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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 September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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