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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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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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