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Published on July 9, 2018

Is There a Secret to Success? 22 Ways Productive People Reach the Top

Is There a Secret to Success? 22 Ways Productive People Reach the Top

Whether you are an entrepreneur, business owner or work for someone else, staying productive to reach the top of your game does not have to be a constant challenge. The secret to success is not so much a secret after all.

When you grow a strong grip on what inspires and motivates you as well as what throws you off course, your honed ability to harness your productivity can only set you on the path for success.

Increasing your productivity like the Elon Musks and Richard Bransons of the world can be surprisingly simple. Here are 22 of the ways they do it:

1. Be emotionally connected to clear goals

Clarity is a must-have ingredient to being productive. Leading marketing consultant, speaker and best-selling author Simon Sinek explains in his book Start With Why that in deciding between manipulation or inspiration as stronger influences of human behavior, inspiration is more powerful and sustainable.

When you have an emotional connection to your goals, you become better at searching for the means to achieve them.

2. Revisit goals daily

Dedicate time each morning before your day starts to review your goals. Stop, think and ask yourself:

“Regardless of whether or not my days are great or challenging, do I still feel emotionally connected to this?”

Look for an underlying, resounding ‘yes’ and a physical, positive shift of excitement. If you feel this, then your productivity will be greater than if you are forcing yourself to work for a purpose that does not give you a mental nor emotional return on investment.

3. Use visualization to reach targets sooner

Thomas Edison envisioned the concept of the light globe and eventually turned his imagined idea into reality. Much research has shown that physical performance is greatly improved when the time is taken to engage in carefully constructed imagery and visualization that ignites the human senses.

Functional MRIs now showing our brains don’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. This helps us realize that using visualization techniques can accelerate the efficiency and quality of our work in more focused ways without the same amount of physical effort.

Instead of just imagine what you might have for lunch, direct your daydreaming toward what you want to achieve, experience and feel from your efforts!

4. Re-prioritize throughout your day

In the best-selling book The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan advise that by asking yourself constantly:

“What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Your activity will be focused and aligned to meeting your goals. You will spend far less time losing energy to distractions which take you off course.

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5. Create a daily today list, not a to-do list

Being busy does not necessarily mean you are productive. Having a long to-do list can sometimes be quite de-motivating.

Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, advises starting each day with one key task and ensuring that completing it (or making good progress on it) moves you toward achieving your goals.

Should the first task be complete early on in your day, move on to the second and third activity. However, if you still don’t complete that one task, start the next day with completing it. Only move on to the next task when you have completed the present one.

6. Get up early

We don’t all have time or capacity to do a 5km run at 5am, however, research shows the morning is the best time to set your framework for a productive day. Our minds are freshest at this time of day.

Before anything else, dedicate time to review your goals, your key priorities for the day, exercise and nourishing your body.

Top performers allocate their first few hours to projects relevant to their top priorities and delay meetings and appointments until later. The satisfaction alone of seeing what you have accomplished before 10am alone helps you sustain a greater level of productivity throughout the day even though your energy levels may start to wane.

7. Fuel your body according to your activity

Your body is your engine room, so it makes sense to fuel it for the performance you want it to achieve.

Twenty-three time’s Olympic gold-medal winner Michael Phelps does not eat the same carbohydrate-rich diet in offseason as when he’s competing.

Whilst you may not be an elite athlete, applying this mindset approach might mean increasing your intake of nutrient-dense, low glycaemic food at planned intervals according to your day’s schedule.

8. Treat your mind like an asset

Top performers know their mindset and mental health are the cornerstones that dictate their productivity. They guard their exposure to energy-draining circumstances, people and media, and carefully choose activities and events which are soul-enriching, energizing and relevant to their goals and purpose.

Because they have a strong sense of purpose, they choose reading material, networking and personal growth opportunities that help them grow through the challenges they are facing at those points.

9. Surround yourself with productive people

Identify and surround yourself with people who talk less and do more. Even if those people fail and make mistakes more but still make progress, they are improving and are much more likely to get the results they seek.

This goes beyond simply reading about what top performers do and socializing with those you identify as top performers.

Find programs that incorporate highly productive practices and join mastermind groups where the members are long-term communities that continually reap the results they seek.

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Proactively choose to try and spend more time with those people in their activity phases.

Not only will your productivity go through the roof, your learning curve will be exponential.

10. Nourish your mind strategically for your growth and development

Top performers are avid readers. They take charge of their journey by committing to continually learning.

But it’s important to recognize that whilst others have found certain literature to be extremely helpful for themselves, this does not mean it is directly relevant to you or maybe it is….just not right now.

Pick and choose considerately and steadily what is relevant to you right now and put aside the other content for later. You can always come back to it.

11. Choose mentors wisely

Even if you don’t work in an industry that requires you to commit to professional development and gaining supervision from an expert, it is wise to seek out mentors.

Personal or professional mentors should not have any invested agenda in helping you in order for you to get the best objective advice and wisdom.

Seek out and ask for opportunities that allow you to learn experientially or shadow them in action. Also, seek a couple of different mentors. The more variety, the better and faster quality of learning you will have.

12. Always seek detailed and constructive feedback

No top performer is satisfied with general or wishy-washy feedback. If you get no feedback – positive or negative – ask for it.

Being told to simply do a better job next time does not help you to improve. Invite and tease out instructions for change. Gaining this will help you to accept failings and mistakes as well as give you clear plan to already start moving forward.

