We have all seen or heard about them: people who make working full-time, having a family and running marathons all at the same time look easy. The people who somehow get up at 6:00 am everyday and knock out all of their tasks by noon. These highly productive people might seem superhuman, but actually they are just like you and me, just with better productivity tools in their belt. But those tools aren’t unattainable. In fact, they are surprisingly easy to master.
Below we have compiled nine tips and tricks from some of the world’s most productive people, many of which you can start doing today.
They focus on what matters.
This is especially important for the long-term, which is often what highly productive people focus on, and put all their energy towards. So instead of putting all their time into the small stuff — 80 percent of things — they focus on the other 20 percent. The stuff that easily applies and translates to the big picture.
Set up a routine, and stick with it.
When you set up a routine, and stick with it, it can make your whole day feel easier and more productive. For example, if you always put your clothes out the night before you won’t waste time trying to figure out what you want to wear. While this might not seem like much wasted time, it can throw off your motivation and therefore your productivity. Instead streamline everything, especially the easy stuff like clothes, packing your lunch the night before, and having your bag packed and ready.
Don’t waste, wasted time.
We have all had times during the day that seem like wasted time — waiting for the bus, those couple minutes before a meeting, or god forbid, a two hour delay of your flight. This time might not feel like the best time to work, but actually, according to Robert Pozen, author of “Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours”, this is the perfect time to knock out a few smaller tasks. Need to send an email? Do it while you are waiting for your coffee at Starbucks. Don’t waste those small breaks, instead take advantage of them!
Attend meetings with a purpose.
This one might be a bit difficult, especially since sometimes meetings are entirely out of your control, especially if you are working remotely. Melissa Mizer, founder of MoreSeekers, a coaching firm, says that if a meeting doesn’t hit five key points: they have the right people there, they define roles, they have a stated purpose of the meeting, it has a clear objective and it allows everyone to define next steps and actions, then see if you can miss it. And if you can, instead focus on more important and necessary tasks.
Do the things you don’t want to do.
This might be one of the harder keys to being productive. But sometimes you just have to buckle down and do work that you don’t really want to do. This is usually the number one reason we begin to procrastinate. Don’t want to send that email to your boss? So you watch funny Youtube videos instead. But in the end, what do you get out of that time? Yes maybe a good laugh or two, but not a lot of important work. A good rule of thumb is work first, play later.
They aren’t perfectionists, they are realists.
As crazy as it might sound, don’t be a perfectionist. While this might have sounded good on a resume or cover letter when you were applying for your job, now is the time to realize that perfectionism is not all it’s cracked up to be. Often times it can lead to some pretty negative feelings, including inadequacy, self doubt and a lack of motivation. Alison Kero, founder of ACK Organizing, also believes that perfectionism can lead to procrastination, as well as dread, especially when it comes to big challenging projects. So just as Elsa says in Frozen, “let it go.”
Leave some gaps in your day.
Think of this is buffer time. Because as humans we cannot predict the future and therefore we don’t know what the day will have in store for us. You might get lost heading to a lunch meeting, you might get stuck in horrible traffic, a meeting might run long. So instead of stressing out about it, plan some breaks so it doesn’t mean the end of the world if you are a bit late or running behind. Pozen explains that highly productive people leave gaps for these unforeseen issues, because if your schedule is packed, and one thing goes wrong it can ruin the whole day and likely your productivity.
They multitask wisely.
While there has recently been research that debunks the idea of multitasking, Pozen believe it is imperative for highly productive people. The key is to pair up things wisely and which make sense. For example, please, please don’t try to write a paper or send an email while driving. But you can send an email or write a quick note to yourself while taking a call. Pozen goes on to say that to make multitasking work best, choose two tasks that complement each other: one task is quite important, while the other can be done quickly and with little energy.
They know where to find all the stuff they need.
This doesn’t mean you need dozens of organization apps or everything on your desk to always be in the right place (though some organization wouldn’t hurt). No, it means having at least some kind of system that you understand and which works well for you. If that means an over-the-top amount of folders then so be it. Pozen, who teaches classes as well as holds frequent talks on productivity, makes sure to have folders for all his classes and speaking engagements. That way if he needs to check something real quick, or just add a fun news-clipping for relevancy, he can with no issues or stress.
Highly productive people are not some otherworldly figure. They are humans just like you and me. The only difference is they know how to play the system and get the most out of their day, every day.