6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day

Source: businessinsider.com ~ Author: Eric Barker

eric barker image
Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com ~ 6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People do Everyday by Eric Barker

Ever feel like you’re just not getting enough done?

Know how many days a week you’re actually productive?

About three:

People work an average of 45 hours a week; they consider about 17 of those hours to be unproductive (U.S.: 45 hours a week; 16 hours are considered unproductive).

We could all be accomplishing a lot more — but then again, none of us wants to be a workaholic, either.

It’d be great to get tons doneand have work-life balance. But how do we do that? I decided to get some answers.

And who better to ask than Tim Ferriss, author of the international bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek.

(Tim’s blog is here and his podcast is here.)

Below are six tips Tim offered, the science behind why they work, and insights from the most productive people around.

1. Manage Your Mood

Most productivity systems act like we’re robots – they forget the enormous power of feelings.

If you start the day calm it’s easy to get the right things done and focus.

But when we wake up and the fray is already upon us — phone ringing, emails coming in, fire alarms going off — you spend the whole day reacting.

This means you’re not in the driver’s seat working on your priorities; you’re responding to what gets thrown at you, important or not.

Here’s Tim:

I try to have the first 80 to 90 minutes of my day vary as little as possible. I think that a routine is necessary to feel in control and nonreactive, which reduces anxiety. It therefore makes you more productive.

Research shows how you start the day has an enormous effect on productivity, and you procrastinate more when you’re in a bad mood.

Studies demonstrate happiness increases productivity and makes you more successful.

As Shawn Achor describes in his book The Happiness Advantage:

Doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.

So think a little less about managing the work and a little more about managing your moods.

(For more on how to be happier, go here.)

So what’s the first step to managing your mood after you wake up?

2. Don’t Check Email In The Morning

To some people this is utter heresy. Many can’t imagine not waking up and immediately checking email or social-media feeds.

I’ve interviewed a number of very productive people and nobody said, “Spend more time with email.”

Why is checking email in the morning a cardinal sin? You’re setting yourself up to react.

An email comes in and suddenly you’re giving your best hours to someone else’s goals, not yours.

You’re not planning your day and prioritizing; you’re letting your objectives be hijacked by whoever randomly decides to enter your inbox.

Here’s Tim:

Whenever possible, do not check email for the first hour or two of the day. It’s difficult for some people to imagine. “How can I do that? I need to check email to get the information I need to work on my most important one or two to-dos?”

You would be surprised how often that is not the case. You might need to get into your email to finish 100% of your most important to-dos. But can you get 90% done before you go into Gmail and have your rat brain explode with freak-out, dopamine excitement and cortisol panic? Yes.

Research shows email:

  1. Stresses you out.
  2. Can turn you into a jerk.
  3. Can be more addictive than alcohol and tobacco.
  4. And checking email frequently is the equivalent of dropping your IQ 10 points.

Is this really how you want to start your day?

(For more on how to avoid the email trap and spend time wisely go here.)

Great, so you know what not to do. But a bigger question looms: What should you be doing?

3. Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All

Everyone asks, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” But the answer is stunningly easy:

You’re doing too many things.

Want to be more productive? Don’t ask how to make something more efficient until after you’ve asked “Do I need to do this at all?

Here’s Tim:

Doing something well does not make it important. I think this is one of the most common problems with a lot of time-management or productivity advice; they focus on how to do things quickly. The vast majority of things that people do quickly should not be done at all.

It’s funny that we complain we have so little time and then we prioritize like time is endless. Instead, do what is important … and not much else.

But is this true in the real world?

Research shows CEOs don’t get more done by blindly working more hours, they get more donewhen they follow careful plans:

Preliminary analysis from CEOs in India found that a firm’s sales increased as the CEO worked more hours. But more intriguingly, the correlation between CEO time use and output was driven entirely by hours spent in planned activities. Planning doesn’t have to mean that the hours are spent in meetings, though meetings with employees were correlated with higher sales; it’s just that CEO time is a limited and valuable resource, and planning how it should be allocated increases the chances that it’s spent in productive ways.

(For more ways to save time go here.)

OK, you’ve cleared the decks. Your head is serene, you’ve gotten the email monkey off your back and you know what you need to do.

Now we have to face one of the biggest problems of the modern era: How do you sit still and focus?

4. Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions

Ed Hallowell, former professor at Harvard Medical School and bestselling author of Driven to Distraction, says we have “culturally generated ADD.”

Has modern life permanently damaged our attention spans?

No. What you do have is more tantalizing, easily accessible, shiny things available to you 24/7 than any human being has ever had.

The answer is to lock yourself somewhere to make all the flashing, buzzing distractions go away.

Here’s Tim:

Focus is a function, first and foremost, of limiting the number of options you give yourself forprocrastinating… I think that focus is thought of as this magical ability. It’s not a magical ability. It’s put yourself in a padded room, with the problem that you need to work on, and shut the door. That’s it. The degree to which you can replicate that, and systematize it, is the extent to which you will have focus.

What’s the best way to sum up the research? How about this: Distractions make you stupid.

And a flood of studies shows that the easiest and most powerful way to change your behavioris to change your environment.

Top CEOs are interrupted every 20 minutes. How do they get anything done?

By working from home in the morning for 90 minutes where no one can bother them:

They found that not one of the twelve executives was ever able to work uninterruptedly more than twenty minutes at a time—at least not in the office. Only at home was there some chance of concentration. And the only one of the twelve who did not make important, long-range decisions “off the cuff,” and sandwiched in between unimportant but long telephone calls and “crisis” problems, was the executive who worked at home every morning for an hour and a half before coming to the office.

(For more on how to stop procrastinating go here.)

I know what some of you are thinking: I have other responsibilities. Meetings. My boss needs me. My spouse calls. I can’t just hide.

