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15 Things Insanely-Productive People Do Differently

15 Things Insanely-Productive People Do Differently

Productivity is not doing lots of stuff fast. You can do lots of stuff and get nowhere closer to your ideal. Most people are living their lives this way. They are burning themselves out running in a million different directions. Our society has become obsessed with constant doing. There’s little time left for being and living. Productivity is purposefully and consistently moving in a desired direction.

Insanely productive people have learned the two most important things every person needs to know in this life:

  • Who they are
  • What their purpose (path) in life is

And that’s where we begin:

1. They Know Who They Are And Who They Want To Be

Productivity is a sexy topic lately because most people are radically confused about who they are. As a result, they want a quick scheme to the world’s definition of success. They’ve yet to define success for themselves. They want it all laid out for them. They want a to-do list. They believe that doing lots of stuff will get them what they want. Maybe it will impress other people? Maybe it will get them ahead of the competition? But who really is the competition? That’s the problem.

Most people are still competing with other people. They are trying to fit in. They’re trying to be perceived as awesome. In truth, they’re profoundly insecure. They’re caught in an endless identity crisis – going from one thing to the next. Whatever is popular at the time – the illusive quest for acceptance—the lack of depth and commitment. And that’s the difference. Non-productive people seek security externally. They seek security in a paycheck, or in friends, or in perceived success. Rather than experiencing security, in reality, they are the slaves to these things. They will do anything to have these things. They are not free.

However, insanely productive people know that security can only really be experienced internally. They know who they are. So they don’t worry about all these traps that sabotage and slow the masses. They fully accept and understand themselves – and that’s good enough for them. No external standard of success will ever compare to their own self-awareness and acceptance.

Beyond knowing who they are, they know who they are going to become. They’re not going to be tossed off course by the next big thing. Until you know who are you, you will never be insanely productive. It doesn’t matter how much you “accomplish” in your life if it’s not the life you really wanted to live – the life you were meant to live.

Insanely productive people have moved well beyond that. Their evolution has opened within them the space to do what only they can do. Every person on this planet is a unique individual with a unique opportunity to serve and give in their own personal way. You can’t do that work until you know who you are.

2. They Know Where They Want To Go

 “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where –” “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Like point one, most people want to be told where to go. They want to be told who to be. They don’t really care where it is – so long as it seems awesome to everyone else. This sidetracks people all the time. Rather than doing what they genuinely love, they take the job that offers the most money, prestige, or accolades. They spend decades of their lives on the wrong path.

At some point or another, they have their identity crisis and realize they have no idea what they really want in life. They have no idea where they are going. However, insanely productive people are purposeful about where they intend to end up. Every day of their lives is spent building toward their highest ideal. The things on their to-do lists actually make cohesive sense.

The truth is, insanely productive people aren’t moving any faster than the rest. More often, they are moving slower. The difference is, unlike the norm, insanely productive people are moving in one direction. Five steps in one directions seems like a lot to the person who has moved one step in five directions.

3. They Let Go Of The Need For A Specific Result

Jeremy Piven, the famous actor, was recently interviewed by Success Magazine. During the interview, he mentioned that, as an actor, the only way to work is to go out and audition for specific roles. The challenge most actors/actresses face is that they get in their own way. It doesn’t matter how much homework they’ve done. If they’re too tied to a specific result, they can’t be present in the moment. They can’t truly perform their art. They come off as desperate. They get in their own way. Their performance isn’t what it could have been.

Jeremy said that when he quit worrying about a specific result, he was able to be present during his auditions. He was able to be completely who he wanted to be. He wasn’t trying to be what he thought others wanted him to be. He performed his art. If he didn’t get the gig, either they didn’t get it or it just wasn’t the right fit. So he moves on to the next. In this way, he’s able to get the jobs he’s supposed to have. He’s not just trying to get anything he can get.

Insanely productive people are the same way. They are raw and real. They are present and perform on their highest level because they aren’t dependent on a particular outcome. They have an innate trust that everything will work out for them if they’re authentic. They trust in the universe – their higher power – to take them where they need to go.

4. They Don’t Care What Other People Are Doing

Most people spend the majority of their time watching and observing other people. The goal is to emulate and copy, or to compare and compete. This highlights an utter lack of achieved identity – an emotional and spiritual immaturity.

On the other hand, insanely productive people spend very little if any of their time worrying about what other people, “their competition,” are doing. They see this as a distraction from their work. They put their heads down and execute. Gary Vaynerchuck, perhaps one of the most productive people on earth, says he doesn’t have time to read other people’s stuff. He’s too busy creating his own content.

5. They Don’t Care What Other People Think

“What people think of you is none of your business.” – Amy Hatvany

The majority of the population lives in absolute fear about what other people think of them. They try to be perfect. They try to be liked. They are unwilling to be vulnerable. To be real and truthful.

Insanely productive people put themselves completely out there. They are doing their work for themselves and for the people it was intended for. Anyone outside their target audience doesn’t exist to them. Haters and critics are flowers, not darts.

