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12 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do

12 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do

Do you struggle to get things done? Being highly productive is a skill that everyone should master. It’s not what a productive person does that sets them apart, but often the things highly productive people don’t do. Here’s a list of 12 things you shouldn’t do if you want to become highly productive.

1. They don’t waste time.

Wasting time is the antithesis of productivity. Productive people get things done. The first step to getting things done? Start doing it. Put down the phone, turn off the TV and close down the social networks. All those things can be done when the task at hand is complete. The best way to be a highly productive person is truly simple. Start a task. Finish a task. Don’t waste time before or during.

2. They don’t make excuses.

When something needs to get done, don’t let anything stand in the way. Obstacles are your responsibility to overcome. Plan for them, add cushion in the amount of time to account for them, but in the end, excuses are just obstacles you failed to account for. Learn to anticipate all the possible challenges you may encounter in a task and ensure you have a plan to overcome them. By taking responsibility for the challenges, you won’t need excuses.

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3. They don’t forget deadlines.

Take pride in doing what you set out to do. Highly productive people understand everything they need to accomplish and when they need to accomplish each task by. No matter how small, each task that gets completed on time makes the next, more complex task more likely to completed in a timely manner. So set deadlines, write them down and knock them out. You’ll find you have much more time than you thought and get much more done.

4. They don’t expect help.

Highly productive people control each task and ensure that they have a plan and a back-up plan for each aspect. Depending on others, especially those who haven’t been fully vetted and proven, is one of the pitfalls that can drive a project timeline into the ground. While you will always need to depend on others and use the resources available to you to start at an optimal production level, it’s vital that you ensure that you give those resources ample time, needed motivation, and always have a drop date where you move to plan B. Take help where you can. But never expect it. Ensure that you keep control of your timelines, deadlines and quality, and you’ll be more productive in everything you do.

5. They don’t over-promise.

Productivity is about setting a goal and taking the steps needed to deliver on that goal. When you are over zealous with your goals or over aggressive with your timelines, you open the real possibility of failure. To remain highly productive, it’s paramount that you understand your strengths, weaknesses, and what you can accomplish in a given time. Know you can accomplish what you set out to and ensure you have a plan. By making a conscious effort to understand what you can do, you will minimize opportunities for failure and stay highly productive.

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6. They don’t blame others.

Take pride in what you do and take responsibility for each task, project, and goal you accept. There will be problems, obstacles, and hurdles that you must overcome. The people you depend on may not live up to their end of the bargin. But remember that in the end, you are responsible. Don’t make someone else the scapegoat if you miss a deadline. Take responsibility and learn from the experience. Learn how to utilize your resources and ensure you have a plan if and when they fail. You’ll find that when you take responsibility, you will finish sooner, plan for the obstacles and learn how much to trust.

7. They don’t forget to plan.

Highly productive people know what they are going to do and have a plan to get there. No matter how hard you work, without a plan, you leave more opportunity for failure. Write down your to-do list daily and come up with a plan to accomplish it daily.

8. They don’t stay stagnant.

Highly productive people are always looking for ways to improve their processes. Reading LifeHack is a great start. Finding new, creative ways to accomplish tasks will help you become more productive. Always work to optimize your processes. The more time you save on the little things, the more time you have to finish the big stuff.

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9. They don’t stop learning.

Highly successful people have a thirst for learning. Whether reading books, reading articles, taking classes or finding time for mentoring, a successful person will continually learn and become more educated. Keeping your mind sharp will help you solve problems, allowing you to stay more productive and better able to meet the challenges that you face on a daily basis.

10. They don’t back down.

You will run into problems, encounter obstacles and hit road blocks. Don’t back down! You have the tools to overcome even the toughest problems. Take them head-on, find a solution that fits your abilities and time frame, and start fixing it right away. You’ll learn that there’s nothing too big for you to overcome if you face it head-on.

11. They don’t let failure stop them.

You will fail. But failure is not a reason to stop, rather an incredible reason to move forward. Learn from your failures, find ways to overcome them, and never let them stop you. Even the most productive people fail. But it’s how you deal with failure that separate the truly highly productive people.

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12. They don’t ignore the details.

Often times, when you boil it down, the difference between someone who is productive and unproductive is the details. It’s the small things that make the difference between getting projects done and failing to meet deadlines. Focus on the details and you’ll enjoy more success, and you can truly become a highly productive person.

Featured photo credit: Kris Krug via flickr.com

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Kyle Robbins

Founder, BrandingBeard.com

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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