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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 December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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