What makes people productive and successful?
Luck? Wealth? Connections? Hard work and good habits? We like to think: a little bit of the first and a lot of the last one. The rest is just a Pyrrhic victory.
When it comes to the habits of successful people, there truly is a lot to talk about. Barack Obama likes to work out in the morning, but he feels most productive in the evening. Mark Zuckerberg wastes no time on his outfits: he wears the same thing every day. Bill Gates, who has been the richest man on Earth for a long time, has always stuck to the habit of being conservative with spending money.
The habits of productive people vary depending on their personalities, backgrounds, goals, or areas of influence. A president, a scientist, an influencer, and a businessman measure success by the different parameters. However, we can say that there are some universal habits of productive people.
If you’d like to find out what they are, stay tuned, as we’re about to delve into the world of highly productive people.
Habits of Productive People
So, what is it that they do? Entrepreneurs, artists, parents and employees of the year? It all comes down to these 10 amazing habits.
Productive People Have a Nice Morning Routine
Mornings are the most important part of the day for our productivity; even science says so. Even if you feel like you’re not the morning type of person, you can still have a productive morning routine.
What does that mean?
Well, instead of snoozing your alarm, or grabbing your phone to read messages and scroll through notifications first thing in the morning, you could take some time to do something that’s actually good for your brain and body, like reading a book, exercising, practicing self-care, journaling, preparing a healthy meal, or doing something that makes you genuinely happy, such as spending time with your family or making origami birds (why not?).
If you’re not sure how to build a productive morning routine, head over to our blog and check out the Morning Routine to Boost Productivity.
Productive People Keep It Positive
If you watched Mimi Ikonn’s video above, you may have noticed how she does a lot of things in the morning that gear her towards positivity: she cuddles with her partner, fills out her gratitude journal, meditates, dances all the time, and smiles.
Preserving a positive outlook is very important for your productivity levels. By feeling enthusiastic, positive, and joyful, you find the energy to do amazing things.
So, how do you keep it positive? Here are a few tips:
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude is perhaps one of the simplest, yet one of the most underappreciated positivity practices. Being honestly grateful for something in your life is a truly calming and profound state of being.
The leading researcher on gratitude, Robert Emmons, claims that practicing gratitude in the form of keeping a gratitude journal can not only make us happier but also it can:
- Strengthen our immune system;
- Lower our overall stress perception;
- Lower our blood pressure;
- Motivate us to exercise more regularly;
- Make us more alert and focused;
- Make us more sociable.
Many famous and successful people use gratitude journals: Tony Robbins, Oprah, Tim Ferriss. It just makes them feel right.
The Five Minute Journal can be an excellent addition to your morning and evening routine. You only need five minutes to fill it out; wake up, stretch, and take your pencil and your diary.
The Five Minute Journal is a guided, structured diary that helps you focus on the good even when you’re not inspired and feeling blue. Find out about the 11 celebrities who all proudly use The Five Minute Journal to express their gratitude for the amazing life they live.
If you don’t know much about gratitude journals, check out our Ultimate Gratitude Journal Guide.
Practice Positive Affirmations
Practicing positive affirmations every day after waking up is one of many habits of successful people that helps nurture positivity.
Positive affirmations have numerous benefits. They help you maintain high self-esteem, optimism, and a generally positive outlook on life.
Just pick an area in your life where you feel like you could use some reassuring and create a positive statement. For example:
- I will pass this exam.
- I am successful in my job.
- I am a good and empathetic parent.
- I am a person worth loving.
Repeat it several times in the mirror, or write it down in your journal. Try to really feel that and continue your day in that light. Read more about the power of positive affirmations on our blog.
Productive People Know Their Priorities and Excel at Time-Management
Knowing your priorities is all about properly estimating what needs to be done first.
- Something you hate doing?
- Something you like doing?
- Something that has the closest deadline?
- Something that’s very important for achieving your goal?
Any of these can win, depending on the current state of things, however, you need to learn how to make that decision.
Prioritization is the first step towards good time management. Knowing what needs to be done first, how difficult it is, and how much time it requires to do it allows you to properly organize your days.
So how do you prioritize? Here are some simple tricks.
Create a Master To-Do List
Just shove everything you need to do over there. It could be an excel doc or a word doc, or some kind of a to-do list app.
Once they’re all there, create a priority matrix.
Create a Priority Matrix
Making a decision on what’s really important for today can be really difficult. That’s why Mr. Steven Covey came up with this amazing matrix:
Try fitting all of your tasks into this table. Once you have that done, everything that falls into the first quadrant (important + urgent) is your priority.
If there’s more than one thing there, you need to pick your most important task of the day.
Most Important Task for the Day
What should your MIT be? According to Leo Babuta from ZenHabits, your MIT should be somehow related to your goal, and also, you should do it first thing in the morning while you’re focused and wide awake.
Building awareness of what’s important for them today is one of the most valuable habits of successful people.
The Productivity Planner
Once you got all this resolved, it’s time to fill out your Productivity Planner. This life-changing tool is designed according to prioritization, the MIT, and perfect time-management principles.
