Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

25 Tiny Habits That Could Totally Change Your Life 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Give Up So Easily 10 Underrated Things Productive People Do Differently 8 Things That Separate Outstanding Performers From Average People 10 Things A Smart Leader Does To Deal With Non-Performing Employees

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next