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7 Things Successful People Do Every Day to Stay Productive

7 Things Successful People Do Every Day to Stay Productive

Do you have a productivity problem?

You know; you procrastinate, you’re unfocused, and you quit on your goals.

At the same time, to become successful, you need to figure out how to become productive.

Fortunately, others are leading the way. Successful people like entrepreneurs, top politicians, and other thought leaders have figured out how they should manage their time to achieve what they set out to do.

So how do you move forward on your goals? Read on to learn what successful people do every day to stay productive.

1. They love what they do

Do you think people like Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton or Elon Musk would be where they are today if they didn’t truly enjoy what they do?

Probably not.

It’s incredibly hard to push through if all you can think about is how boring or meaningless a task is.

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In fact, research shows that employees are 12% more productive if they’re happy. This goes to show that work satisfaction does have a huge effect on how productive you are.

2. They wake up early

People who’re productive tend to get up early in the morning. Take Benjamin Franklin, Richard Branson, or Barack Obama. They all had or have a habit of rising early.

It’s evident that getting up in the wee hours is good for your productivity. The reason is simple: you usually have more energy and self-control right after you wake up.

But how do you ensure a productive morning?

Easy, develop a morning routine.

This could be a quick 15-minute exercise session. Or it could simply be a shower, stretching or a cup of coffee.

3. They work less, not more

In this day and age, business is a badge of honor. The busier you are, the better.

While it might intuitively feel like you get more done if you work more, the reverse is true. You get more done by working less.

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According to a famous study by K. A. Erickson, elite performers rarely work for more than 4.5 hours a day.

They batch their tasks into 90-minute sessions. Between these sessions, they have 20-30-minute pauses. This way, they can focus solely on the task at hand, instead of becoming tired and unfocused.

So start tracking the amount of time you spend on your tasks. Start with your most important work in the morning, work in sessions and leave all tasks that don’t require much willpower or focus to the afternoon.

4. They take care of themselves

In the same sense that we glorify business, we tend to assume that successful people don’t take care of themselves.

But the opposite is true!

One of the main reasons successful people are so productive is that they take care of themselves. They know that the key to productivity and success is to keep everything from your health to your finances in check.

For example, exercise has a massive impact on your productivity and financial stress makes it almost impossible to function in a productive way.

So make sure to first take care of yourself and only then focus on being productive and successful.

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5. They keep track of their goals

Successful people don’t work aimlessly on a project. Instead, they set goals and work systematically to achieve them.

Instead of having vague goals that they might achieve in the future, they sit down and plan goals for the day, week, month, year and beyond. Once they have their goals figured out, they come back to their goals on a regular basis.

You should do the same. Start today by listing goals you want to achieve tomorrow, next week, next month, in a year and in 5 years. Then keep track of them as you move forward.

6. They don’t multitask

Successful people master the art of focus. One way of doing that is to never multitask.

Studies show that your brain gets overwhelmed when you’re working on multiple tasks at the same time. Instead of focusing on one task, it divides its attention between all the tasks.

This is a major problem in our digital age.

In fact, a study by the University of London shows that your IQ suffers more if you multitask than if you smoke marijuana.

Want to be productive? Focus only on the task at hand.

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7. They see the big picture

It’s easy to get stuck on details. But too much focus on the details means that you lose sight of the big picture.

Successful people know this to be true. Take Jason Fried. He admits that details are important, but getting stuck means that you lose momentum. You become de-motivated and you quit.

Instead, you need to ship early. Focus first on the big picture and only later on the details.

Over to You!

We’ve looked at 7 things successful people do every way to stay productive.

Now there’s just one more thing to do:

Apply what you’ve learned!

Take a few minutes to brainstorm how you can become more productive with these tips.

Successful people use them every day. If you want to achieve your goals, you should too!

Featured photo credit: Dan Cooper via stokpic.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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