At the beginning of every week, you need to plan out your tasks. Then, you switch to the daily level planning.
Every day you need to pick and name one MIT. That’s your main goal for that day. The rest of the tasks in your Productivity Planner are tasks of secondary importance and present additional tasks. You only do these tasks if you’re done with the MIT.
The Productivity Planner accounts for time management as well. It incorporates the best time-management technique: the Focus Time Technique.
With the Focus Time Technique, you are required to break your tasks into 30-minute working sessions followed by a 5-minute break. Why? Because short working sessions are perfect for keeping good focus through longer hours. After every completed Focus Time session, you take a pen and color a little circle in The Productivity Planner, next to the task you’re working on. After collecting four circles you’re good to take a longer 20 or 30-minute break. It’s like a game, right?
At the end of each week and day, it’s time to reflect. What was great about this day? What could you have done better? Did you assign yourself too many tasks? Were your estimations on how much time it takes for you to finish something too ambitious? How are you going to improve your productivity the next day or week with this knowledge?
The Productivity Planner is pretty easy to use, however, if you want to get maximum efficiency from it, consider taking a peek at some of these articles from our blog:
Engage Into Self-Care
If you think that one of the most important habits of productive people is work, work, and more work, that’s where you’re wrong.
What happens if you live that life?
Well, it usually starts with burn-out syndrome. The word says it all: it’s as if you’d force your computer to just constantly work without ever turning it off. It wouldn’t take too long before you’d notice that the processor is warming up really fast, that the computer is slowing down, or even producing unwanted outputs.
Similar things happen to us when we get overworked. The burn-out syndrome has consequences and it puts our physical health at risk. We can develop cardiac symptoms, gastro-intestinal, or other stress-related symptoms. Moreover, our mental health slowly drains, leading to anxiety and depression due to stress and a lack of sense in life.
If you want to truly be productive, you need to take care of yourself.
Self-care is not just about bubble-baths, massages, or doing your evening skincare routine before going to bed. Although, it can be that too. Here are some ideas on what you can do to engage more deeply in self-care.
As we already mentioned, meditation has immense benefits for both your productivity levels and your mental and physical health.
Only five minutes of meditation per day can change so much. You’ll become calmer, more positive, more self-aware, gain better focus, and have more energy.
Regular exercise will not only contribute to your overall physical health, but your mental health as well. When we work out we release endorphins—the happy chemicals. We also let go of stress and build confidence. Although it’s hard to get through that first week, or finally reach that Monday when you’ll actually start, your brain and body will be grateful once you engage in physical activities.
Organize Regular Medical Check-Ups
The golden rule of maintaining good health is prevention. Don’t wait to see a doctor only when you’ve already developed symptoms. Systematic check-ups are a must-do if you want to maintain a good physical state.
Keep a Journal
Gratitude journal, narrative journal, reflective journal… whatever keeps you engaged. Journaling has immense positive self-care effects:
- Reflecting on your actions, important situations, and relations;
- Building a constructive habit;
- Collecting memories.
Successful people don’t sweep things under the rug: they share, analyze, reflect, and learn.
Get Enough Sleep
Let’s start with simple empirical reasons why everyone should get enough good night’s sleep. How do you feel after one week of sleeping less than 5 hours per night? Have you ever even been in that situation? Do you faint into a 12-hour sleeping marathon after three days of deprivation (which is perfectly normal, by the way)?
If you want to be productive, you need to recharge. Here’s why:
- Sleeping keeps your heart healthy;
- Sleeping strengthens your immune system;
- Sleeping makes you more alert and focused;
- Sleeping helps you cope with stress;
- Sleeping improves your memory;
- And so much more.
Six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, consistently, should do the trick for anyone.
Build a Growth Mindset
To explain what a growth mindset is, we should first start with the opposite concept: a fixed mindset.
These concepts were formulated by Carol Dweck, a famous Stanford University psychologist. According to her, people who “suffer” from a fixed mindset believe that intelligence, talent, creativity, skills, or character are unchangeable, static givens. Whatever you were born with—that’s it. They don’t even try to reach for something new or innovative, as they believe it will end up in disappointment and shame.
However, this isn’t true. Just like you can train yourself to run a marathon, you can change your character and you can develop new intellectual qualities, capabilities, or any other skills.
Believing that this is possible is what she calls a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset are not afraid to try something new. They don’t fear failure or mistakes, because they don’t see them as pitfalls, but rather as opportunities or valuable lessons.
This type of mindset is something you can cultivate and nurture. Learn how in this article from our blog.
Spend Meaningful Time with Your Friends, Family, and Yourself
Taking care of yourself can also mean spending time with people you love and who make you happy. Having long and inspiring conversations with your mom, playing with your kid, shopping with your brother or sister, or hanging out with your firends; all of these activities make us feel more complete and make our lives more meaningful.
Also, make yourself your own friend. Having a weekend to yourself in a spa, in nature, or at home in bed with a book can be very relaxing. How often do you spend time by yourself, writing, cooking, engaging in creative activities, or planting something? If the answer is “not very often”, give it a shot from time to time. A deeper connection with oneself is an excellent productivity boost.
