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10 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do

10 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do

Highly productive people know the art of getting things done — give them any deadline and they will get it completed before you even ask about it. To increase your productivity and get more out of your days, watch out for these 10 things that highly productive people don’t do:

1. They aren’t e-mail warriors

Highly productive people aren’t e-mail warriors. They don’t spend hours every day buried in their inbox, replying to email after email. They recognize that e-mail is simply a correspondence tool, and they spend minimal time managing their inbox so that they can get to the more important work — as opposed to e-mailing as an end to itself.

The truth is that unless you’re in customer service or doing secretarial work, there’s little reason to spend too much time in e-mail. That’s because your job performance isn’t measured by the number of e-mails you send — it’s likely measured by some tangible output (e.g., number of sales closed for a sales person, amount of savings achieved for someone in procurement, engagement statistics for a social media manager) while e-mail is merely a tool to help you achieve that. Think about what you’re assessed on for your job, and work with this end in mind instead.

Watch: 3 Simple Tips To Achieve Inbox Zero

2. They don’t procrastinate

Do you procrastinate? Highly productive people don’t wait till the last minute before they get things done. Rather, they evaluate their to-dos daily, identify their upcoming deadlines, and clear them quickly such that they don’t have to deal with those deadlines later. Doing things at the last minute only gives them stress, causes late nights, and disrupts their schedule the next day, so they know better than to do that.

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If you procrastinate, here are 11 practical ways to stop procrastination.

3. They don’t check Facebook/Twitter 20 times a day

Highly productive people don’t let social media rule their lives. They limit their social media usage — some don’t even care to have an account!

Unless you use social media for your work/business, chances are you don’t need to check Facebook/Twitter multiple times a day. Once a day should be more than enough to be in the loop of what your friends/family are up to — there’s really no need to refresh your Facebook/Twitter newsfeed hourly to see what your friend had for breakfast or to post your 100th selfie for the month. Use the time to do something more constructive.

4. They don’t complain (for too long)

While complaining can be a temporary stress reliever, highly productive people know that complaining doesn’t accomplish anything. They focus on identifying solutions and working on their problems over complaining.

The next time you feel like complaining, use the 15 to 30 minutes to work on your problems instead. Every little step you take, even if little, will go a long way.

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5. They don’t do things based on urgency only

Highly productive people don’t do things based on urgency (or at least, not based on urgency only) — they do things based on their importance. They know that the urgent tasks are distractions from the real big rocks, and it’s by focusing on the other important tasks that usually never become urgent that they will make the real impact.

The problem with most of us is that we don’t prioritize our to-dos — we do whatever comes to mind or whatever comes tops on our to-do list. This usually means doing the urgent stuff first, which is NOT necessarily the important stuff.  In my latest book with Lifehack 10 Rules of Super Productive People, I share the best way to prioritize your to-dos so that you’ll achieve maximum results with minimal effort.

6. They don’t do things without a deadline

Setting timelines (including deadlines) is Rule #2 of 10 Rules of Super Productive People. Highly productive people know that doing things without a deadline is the surefire formula for procrastination and overly-drawn-out projects. Without a deadline, they’ll either take double the time they need to accomplish the project or never complete it. Hence, they always set clear due dates for their goals and tasks, and this includes setting mini-milestones to achieve along the way.

7. They don’t try to do everything themselves

Highly productive people know that they can’t accomplish everything themselves, so they don’t try to do that. They leverage on the help of other people, be it colleagues, managers, agencies, and outsourced contractors, to support them in their work. After all, no man is an island.

8. They don’t waste any time

Highly productive people never allow time to go by wasted. Every little time pocket, even if it’s just five minutes, is important to them. They use stray minutes in their schedule to get something done, and they know that these few minutes, when added together, can bring a huge impact to their productivity.

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9. They don’t just work hard, they work smart too

Highly productive people know that just as it is important to work hard, it is even more important to work smart. So, they find ways to do things easier, with less effort — and if possible, without involving them. Automating, relying on systems, delegating, outsourcing, and hiring employees are different strategies they use to offload work such that they can get to the more important stuff.

10. They don’t work endlessly without rest

Highly productive don’t work endlessly without rest because they know that it’s a surefire way to become burn out. Rather, they pace themselves out and ensure they get adequate rest every day. They know that the path

10 Rules of Super Productive People Book

If you find yourself nodding to the ideas in this post, you’ll love 10 Rules of Super Productive People. Chocked full of practical tips and advice, this book is about the 10 critical principles of productivity that differentiate super productive people from less productive people. From practical how-tos, to concrete tips, to real-life examples, this book will help YOU to achieve your maximum productivity.

Don’t just take my word for it — here’s a feedback from one of my blog readers Lizette who just purchased the book two days ago:

“I bought your book the day before yesterday and feedback as follows: It is probably the best productivity book I’ve read. I found that I was already implementing some of the chapters (as I have been focusing on being more productive anyway) but there were several chapters that I could use to make dramatic changes right away — the one that was the most relevant for me was the section covering using time pockets more effectively.

 

Then I also took to heart a number of other chapters such as the one about sorting out a daily routine that keeps one energized – I have been very patchy about doing this in the past. It is amazing how just quantifying this as a specific activity for productivity, allows me to gain clarity in this regard.”

Grab your copy NOW from the Lifehack Book Store.

How productive are you, on a scale of 1 to 10? Do you commit any of the productivity boo-boos outlined in this post? Share in the comments section.

Featured photo credit: Personal Excellence Quotes via personalexcellence.co

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More by this author

Celestine Chua

Life Coach, Blogger

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

“Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

Creativity also emphasizes values.

“The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

1. Cultivate Focus

In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

How to cultivate focus?

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Take a 20 Minute Walk

Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

2. Build a Structure

When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

How to build a structure?

Create a Morning Routine

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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3. Find Motivation

There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

How to find motivation?

Connect to Your “Why”

Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

How to become an expert?

Make a Mastery Training Plan

Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

3. Review your progress

Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

5. Create a Conducive Environment

A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

“a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

How to create a conducive environment?

Add or Subtract Stimuli

Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

The Bottom Line

Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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