10 Habits of Productive People


10 Habits of Productive People


Doesn’t it seem that lately to become more productive, we’re told to take time to mindfully meditate, take frequent breaks from our desk, go for walks or workouts during the work day, check emails only a few times a day, and say “no” to and delegate or outsource almost everything?


Come on folks, how are we supposed to get anything done by doing these things? There must be some wisdom to these counterintuitive tips, since they are so prevalent. And there is.


Beethoven rose early, worked only until midday, and took frequent breaks. Ben Franklin followed the plan to record daily successes and frustrations. Maya Angelou separated her work and home life. All great tips, right?


I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I know invest themselves fully and intentionally in working for their daily priorities more than talking about them, do whatever has to be done whether they like it or not, and live by the mantra, “dream, believe, do, repeat.” Many tell me they refuse to allow anyone to tell them their dreams are too big. Simply put, they refuse, by never quitting, to be anything less than completely successful and productive. While the contemporary wisdom is to slow down to speed up, to take more breaks to be more productive, frankly many highly productive leaders have told me they have a “when I open my eyes to when I close my eyes” workday.


Top 3 Myths:

  1. I coach most folks to see the “never stop” approach as the top myth I see that’ll lead to decreased productivity and should not become a regular way of life. Rest does boost creative output and speed of work and many have suggested the “every 90 minute take a break rule” as the most productive to keep your engine going.
  3. Another myth is the “to-do list” approach. Kevin Kruse who wrote “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management,” says that the number three most important thing is to avoid the “to-do list.” “Throw it away and instead schedule everything in your calendar,” he teaches. To-do lists don’t account for time, they don’t distinguish between urgent and important matters, and they may contribute to a stressful feeling.
  5. The third myth I want to highlight is the “get up early and you’ll be highly productive” myth. When Christopher Randler, the biologist, published a study that early risers are more productive, it caught on like wild-fire. It makes intuitive sense. Even the Harvard Business Review began running with the idea. The key is the mindset of the person who wakes up early to get work done. But in a study published in Thinking and Reasoning, “Time of day effects on problem solving: When the non-optimal is optimal,”it was found the key to your productivity is to work the hours that are tailored to your style. Sure if you wake up early or work till the wee hours of the night you’ll have more work hours, but that may not translate into more productivity. Productivity, after all, is about working smarter and having enough self-knowledge about yourself and how you work to produce your best work.

So what’s the most current thinking on developing habits of productivity?

Maybe by using the famous GTD” (getting things done) approach developed by productivity guru David Allen, we can become more prolific, reduce our feelings of being overwhelmed, increase our confidence and build more energy – through control and perspective. His five steps include: capturing what has your attention, clarify what your list means in terms of it being actionable, organizing by putting action reminders on the right lists (calls, errands, emails, etc.), reflecting or revising your lists frequently, and engage or take action with confidence.

Here’s a list of 10 work-related activities that help keep me productive, starting each day with a positive thought and with gratitude for what can go right:

  1. I list my most important tasks that contribute to my primary goals of the day, describing my goals using “SMARTER” language (specific, measureable, actionable, realistic, timely enthusiastically set and revisable), and describe the specific tasks that support my goals. It’s not about being busy; it’s about having impact.
  2. My goals genuinely leave me wanting to jump out of bed every day.
  3. I list tasks and meetings that can be deleted, delegated or redesigned.
  4. I always have an accountability partner with whom I check in.
  5. I do wake early (about 5:15/5:30), and either read, meditate or catch up on overnight emails.
  6. I don’t quit when I’m tired, only when I’m done with what I’ve planned to accomplish that day (“Grind now, shine later.”)
  7. I batch my tasks during the day, when I write, see clients, workout, make phone calls, and prepare presentations.
  8. I follow the mindset that says there are three types of people: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what the heck happened. You can guess which mindset I choose.
  9. I’ve tried several software offerings such as Todoist, and in companies I’ve consulted with, have suggested Desk Time
  10. Ultimately, I create the mindset of fearlessness before beginning a project – when I’m courageous enough to begin, I’m courageous enough to succeed.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has been providing psychological and coaching services for nearly 5 decades and continues to empower positive change among his global clients to enhance life in every way. He is a highly sought-after healthcare professional coach, an executive and team building consultant, and a longtime specialist in cognitive behavioral coaching.

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