Productive People Automate Menial Tasks
Do you still pay your bills in the bank? Send emails manually to your customers/clients? Open Facebook or Instagram every time you want to make a new post? Maintain your computer manually? Search for documents and files for half an hour because you don’t know how you named them and where you put them?
You can save your time by automating some of these processes. Here’s how:
- Use online banking and apps for automating your finances and bills.
- Organize and label files and folders in your computers based on logic, so it’s easy to find everything you search for.
- Instead of manually posting on your business social media accounts, schedule multiple posts in advance (Facebook Creators Studio can help you with that).
- Run your antivirus and CCleaner on a schedule, so you don’t have to do it manually.
- Split your house chores into minor daily steps so you never get overwhelmed by them.
- Use Mailchimp or Gmail’s services for email automation.
Productive People Can Delegate
Doing everything by yourself is as counterproductive as overworking (and usually connected with it). Delegating tasks can get much off your plate and let you have a more productive day.
However, according to Dr. Scott Williiams, delegating is much more than just that.
- It allows the people who receive delegated tasks to learn new skills;
- It communicates trust and respect;
- Shows that you’re confident and not self-centered.
So, which tasks should you delegate to others? Here’s a list:
- Those you’re bad at;
- Tiny tasks;
- Tedious tasks;
- Teachable tasks;
- Time-sensitive tasks.
And, how to delegate tasks properly?
Well, this requires some additional work: knowing your team very well.
- Choose the right person for the job: know their strengths, abilities, and preferences, and delegate in accordance with it.
- Tell them why you chose them and why you’re delegating in the first place. That’s how you help people grow.
- Explain how to complete the task, or provide training if necessary.
- Delegate responsibility together with the task. That way, the person is not just “doing stuff for you”, it’s their job and responsibility, and their credit if they do it well.
- Give honest feedback. Always.
- Say thank you.
Delegating is among the best habits of productive people. It doesn’t only give them more power over their time, but it also brings them closer to their colleagues and helps them form a stronger team.
Productive People Know How and When to Say “No”
Why is saying “No” the ultimate productivity hack? Because not doing something is always faster than doing it.
This may sound funny, but it’s useful for those people who don’t know how to reject offers or friendly invitations because they don’t want to seem rude.
However, there’s always a way to be assertive rather than aggressive or rejecting.
Saying “No” is often seen as a privilege: only those with an established status in the field can reject low-paid work because they’re sure they’ll receive a better offer. As well as those who already have a high-paying job they want to change: they don’t have to settle for less. However, if you manage to overcome the fear of not having a safety net, saying “No” might just be your recipe for success.
Saying “No” sets boundaries. It shows confidence. It shows you know how much you're worth. Or that you value your time.
When it comes to rejecting your friends and family for fun events, it sends a different message than rejecting a low-paying job offer, of course. However, even in those cases, it’s possible to do it pain-free; just be honest and, if possible, reschedule.
Productive People Have Plan B/C/D Ready… in Case Something Goes Wrong
The word “wrong” may sound a bit negative. Who wants to think about things collapsing when their lives are going uphill?
However, preventative thinking is not the same as negative thinking. Getting too carried away without accounting for possible negative outcomes can cost you a lot. Just rewind this year:
How many amazing plans have you had? How many of them did you realize exactly the way you wanted?
This year, the whole world had to figure out a plan B. And then plan C and D. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to plan ahead and have alternative options.
Not accounting for the possibility of a last-minute meeting, forgetting to schedule tasks, your kid suddenly getting sick, or underestimating the amount of time necessary for a task is called planning fallacy. It happens to everyone. The only difference between more and less successful people is that the latter acknowledge and account for it.
The scientific reason behind this misestimation is that we don’t account for unpredictable things that happen spontaneously along the way. How long does it take for you to go grocery shopping? Twenty minutes? But what if you drop the bag on your way back and have to collect oranges from the street? Run into a friend? Decide to buy flowers? Do you account for that?
One of these amazing, yet so simple habits of productive people is that they account for an additional hour or two, even an additional day or two, for these unpredictable events. That way, they can quickly adapt to new circumstances and still stick to their schedule.
Just like with self-care: prevention is better than cure.
Wrapping It Up
Although it may seem that success is more about fixed traits like intelligence, personality, or the background you were born in, the reality is quite different. It’s all about building productive habits. The habits of successful people can vary, but some things remain the same.
- Successful people have a productive morning routine (even if they’re not a morning person);
- They nurture a positive mindset through positive activities, such as keeping a gratitude journal or practicing positive affirmations;
- They know how to prioritize and have excellent time management;
- They engage in self-care;
- They automate menial tasks and aren’t afraid to delegate;
- They plan for the unplanned time-consuming events.
We hope this article inspired you to action. Which of these habits will you implement first? Do you have a morning routine already? Can you make it more productive? What do you do to take care of yourself? Do you see your doctor regularly? Are you going to download some automation apps, or have a meeting with your colleagues to restructure your obligations? How do you plan to insert some positivity into your life? Do you like the concept of The Five Minute Journal?
For more inspiration, visit the Productivity section on our blog.