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8 Things That Separate Outstanding Performers From Average People

8 Things That Separate Outstanding Performers From Average People

There are achievers, and then there are super achievers. These are the people who make stuff happen. They seem unstoppable. That’s not because they’ve never failed; it’s because they don’t let failure become the endpoint. Ready to see your own performance move from mediocre to outstanding? Here’s what to do.

1. You must achieve a level of competence.

Don’t stop because you can’t. Just keep learning until you can. The hours of study, research, practice, and just trying you put in will raise your ability inch by inch. And that’s what you have to do if you want to be a high performer. You don’t let the gap between where you are and where you want to be stop you. You simply consider how to cross the gap, and then do what it takes until you get there.

Consider this insight from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic:

As the legendary Paul Arden (ex creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi) noted: “I want means: if I want it enough I will get it. Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.”. If you really want what you say you want, then, your low confidence will only make you work harder to achieve it — because it will indicate a discrepancy between your desired goal and your current state.

2. You must set goals worth fighting for.

Kriss Carr was only 32 when she was diagnosed with what doctors called an incurable cancer. Rather than accepting this diagnosis, she turned her life around and 10 years later is “thriving with cancer.” Oh, and she’s also running a popular wellness website, is the author of books and documentaries, and is a renowned healthy living expert.

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When it matters, you can push yourself to do it. When you look at your goals and think, “Meh, I don’t really care,” you’re not going to fight your way out of a slump. Why would you? So drop the stuff that doesn’t matter to you and set goals that you truly can’t live without.

3. You must treat others with respect.

There’s no power in disrespecting the people around you. High performers know that showing respect not only opens doors, it also enables you to interact in a way gives you the most focus and clarity in every interaction. As Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack, says,

It’s about being present. You can’t be everywhere for everyone, every time. But if there’s one thing I work tirelessly to do, it’s being present when I am there. There’s nothing worse than a leader who gives you their time but not their focus. (Just like there’s nothing worse than reading a story to my kids at bedtime and having my mind drift off to all the other things I have going on.) Being present is something I focus on every day.

4. You must put in the time.

If you want to reach those life-changing goals, you have to put in the hours. There’s no shortcut here. There’s not happy little spaceship that will whisk you away if you just want it bad enough. If you put in average effort, you’ll get average results.

No, you’re going to have to get there one day at a time by working hard and, well, working long. Various research shows that high performers are people who put in long hours: 60-hour workweeks are commonplace among the successful.

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If you want to be outstanding, you must be committed to doing the work even if it requires long hours. And, most likely, it will.

5. You must define what works for you.

No one else can tell you how to get there from here. And being an outstanding performer means figuring out how to make that leap yourself. Your goals will tell you what you need to do, and then you have to figure out how you can best do it. You also have to figure out what’s too much. When do you need a break? How do you know when you’re overloaded? How can you regain balance? How do you stay connected with those you love while pushing yourself to reach big goals?

Nina Garcia, Creative Director at Marie Claire, says this:

Finding this fine balance is what defines me. Books and magazines make me as do iPads and smartphones. The web has helped me to get in touch and meet new people, but I haven’t forgotten my old friends. I love Twitter, but I also love a real conversation that escapes a 140 character limit. I love to read fashion blogs but nothing can compete with the tactile touch of a haute couture gown.

6. You must think of the future.

Christopher Kane knew when he was just a little boy what he wanted to do. “I’ve always been ambitious, even from a young age,” he says. “I became tunnel vision at around 10 or 11. We got Sky TV and it had all these style programmes and I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer.”

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That long-term vision served him well; he had his own label selling worldwide before he turned 30. When you are thinking of how you want your life to look in 5, 10, 30 years, you get a lot clearer on what is a waste of time today.

Do you really need to read 27 Buzzfeed articles? Come up with another clever status update? See the latest X-Men flick three times? Or could you be doing something different, something that would actually get you to that future you want to have? If you want to actually get there, start doing it.

7. You must put others first.

People who end up at the top have to work hard. They have to focus. They have to say no, sometimes more than they want to. But that doesn’t mean they don’t value others (they do) and they know how to give. Average people try to get as much as they give. High performers give more than they take.

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, says:

Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics. 

8. You must value honesty and transparency.

There’s no substitute for good values. If people learn that you aren’t trustworthy, that’s a lesson they won’t forget. Becoming who you want to be means that you need to start with a strong foundation. That foundation must include a commitment to integrity that you hold fast to, even when you might profit (temporarily) by waffling on your stance or hiding the truth.

Just don’t do it.

As entrepreneur and investor Amy Rees Anderson says,

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching.

Featured photo credit: Mariano Kamp via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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