Why do some people always seem to get more done? Why can they complete their to-do lists while you're left wondering how you'll ever get things done?
Here's a hint: It's not an accident—they plan for it.
After struggling with procrastination for years, here are five habits I've picked up from highly productive people. But beware: Adopting these habits may result in you getting a lot more things done. So use them at your own risk!
1. Always Work On Outcomes
Every day I write 1,000 words, no matter where I am. Software designer and author Nathan Barry followed this practice for an entire year and ended up with two new books and a huge increase in business.
Prolific artists are the same way. Every day, photographer Thomas Hawk takes and processes dozens of photos every day as part of his long-term quest to complete more than 1 million photos in his lifetime.
To reach your goals, you have to define the specific outcomes you hope to achieve. First, set goals. Then write and build projects with the end in mind. Focus on deliverables, not the time it takes to complete them.
Barry, Hawk and others understand that the time it takes you to complete something is irrelevant. The outcomes are what really matter.
2. Choose Only Two Or Three Priorities Every Day
If everything is important, nothing is important. Even though I work from a long list of tasks—usually 200-plus at any given time—I also know that I have a tendency to do small things at the expense of big things. So every week, I try to identify the two or three big priorities that simply must be done.
The principle of this habit is that if you get anything else done above and beyond the two or three priorities you've set for yourself, it's a bonus—but you can't skip the two or three big things. Also, you can't have more than two or three big things. That's not how it works. Every week, you get a maximum of three.
3. Bring Your Work Everywhere
Chances are, throughout the day, you have lots of little pockets of time. Those 15 minutes between meetings. The train or bus ride to work. The lag or delay in waiting for someone to call you back.
Take advantage of these pockets! Break the tasks on our to-do list into contexts, including things that must be done while you're online, calls to make, errands to run and so on. Then carry your to-do list everywhere, either in print or electronic form, so you can complete some of the tasks during those little pockets of time.
Using the “bring your work everywhere” habit, I've written columns and blog posts in the back of taxis or on budget flights all over the world. If you're not in the habit of jetting off to Sri Lanka or Mozambique, good for you—it will be easier. But understand that you can get things done no matter where you are if you just take advantage of all the minutes in your day.
4. Action, Review, Action, Repeat
Review your list of actions.
Take more actions.
Repeat the process.
Live in this workflow every day. You want to do the right things, but you also want to keep things rolling along.
5. Do What You Love
This one's the most important of all. That's because you'll be the most productive if you enjoy your work, or at least much of it. At the end of the day, do you feel satisfied with the events of the day? Do you have a sense of excitement for what lies ahead tomorrow?
Highly productive people understand that choosing the right kind of work and making their work enjoyable are critical prerequisites to productivity. Sure, we can't do what we want all of the time—but as much as possible, we should aim to align our work with our interests.
Don't wait for productivity to come to you. Adapt these habits, and watch that productivity skyrocket.
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