for some of us, social media is essential for what we do. Rather than quitting, scheduling social media times will keep you disciplined on how much time you spend on social media.
If you are not actively posting on commenting on social media, switch off your phone, or put it on airplane mode, switch off the internet and focus on your work. This reduction in distractions will help you become more productive and get so much work done.
2. They have mastered Self-regulation
Our moods can stand in the way of our productivity. Sometimes you wake up and feel that all you want to do is bum all day. Some arguments have shown that procrastination is not a result of poor time management an emotional problem.
We procrastinate simply because we don’t feel up to getting things done emotionally. It commonly happens when the activity we know we should be doing raises some form of discomfort and anxiety from us so we choose to avoid it. Self-regulation helps you deal with these feelings of low moods and anxiety.
Self-regulation, according to Daniel Goleman, is one of the elements of emotional intelligence. Highly productive people know how to self-regulate. They will take charge of their emotions and regulate them so that their day is not controlled by emotions. They take the initiative to self-regulate and control their emotions instead.
3. They don’t wait for inspiration
If you wait for inspiration, you will probably get things done just once a week. Highly productive people don’t wait for inspiration, they get things done even when they don’t feel like it. They have a schedule and get started with their work at the specified time, whether there is an inspiration or not.
Don’t wait for inspiration to write or compose or learn than a new skill. Instead, plan that you will be getting productive for x number of hours at y time each day. When you make a habit out of this, your body and mind will learn to follow this and you won’t have to convince yourself each morning to get started.
4. They exercise
I wish I had the discipline to exercise as much as I would like to. I can confirm one thing, highly productive people get more out of their day when they exercise. Not only does exercise makes you healthier, it pumps up the right hormones to make you feel good about your day.
I try as much as possible to exercise for an hour each morning before I get started with work. I can attest that on the days I exercise in the morning, I tend to be more productive than on other days. Check with productive people and you will see that they incorporate exercise as part of their daily routine since they have learned how much a little exercise can transform their day.
5. They expand their knowledge
Highly productive people read a lot. They are keen to expand their knowledge and don’t believe the knowledge they have is sufficient. Reading has different impacts on our lives. First, it equips us with knowledge. Reading is also a source of motivation. On days when I don’t feel mentally prepared to get things done, sometimes reading is just what I need. The right book can motivate me to get things done by simply changing my state of mind.
6. They know how to prioritize
Highly productive people know how to prioritize. They know how to set apart what’s urgent and what’s important. They don’t spend all day working on shallow work but allocate time to get deep work done as well. The struggle between what’s urgent and what’s important has been discussed by different authors.
Stephen Covey goes to the detail in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to show us what sets apart what’s important and what’s urgent. This is to help us learn to prioritize and become more productive in our day. Tim Ferris, in The 4 Hour Work Week shows how urgent activities, such as emails and phone calls can keep us away from becoming effective.
Cal Newport, in the book Deep work, calls emails, and phone calls shallow work and shows how it keeps us from doing deep work, which is the kind of work we need to propel our careers. Highly productive people can effectively prioritize such that they are not constantly distracted by urgent, shallow work, but get time to do more important and deep work.
7. They take more action
Highly productive people take more action. All the planning and thinking and creating great ideas can take you nowhere if you don’t take action. In the book, Getting Things Done, David Allen and David Kelvin Allen calls it shipping. They give an example of author James Patterson churns a book after another.
Other authors such as Adam Grant in Originals have discussed how sometimes we don’t need to dwell so long on one idea trying to make it perfect. Instead, we stand more chances of success the more we produce. Highly productive people therefore constantly take action. They are constantly shipping and moving onto the next product.
8. They get sufficient rest
Don’t say you’ll sleep when you are dead. Highly productive people take care of themselves and get sufficient rest. Many tend to assume that being productive includes working long hours and denying yourself sleep. However, research has shown that productivity doesn’t have to mean endless hours of work and that you are more productive if you get sufficient rest.
In the book Deep Work, Cal Newport shows that high levels of productivity can be achieved even in 4 hour days and most productive people don’t past 5:30 in the evening. The same point has been driven home by Tim Ferris in The 4-hour workweek.
Getting enough self-care such as sufficient sleeping time and taking care of your body will boost your productivity. You could think that working 20 hour days will make you productive and in reality, you could be using this time focusing on shallow work and little on productive work.
9. They have clarity
Highly productive people have clarity. They have set clear goals and are working towards achieving these clear, well-defined goals. Without goals, you lack direction. You could be highly motivated, working all the time and doing all you can to increase your productivity, but it is all in vain if you have no clarity on what you are working towards.
I gained a moment of clarity a few years back. For a long time, there are so many things that I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to split my time and get all these things done. A moment of clarity came after I read Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The power of passion and perseverance and realized to achieve the kind of success I want, I have to narrow down and be clear about what I want to do. One cannot achieve success while focusing on a gazzilion things since your focus will be divided.
Deep work involves increasing focus on an activity, involving intense concentration and expanding your mind. To be a highly productive person, it’s, therefore, crucial to have a clear goal that you are working towards, so you can focus all your resources to achieving these goals.
10. They develop resilience and adaptability
Highly productive people are resilient and adaptable. They have developed versatility and the ability to stretch without breaking. They understand that failure is part of the process and do not let failure deter them. When they fail, they pick themselves back up and try again.
They have developed grit and have learned that persistence, effort, and perseverance are just what they need to get things done. Resilience helps productivity because it helps a person not stay down for too long. Even when faced by tough times, resilient people can rise back up and try again. They put in twice the effort and practice more to become better at their skill.