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8 Habits of highly productive people

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Do you often find yourself procrastinating on tasks or spending hours answering emails? What about those boring, yet important, tasks that never gets done. Having trouble staying motivated and energised throughout the day? Staying focused and getting things done is a real challenge for many of us.

Many leadership coaches agree that you must break up your goals into daily tasks that soon become habits. Being more self-aware and holding yourself accountable is necessary if we want to foster a more productive lifestyle. We have listed below 8 habits that highly productive people usually have.

#1: They follow the 80/20 rule

Focus on the most important tasks first. Don’t spend the most productive time in your morning on emails and responding to messages. Check these after you have completed your important tasks.

Get the most important or demanding things done before lunch. Spend 1-3 minutes each morning looking at your to-do-list and determine the tasks that make up 20% of your list that will produce 80% results. The point is that not everything on your list needs to be done that day.

Exert energy and time on only things that are within your control. Things outside of your sphere of influence, like the weather, people’s feelings, and economic climate, should not take up any of your time.

That said, get good at saying “no”. Say no to pointless tasks, non-profitable projects or commitments and hours spent on tasks that do not generate income, such as socialising every night of the week (unless you earn money socialising, of course) or having marathon phone calls with friends or family. Make time at the end of these activities, after you have done your work.

#2: They create a system

If you are watching this video, you most likely have ingrained productivity-ruining habits. Manage distractions by blocking your days. Set aside a specific 20 minute to 1 hour block, depending on the field most of us need only 20 minutes, to check emails and respond the messages. You set up a block in the morning, afternoon and evening. Although, I have found that I only need a morning and afternoon session.

Don’t schedule meetings first thing in the mornings. Try as much as possible to arrange these meetings after lunch, after you have done your most important tasks of the day. Keep an audit of how focused you are during each block and hold yourself accountable for times when you fall back into procrastination.

Schedule difficult work in the same time slot each day and at a time when you are the most energetic.

Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize tasks that are important for your long-term goals. Categorising tasks into four categories: “urgent and important”, “urgent and not important”, “important and not urgent”, and “not important and not urgent” can help you identify time-sinkers that are not worth the effort. You can also use it to self-audit. Are you spending most of your time completing important and urgent tasks or on tasks that you should be delegating or automating?

Categorising tasks into four categories: “urgent and important”, “urgent and not important”, “important and not urgent”, and “not important and not urgent” can help you identify time-sinkers that are not worth the effort.
Eisenhower Matrix

#3: They don’t multi-task

It has already been proven that switching between tasks reduces your IQ and your ability to concentrate. Simply, don’t do it.

While you are focused on completing tasks, reduce your distractions. This is not a time for checking that new message notification that just came in or taking phone calls. Those messages are not urgent, respond to them during your break or after you have completed your current task. You can return that call on your break as well. Highly productive people are usually harder to contact. Something to bear in mind the next time you stop what you are doing to pick up the phone.

If you are one of those creative people who get ideas for other things while working, have a note pad next to you at all times so that you can jot these ideas down. Write them down as quickly as possible to get back to your task. You can revisit this list later on one of your longer breaks or at the end of the day.

#4: They take more breaks

Most of the time the most important tasks on your to-do-list can appear daunting. Sometimes you really don’t know where to start. This can lead to procrastination by doing less important and even time-sinking activities. A simple way to make your tasks seem more manageable is to break it up into smaller pieces or chunks.

Break up tasks into one-hour blocks and take five-minute breaks every hour. Take a full hour break for meals, especially for lunch and dinner. Taking breaks will keep you feeling energised and fresh for longer as you work through your day.

So, when compiling your to-do-list for the next day, don’t add an item that says, “Write a blog on productivity”. Instead break up the goal into smaller tasks that must be done to complete the larger task. You could write 6 tasks that are related to that one task. For example, “do a keyword search (10 minutes), read a few blogs on the topic (30 minutes), brainstorm more methods I could add (15 minutes), create an outline (5 minutes), break for five then write your blog for 1 hour. Now a daunting task has become more attainable and you also know how much time it is going to take to complete before you even begin working on it.

#5: They wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekend)

Productivity really is a set of habits that are completed daily on a consistent basis. They say that if you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit. The easiest way to successfully change your lifestyle from procrastinating to productive you must be consist. The easiest and most successful way to do this is to reset your biological clock to your new schedule; because where the mind goes, the body follows and the reverse is also true. If your mind is tuned to the new beat of scheduled tasks, breaks, and meal times, sleeping times should also be consistent.

The most productive people wake up at the same time every morning and go to bed at roughly the same time every night. So, do yourself a favour and set yourself up for success by aligning your body and mind to your new habits.

Jogging partners; to be more productive, ensure that your first 2-3 hours each morning are spent nourishing you physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Start your mornings with yourself.

#6: They use the first part of their mornings on themselves

Start your mornings with yourself. Ignore your emails, calendar, and to-do-lists. Exercise, eat a good breakfast, read the paper, meditate, or read a chapter from a book or learn foreign language vocabulary. Ensure your first 2-3 hours each morning are spent nourishing you physically, emotionally and spiritually. This will ensure that you have the necessary fuel and motivation for the day.

#7: They cultivate deep work

Some tasks that you will need to complete can be downright difficult, frustrating and even boring. Yet these are the foundation of your successes. Your ability to manage deep work is the benchmark of productivity.

It is important to understand that is okay and normal to get bored. Expect this and remember that this is a must. Some tasks, especially difficult or important ones, are often frustrating, boring or down right unpleasant. At these moments, we will be tempted to seek distractions. Pay attention to your mood and plough through. Avoid using social media and other entertainment during breaks. Your brain and eyes need regular rest. Get comfortable with doing nothing during your breaks, especially when working on these difficult tasks.

#8: They manage their energy

While it’s important to manage your time, paying attention to your energy levels is even more important.

Stop working one hour before bed. Use this time to wind down, meditate, catch up on your reading or spending time with friends/family. Touching base, even over the phone, with people who care about you and especially if they have an interest in your project, can re-energise you more than meditation or even a good meal. Don’t forsake your community. We are social beings. The most successful people have at least one person supporting them during their journey.

Spend time recharging. Get enough sleep each night, eat well, exercise, meditate, work on a hobby and get plenty of sunshine. Watch your energy levels to ensure that you know when to rest and when to eat more calories. Taking care of yourself should be your number one priority. If you are unwell or depressed you become less productive and we just can’t have that. Remember that “down time” is just as important as your “work time”.

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Taneallea Feddis is the Founder/Managing Director of BlackWall Consultants.

About the Author

Taneallea Feddis,

Founder/Managing Director, BlackWall Consultants

She is an educator, website designer and content marketer.​ She helps entrepreneurs develop their business through coaching and developing their digital strategy. She is passionate about teaching new skills to others, and her goal is to encourage and assist Caribbean businesses with their digital transformation and sharing in their success stories. Click here to learn more about Taneallea Feddis.

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