This is a guest post by Marc Chernoff of Marc and Angel Hack Life. He is a professional coach, full-time student of life, admirer of the human spirit, and has been recognized by Forbes as having “one of the most popular personal development blogs.” Get on his email list so you can identify and transform the limiting thoughts and beliefs that keep you stuck.
“Time is truly the only wealth that any human being has, and the only thing we can’t afford to lose.”
– Thomas Edison
When it comes to being productive, we all face the same fundamental challenge – there are only 24 hours in a day. Yet some people seem to have 10X the time – they have this mysterious knack for getting incredible things done at lightning speed. Even when unanticipated challenges arise, they achieve results without fail.
Over the past decade, Angel and I have studied the lives of dozens of exceptionally productive people. We’ve read their books, watched their interviews, interviewed them ourselves, worked with them, and researched them extensively. We’ve truly learned a lot from their life stories. But above all, we’ve learned that all of these people were not born with a “productive” gene. They simply do things that help them realize their full potential every day. In other words, they follow a set of productive rituals.
With the right focus, you can build these productive rituals into your life too. Here are seven we highly recommend you steal from the most productive people we know:
1. Focus on the right tasks, and eliminate the rest
Productive people don’t get more done by blindly working more hours on everything that comes up. Instead, they get more done when they follow careful plans that measure and track key priorities and milestones. So if you want to be more successful and less stressed, don’t ask how to make something more efficient until you’ve first asked, “Do I need to do this at all?”
Simply being able to do something well does not make it the right thing to do. I think this is one of the most common problems with a lot of time-management advice; too often productivity gurus focus on how to do things quickly, but the vast majority of things people do quickly should not be done at all.
2. Only use high quality tools
While we’re on the topic of focusing on the right things, make sure the only tools you’re using are the only ones you truly need. There’s no point in keeping low quality tools around. For instance, trying to cut through a thick piece of fresh lumber with an old, dull handsaw would be a pretty foolish endeavor. You would have to work extremely hard to make the even the slightest impact. This very same principle applies to everything in life.
Don’t let inefficiency defeat you. If the tools in your toolbox don’t fit the requirements of the job, find someone who has the right tools and barter with them, hire them, invite them into the process of what you’re trying to achieve. Possessing the right tools (and skills) can easily shrink a mountainous task into a miniscule molehill. With a good idea, determination, and the right tools, almost anything is possible.
3. Be ruthless about eliminating distractions
Once you know you’re actually working on the right things, and you’ve got the right tools to do the job, eliminating all distractions for a set time while you work is one of the most effective ways to get things done.
So, lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, close your email application, disconnect your internet connection, etc. You can’t remain in hiding forever, but you can be twice as productive while you are. Do whatever it takes to create a quiet, distraction free environment where you can focus on your work.
4. Mindfully focus on the positive
As Shawn Achor describes in his book The Happiness Advantage, a recent scientific study showed that doctors who are put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis consistently experience significant boosts to their intellectual abilities than doctors in a neutral state, which allows them to make accurate diagnoses almost 20% faster. The same study then shifted to other vocations and found that optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by over 50%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math tests substantially outperform their neutral peers.
So it turns out that our minds are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative, or even neutral, but when they are positive.
5. Invest a little time to save a lot of time
How can you spend a little time right now in order to save a lot of time in the future?
Think about the tasks you perform over and over throughout a workweek. Is there a more efficient way? Is there a shortcut you can learn? Is there a way to automate or delegate it? Perhaps you can complete a particular task in 20 minutes, and it would take two hours to put in place a more efficient method. If that 20-minute task must be completed every day, and a two-hour fix would cut it to 5 minutes or less each time, it’s a fix well worth implementing. A simple way of doing this is to use technology to automate tasks (email filters, automatic bill payments, etc.). Also, teaching someone to help you and delegating work is another option.
Bottom line: The more you automate and delegate, the more you can get done with the same level of effort.
6. Simplify whatever you can, whenever you can
As E.F. Schumacher once said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
Simplifying is not seeing how little you can get by with – that’s poverty – but how efficiently you can put first things first, and use your time accordingly to pursue the things that make a lasting difference in your life. Less really is more. Instead of adding, improve your life by subtracting. Get rid of unnecessary clutter, negative influences and toxic relationships. There is a big difference between what you want and what you need – between what’s excessive and what’s essential.
7. Focus on being present and keeping an open mind
If you think being exceptionally productive (or successful) has anything to do with luck, this final point is for you…
A study by psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman surveyed a bunch of people to find out who considered themselves lucky or unlucky. Wiseman gave both the “lucky” and the “unlucky” people a newspaper and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside. He found that on average the unlucky people took two minutes to count all the photographs, whereas the lucky ones determined the number in a few seconds.
How could the lucky people do this? Because they noticed a message on the second page that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” So why didn’t the unlucky people see it? Because they were so intent on rushing to count all the photographs that they didn’t even bother to read the message.
When people are rushing through life, and not mentally present, they miss powerful opportunities that can significantly improve their effectiveness. Lucky (effective) people are more relaxed, present and open, and therefore they see what is there rather than seeing only what they are looking for. Unlucky (ineffective) people do the opposite. They go to parties with the sole intent of finding their perfect partner, and so they miss opportunities to make good friends or meet people who might be able to help them in their careers or businesses. They look through job listings determined to find specific jobs, and overlook great openings.
In the real world, you’ve got opportunities all around you. If your mind is scattered or closed, you’re not going to spot them. Being present and open allows you to see what’s really around and maximize the potential of what’s right under your nose.
What else would you add to the list? What’s one quiet ritual that has helped you or someone you know be more productive? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
Do you want to see our Rituals System? We have a free workshop that shows you how you can build good habits and stick to them with our 4-Step Rituals System. Click here to register for the next available workshop – it’s completely free.
Author Bio: This is a guest post by Marc Chernoff of Marc and Angel Hack Life. He is a professional coach, full-time student of life, admirer of the human spirit, and has been recognized by Forbes as having “one of the most popular personal development blogs.” Get on his email list so you can identify and transform the limiting thoughts and beliefs that keep you stuck.
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