6. But They Care Intensely About Those They Serve

Despite caring very little about what other people think, insanely productive people care fiercely about other people. They have a love for humanity that is nothing short of divine. Every person has infinite potential in their worldview. When they look at another person, they see a person – not an object. They feel. Like really feel. It’s not a staged act.

Insanely productive people are incredibly empathetic. They relate with people on their level. They’re relevant and connect. They influence with their love. Those they serve can feel it and they’re changed.

7. Their Work Is Their Art – It’s Highly Personal

Insanely productive people don’t have jobs. They are artists – even if accountants, bankers, or lawyers. The work they do is everything they are. They give completely to their work. It’s emotional labor. When they finish, there’s nothing left. If it isn’t meaningful, they don’t do it. To do so doesn’t make sense to them.

If they can’t feel it deep when they are working, they are not working. They’re not living. They’re not in the zone. And they seek that zone. That’s when art and magic happens. Everything in their life is set up to create that space. This is why they were born.

8. They Don’t Need Permission

Most people wait. They believe they can start after they have enough time, money, connections, and credentials. They wait until they feel “secure.” Not insanely productive people.

Insanely productive people started last year. They started five years ago before they even knew what they were doing. They started before they had any money. They started before they had all the answers. They started when no one else believed in them. The only permission they needed was the voice inside them prompting them to move forward. And they moved.

9. They Learn Through Doing

Theory can only take a person so far. Putting yourself out there and falling flat on your face, over, and over, and over is how insanely productive people learn. Rather than having meetings and discussions, they go out and practice. While most people are reading, thinking, and dreaming, insanely productive people are out doing. The goal is to learn while creating output. Non-productive people on the other hand have a lopsided ratio of input and output – with very little of the latter.

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10. They Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously

Insanely productive people have an ease about life. Everything is going to be okay. They allow themselves to laugh and to feel and to love. They don’t overthink themselves. They don’t define themselves by their achievements.

They laugh at themselves when they make blunders. They’re okay with the fact that they’re not perfect. They embrace their humanity. They genuinely like themselves as a human being. They don’t crucify themselves at every mistake. They give themselves the benefit of the doubt.

11. They Can Enjoy Where They Presently Are On The Path

“When someone says: “So what’s next?” As in, “how are you going to top that?” You don’t have to have an answer. The answer can be: “This.” Your life doesn’t have to be about impressing other people or a successive series of achievements.”- Ryan Holiday

Insanely productive people find joy in the journey. They aren’t always waiting for that next chapter in life. They are happy with where they are. They are alive. Non-productive people wait for contentment until after they graduate from college, or get that promotion, or retire. All the while, their life passed them by and they never really experienced the moment.

12. They Ask For Help

“Rainmakers generate revenue by making asks. They ask for donations. They ask for contracts. They ask for deals. They ask for opportunities. They ask to meet with leaders or speak to them over the phone. They ask for publicity. They come up with ideas and ask for a few minutes of your time to pitch it. They ask for help. Don’t let rainmaking deter you from your dream. It’s one of the barriers to entry, and you can overcome it. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become comfortable with it, you might even enjoy it. But making asks is the only way to bring your dream to life.” – Ben Arment

Insanely productive people know they don’t have all the answers. They aren’t afraid to ask for directions when lost. They aren’t too proud to say when they’re having a hard time.

Amanda Palmer is a famous musician. Her career is based on making asks. She left her record label so she could give her music away for free. She had enough trust in her fans and followers to ask them for help in exchange for the value she provided them. She launched a Kickstarter and made well over a million dollars. She couchsurfs all over the world. Her fans bring her food.

All she does is ask. She asks because she has courage. She asks because she has trust. She asks because she wants to be vulnerable with her tribe. They give generously because they have been the generous recipients of her gifts.

13. They Drop What’s Not Working

“Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new.” – Seth Godin

Insanely productive people understand the concept of sunk cost. When something isn’t working, they drop it and move on. They don’t continue putting resources into a burning ship.

14. They Think Laterally Rather Than Vertically

“Lateral thinking doesn’t replace hard work; it eliminates unnecessary cycles.” – Shane Snow

Most of the United States Presidents spent less time in politics than the average congressman. Moreover, the best, and most popular Presidents, generally spent the least amount of time in politics. Rather than spending decades climbing the tedious ladder with glass ceilings, they simply jumped laterally from a different, non-political ladder.

Ronald Reagan was an actor. Dwight Eisenhower laterally shifted from the military. Woodrow Wilson bounced over from academia. These men spent considerably little time in politics and became fabulous Presidents. They reached the top by skipping the unnecessary “dues-paying” steps. Insanely productive people think the same way. Rather than climbing up ladders the traditional ways, they think of alternative routes. They skip unnecessary steps by pivoting and shifting

15. They Constantly Prune Their Lives

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” – Greg McKeown

Last but certainly not least—insanely productive people continuously “clean their closet.” They live minimally. When life starts getting too busy, they step back and remove what is unneeded. Rather than adding more to their life, they say, “no” to almost everything. If they’ve made non-essential commitments in their future, they cancel those superfluous appointments. Their lives are simple and to the point.

Featured photo credit: Suit Tie Guy/Ben Rosett via stocksnap.io

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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