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5 Daily Habits Of High Achievers

5 Daily Habits Of High Achievers

2016 is going to be your year. It’s going to be the year you finally achieve those big, hairy, audacious goals you’ve been thinking about for many years. It’s going to be your breakout year.

You believe in yourself.

Of course, there’s a massive difference between believing and achieving.

If all you do is believe in yourself, you’ll end up with a lot of self-esteem and very little accomplished. So, how do you make the leap from big believer to big achiever?

You practice these 5 habits — Every. Single. Day.

1. Find And Focus On Your Peak Performance Times

It’s tempting to think that all hours are equally valuable. This is patently false. Depending on your body makeup and energy levels, some hours are far more productive than others. Some people find themselves most productive before dawn. Others find themselves cranking through mountains of tasks in the quiet hours after the kids go to sleep.

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It’s not better to be a morning person or night owl. What matters is determining when you’re most productive and then working on your most important tasks during that time window.

As Daniel Threlfall says:

“Productivity is more than the sum of your time management techniques. Productivity requires that you discover the blend of your resources — time and energy — that allows you to reach maximum productivity. In order to successfully manage time, you must also competently manage energy.”

And so the question arises: are you focusing on your most important work during your most productive times, or are you wasting time with Facebook or fantasy sports? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with skimming social media or watching stupid cat videos on YouTube. But, if you want to be a high achiever, you’ll spend your peak hours on your most important tasks.

2. Be Ruthless About Distractions

It’s no secret that multitasking kills productivity. There is no way to make significant progress when you’re getting blasted by text messages, Facebook messages, emails, and Skype chats. Your brain can’t constantly change gears. Every distraction means less achievement.

High achievers are absolutely ruthless about eliminating all distractions from their lives. They put their phones on mute or turn them off all together. They block social media. They completely shut down their email, or even set up an auto-response to tell people that they won’t be getting back to them immediately.

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Distractions can be appealing. They are a break for the brain. But few things kill achievement faster than distractions.

Will you be ruthless about eliminating distractions this year? Will you do whatever it takes to kill those things that keep you from achieving your goals?

3. Crush Your Most Important Things First

When you sit down to work, it’s tempting to start on easy things — emails, quick phone calls, or social media replies. Getting a few of these things done may give you a sense of momentum. It feels good to get some things checked off your list.

But what sets high achievers apart from the rest is that they always do the most important things first. Productivity expert James Clear says:

“If you do the most important thing first each day, then you’ll always get something important done. I don’t know about you, but this is a big deal for me. There are many days when I waste hours crossing off the 4th, 5th, or 6th most important tasks on my to-do list and never get around to doing the most important thing.”

You have to ask yourself: Do I want to get more done or get the right things done? You can technically get more done by doing easier tasks first, but that’s a losing game in the long run.

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In 2016, will you focus on getting the most important things done first? Will you always ensure you’re making progress on your most important tasks rather than focusing on your easiest tasks?

4. Become A List Master

The highest achievers always know exactly what they should be doing next, and they know this by maintaining detailed lists of all their tasks. They don’t float aimlessly from task to random task. They don’t do whatever they feel like at the moment. They keep a laser focus on their task list.

The power of lists is that they keep you on track. Without keeping a proper series of task lists, it’s easy to do whatever you feel like. But with the power of lists, you can attack your day instead of having your day attack you.

As productivity expert Paula Rizzo says:

“When you’re juggling a lot of tasks, things will fall through the cracks, and lists are amazing for keeping yourself on target and getting things done.”

If you need to track lists, apps like Omnifocus, Things, and ToDoIst are great options.

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5. Be S.M.A.R.T. About Your Goals

Setting goals is good, but you should be very specific about how you set your goals. Most goal-setting experts recommend using the “S.M.A.R.T.” method. Goals should be:

S – Specific. Wanting to do more exercise is a good goal. But there’s a much better chance of you achieving your goal if it’s more specific, like: Run 200 miles in 3 months.

M – Measurable. You can’t track your progress if your goal isn’t measurable. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” say, “I want to lose 15.5 pounds.”

A – Attainable. Every goal you set should stretch you, but every goal should also be attainable. If you never exercise, you won’t be able to run a marathon within 2 weeks, but you could run 5 miles.

R – Realistic. This is closely tied to attainable goals. All goals should be realistic given your circumstances. They should take your limitations into account, while still stretching you to new heights.

T – Timely. Every goal should have a start and end date. If you don’t know when you want to achieve something, you’ll never know if you’ve actually met your goal.

Conclusion

2016 really can be your year if you’re willing to follow these 5 habits. They won’t necessarily be easy, but the results will be incredibly satisfying. Being a high achiever isn’t just for the elite. Anyone can be a high achiever if they’re willing to do the work!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via static.pexels.com

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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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