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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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

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Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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