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10 Underrated Things Productive People Do Differently

10 Underrated Things Productive People Do Differently

Are you ready to be a productive powerhouse of a person? Really? No. You’re probably not ready. Go on back to that average life, with the occasional spurts of productivity followed by the long stretches of doing-nothing-significant.

Wait. What’s that? You’re really tired of that cycle? Are you sure? Because if you really want to be productive (instead of just read about it and talk about it), you’ll need to change. No, not by getting the latest task management app or becoming a calendar ninja.

By doing things differently. By thinking differently. By changing your life in subtle but powerful ways, like these 10 things productive people do differently.

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1. They quit caring about what other people think of their life and choices.

Not in a cool, rebel-without-a-cause kind of way. No, productive people are too busy actually doing stuff to waste time worrying about if other people think they’re cool or not. Who cares if they fit the current definition of cool? Productive people are the ones doing, changing, moving and shaking the world in ways that will change the definition of cool. Want to be productive? Let go of your concern for the opinion of your group, your peers, your buddies, your trendsetters. Let them waste their time chasing what’s cool. You do the stuff that changes the world.

2. They quit trying to make everybody happy a long, long time ago.

In fact, productive people have learned that sometimes it’s really important to say No to making other people happy. Because what makes other people happy is often not what makes you productive. Your friends want you to go out and have some fun with them… every night. Your mom wants you to come visit… every weekend. Your significant other wants more time together, more dates, more romance. Your cat just wants to cuddle.

Look, that’s great, but making everybody happy means that you have no time or energy left to get stuff done. You’ve got to learn to say No. Let your friends and family make their own happiness, while you do what you need to do. Then you can spend time together without any weird, codependent factors messing things up. Yay for healthy relationships that let you be the productive person you can be.

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3. They choose and commit to a few things at a time.

Being a productive person does not mean being a superhero. You’re not here to save the world. You’re here to do your job in it, whatever that job is for you. Maybe it’s writing, maybe it’s designing, maybe it’s inventing, maybe it’s helping in some other capacity. But if your powers are divided between many things, you will not be able to accomplish much of anything. Choose a few areas in your life that matter the most to you, and commit to doing your best at those even if that means letting go of other things.

4. They have a few well-defined priorities.

When productive people commit to a few, well-chosen areas in life, they let those areas define their priorities. Then they let the rest of life go to the non-priority side of things. No, that doesn’t mean that they cut out everything and everyone who isn’t a “high priority.” But it does mean that when there’s a choice to make, between something that is high priority and something that isn’t, the high priority always wins.

5. They choose to do less but do what matters.

When you think of productive people, maybe you picture somebody hammering through a mile-long list of tasks, scratching off a million to-do items by the end of the day. But that’s not really what productivity is about. Productivity is about saying no to the endless list of things that could be done. There is always more to be done, in any area of life: personal, home, relationships, physical, work, hobbies. The task list is endless. But the priority list is short. Productive people tackle a few things, the things that are high priorities, and focus their time and energy on getting that stuff done.

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6. They don’t try to cheat or skip the work.

The world wants a get-rich-quick handbook for life, and there are plenty of those out there. Of course, none of them really work. The really successful people in life know that overnight success comes after months and years of work. Productive people aren’t wasting their time trying to get out of work, or get around work, or figure out how to cheat and get to the front of the line. They just do the work. How much time do you spend trying to refine your systems, streamline your organization, redo your apps, set up your workspace, train your assistant, or otherwise simplify and reduce your workload? It’s not that those things aren’t helpful. Systems, organization, workspace and workflow, help, and overall simplification are great methods and tools. But they don’t replace that part of life where you simply buckle down and do the work. Productive people do the work.

7. They see work differently than you do.

Speaking of work, what’s your attitude toward it? Because your attitude toward work says a lot about how productive you will be, or not. If you’re the average guy or gal, you probably “get through” work so you can get to the fun stuff. That’s fine, but it’s not going to make you a productive person. It’s going to keep you average. Productive people understand that work – whatever it is, whatever it looks like – is a privilege. Work is how we accomplish things. Work is how we change things. Work is how we reach goals. Work is always required for productivity. Whether it’s the work you get paid for, the work you call a career, the work you do for the love of it, or the work you do at home, work is how you make stuff happen. It’s not a burden. It’s not a duty. It’s your right. It’s your power. Your ability to work is your ability to be something, do something, and change your life the way you want.

8. They spend time learning before they start doing.

Productive people know that knowledge is power. When they’ve chosen their focus areas, and they’ve set their priorities, they start doing the research. They find people who know what they need to know and develop relationships. They conduct interviews. They read studies and reports, newspapers and magazines, books and journals. They try and test. They take notes. They think. They develop skills, and then they start doing.

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9. They spend less time planning than you think.

Plans are helpful but they’re not ever going to be error-free. Life changes along the way. Productive people know that a plan is a starting point. A good plan is more like a compass than a roadmap. It’s going to point you in the right direction, but it’s not going to lay out every bridge, road, route, and obstacle you’ll encounter on the way. Productive people take just enough time to put together a decent plan that gives them a starting point and a direction for the goal they’re trying to achieve. Then they start, and they change the plan as needed along the way.

10. They know that risk is inevitable.

Most of us, here in the Land of Average, have this idea that if we do things right, we’ll be safe. We’ll eliminate danger, whether that’s physical danger or financial danger or emotional danger. But that’s simply not true. Nothing you do can ever take the risk out of life. Life is risk. That’s all there is to it. So be like the productive people of the world, and quit wasting your time trying to avoid risk. Instead, be proactive and choose the risks you’re willing to take.

After all, if you are alive, you’re going to be taking risks. You might as well be the one who decides what they are.

Featured photo credit: Quasic via flickr.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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