Licking your wounds of disappointment will be short-lived and any memories of receiving negative feedback will quickly become yesterday’s news.

13. Plan your day the night before

Closing your previous day recognizing what you have achieved and planning what your next day will entail does for reducing anxiety and experiencing better quality sleep.

Your plan does not have to be too detailed but putting pen to paper and reflecting this back to yourself gives your mind a sense of closure on the day. It also acknowledges unfinished items that will take priority the next day.

14. Perfect practice makes perfect

World renowned Grand Prix dressage trainer Maria Gunther would teach her students that it wasn’t just practice that makes perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

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It’s ok to make mistakes but even in practice, we are always aiming to achieve our personal best.

Improving any technique or skill involves constant refining and tweaking. It can also involve feeling discomfort which is often a misunderstood sign of stretching and growing.

Top performers know and have a healthy acceptance that there is no such thing as perfection but use their practice opportunities as wisely as if they were in a once in a lifetime situation.

15. Efficiency and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive

The best outcomes are achieved when the right processes and techniques are executed to the finest detail.

When the steps that need to be taken are clear, your focus on executing each of those steps well can only lead to better results.

Ensure you’re not under pressure when choosing a course of action to undertake and honor your own decision-making process. Then concentrate on doing each step well.

“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” ~ Peter Drucker

16. Use the Four Ds for effective prioritization

Having meetings and sorting emails at the expense of finalizing and sending a new business proposal is clearly non-productive. The four Ds are an extremely quick way to identify time-wasting activities and enrich your focus to things that truly matter:

  • Do – do it straight away
  • Delay – schedule a time to come back to it later
  • Delegate – allocate the activity to someone with better capacity to complete it
  • Dump – discard it permanently

Whenever you have difficulty deciding what needs to happen, make it a rule to apply one of the four Ds and you will make decisions more quickly, easily and effectively.

17. Invest in developing resilience skills

Top performers have excellent emotional regulation skills and have become skillful in observing and mastering regulating those of others.

Through learning coping and stress management techniques such as meditation and mindfulness, top performers strengthen self-awareness, which helps them to quickly identify what they need to do to heal, recover and bounce back better and stronger.

Top performers invest in personal development, knowing that they need to become and behave like the person who produces great results before they start to see those results.

18. Monitor and manage your energy

The amount of time we spend sitting each day is a far cry from the 12 miles an average human used to walk daily. Research quantifying the effects of physical inactivity has found that reducing inactivity by even 10% could avert 533,000 deaths globally.[1]

In reviewing such research, Silicon Valley-based author and speaker Nilofer Merchant has resorted to having ‘walk and talk’ meetings.[2] Merchant reports not only does she feels the physical benefits of walking 20-30 miles a week, she says she has become a better listener as the activity forces her to concentrate on what is being discussed.

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The next time you take a break, consider having a walking meeting or undertake five minutes of yoga poses or mobility stretching.

19. Develop and strengthen your mindset

When we are faced with tough challenges and feel stuck, Carol Dweck , Psychology Professor at Stanford University advocates the practice of regularly asking ourselves if there are other perspectives and possibilities we cannot see yet.[3]

By asking ourselves this question, we stop thought rumination and downward thought-spiraling, and start activating a part of our brain that helps us claw our way back toward finding solutions.

20. Work with performance psychologists and coaches

Highly productive performers seek the support and help of a team but not just employees and work associates. Collaborating with a coach to develop your future goals and action plans increases your accountability.

The added advantage of working with a performance psychologist means you can understand and uncover unexplained blockages, resistance and behavior that have kept you stuck.

You can develop emotionally intelligent goals as well as mental fitness techniques and strategies to skyrocket your productivity, performance and results.

21. Have less and shorter meetings

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recommends having a meeting of a small number of people, a succinct agenda and closing a one-hour meeting early if the key agenda items are covered in the first 15 minutes.

CEO and Chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance Carlos Ghosn recommends giving people less time than they request for a meeting, saying it drives them to be more effective, punctual and direct with the agenda.

Free up valuable time if you don’t really need the full hour that was scheduled.

22. Become masterful at saying no

When success starts to mound, people take notice and new requests come knocking at your door. As flattering and validating as this is, invitations, requests for help and support can quickly derail you.

Developing several responses which respectfully appreciate but generally explain why you cannot honor those requests will help you maintain good relationships whilst protecting your time, energy and resources. You’ll actually feel good about saying no and keeping your productivity wheels turning.

Focus on one small thing first

After examining the 22 ways productive people reach the top, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed.

The secret to success here is to simply pick one area to focus on at a given time until it has become your second nature.

For example, you might start going to bed an hour early to rise an hour early to do some kind of physical workout activities. Once you have mastered this, you might move on to working on to surrounding yourself with positive productive individuals.

The point here is it takes continuous practice to reach the top.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Malachi Thompson

Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

Stop focusing on the material objects

Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

Plan gifts in advance

We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

Suggest a better way

If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

Here’s what you can do:

Set a healthier pattern

For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

Get a fitness watch

Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy

Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

Try intermittent fasting

This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

Leave bigger intervals between meetings

If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

Plan time to relax

As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

Try to be a little pessimistic

We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

Try waking up earlier

Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

Plan your day the day before

Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

Binge-watching TV series

Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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Running on coffee

Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

Procrastination

Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

5. Stop over-consuming

We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
  • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
  • Can I rent it?
  • Can I make it myself?
  • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

Set your phone on flight mode

When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

The Bottom Line

As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

But this year, promise yourself this:

Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

Reference

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