This is why you need a system.

5. Have A Personal System

I’ve spoken to a lot of insanely productive people. You know what none of them said?

“I don’t know how I get stuff done. I just wing it and hope for the best.”

Not one. Your routines can be formal and scientific or personal and idiosyncratic — but either way, productive people have a routine.

Here’s Tim:

Defining routines and systems is more effective than relying on self-discipline. I think self-discipline is overrated.

Allowing yourself the option to do what you have not decided to do is disempowering and asking for failure. I encourage people to develop routines so that their decision-making is only applied to the most creative aspects of their work, or wherever their unique talent happens to lie.

Great systems work because they make things automatic, and don’t tax your very limited supply of willpower.

What do we see when we systematically study the great geniuses of all time? Almost all hadpersonal routines that worked for them.

(“Give and Take” author Adam Grant consistently writes in the mornings while Tim always writes at night.)

How do you start to develop your own personal system? Apply some 80-20 thinking:

  1. What handful of activities are responsible for the disproportionate number of your successes?
  2. What handful of activities absolutely crater your productivity?
  3. Rearrange your schedule to do more of No. 1 and to eliminate No. 2 as much as possible.

(For more on the routines geniuses use to be productive click here.)

So you’re all set to wake up tomorrow with a system and not be reactive. How do you make sure you follow through on this tomorrow? It’s simple.

6. Define Your Goals The Night Before

Wake up knowing what is important before the day’s pseudo-emergencies come barging into your life and your inbox screams new commands.

Here’s Tim:

Define your one or two most important to-dos before dinner, the day before.

Best-selling author Dan Pink gives similar advice:

Establish a closing ritual. Know when to stop working. Try to end each workday the same way, too. Straighten up your desk. Back up your computer. Make a list of what you need to do tomorrow.

Research says you’re more likely to follow through if you’re specific and if you write your goals down.

Studies show this has a secondary benefit: writing down what you need to do tomorrowrelieves anxiety and helps you enjoy your evening.

(For more information on setting and achieving goals click here.)

So how does this all come together?

Summing Up

Here are Tim’s 6 tips:

  1. Manage Your Mood
  2. Don’t Check Email in The Morning
  3. Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
  4. Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
  5. Have A Personal System
  6. Define Your Goals The Night Before

The word “productivity” sounds like we’re talking about machines. But the funny thing is that much of being truly good with time is about feelings.

How should you strive to feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research shows this is when people are happiest.

I couldn’t have written this without the help of Tim Ferriss and Adam Grant. Both volunteered their very valuable time.

Was that a waste on their part? They definitely won’t get those minutes back.

Helping others takes time but research shows it makes us feel like we have more time. And it makes us happier

Once you are more productive, you’ll have a lot more hours to fill. So why not use them to make others and yourself happier?

8 things the world’s most successful people all have in common

Source: theweek.com ~ Author: Eric Barker

Media tycoon, TV host, actress, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient — Yeah, Oprah's pretty busy. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Media tycoon, TV host, actress, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient — Yeah, Oprah’s pretty busy. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

 

I’ve posted a lot about the strategies of very successful people: artists, scientists, business leaders…

Looking back, what patterns do we see?

Busy, busy

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, examines the work habits of over 150 of the greatest writers, artists, and scientists.

What did they all have in common? A relentless pace of work.

“Sooner or later,” Pritchett writes, “the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.” [Daily Rituals: How Artists Work]

What did Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer find when he looked at high achievers like LBJ andRobert Moses?

Sixty to 65 hour work weeks were not uncommon.

In a study of general managers in industry, John Kotter reported that many of them worked 60 to 65 hours per week–which translates into at least six 10-hour days. The ability and willingness to work grueling hours has characterized many powerful figures… Energy and strength provide many advantages to those seeking to build power. [Managing With Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations]

When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied geniuses for his book Creativity, he realized something fascinating about IQ. No one who changed the world had an IQ under 130 — but the difference between 130 and 170 was negligible. As long as you were past the 130 IQ threshold, it was all about how hard you worked. (More on the work habits of geniuses here.)

Just say no

Warren Buffett once said:

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.

And that’s what gives them the time to accomplish so much.

In Creativity, Csikszentmihalyi makes note of the number of high achievers who declined his request to be in the book. Why did they say no? They were too busy with their own projects to help him with his.

Achievement requires focus. And focus means saying “no” to a lot of distractions.

Know what you are

In his classic essay “Managing Oneself,” Pete Drucker is very clear: ignore your weaknesses and keep improving your strengths.

In identifying opportunities for improvement, don’t waste time cultivating skill areas where you have little competence. Instead, concentrate on — and build on — your strengths. [“Managing Oneself“]

This means knowing who you are, what you are and what you are good at. Harvard professorGautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, says this is key for leaders:

More than anything else, “Know thyself.” Know what your type is. … Think about your own personality… For instance, if you are a classic entrepreneur, you can’t work in an organization. Know that. [Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter]

(More on knowing your strengths here.)

Build networks

Nobody at the top of the heap goes it alone. And those at the center of networks benefit the most.

Paul Erdos is the undeniable center of the mathematics world. Ever heard of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”? Paul Erdos is the Kevin Bacon of math.

This is no exaggeration. In fact, it’s barely a metaphor — it’s just fact.

How did he become the center of the math world?

He was a giver.

I’ve posted a lot about networking and as great networkers like Adam Rifkin advise, Paul Erdos gave to others. He made those around him better.

He knew better than you yourself knew what you were capable of… He gave the confidence that many of us needed to embark on mathematical research. [The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth]

(More on networking here.)

Create good luck

Luck isn’t magical — there’s a science to it.

Richard Wiseman studied lucky people for his book Luck Factor, and broke down what they do right. Certain personality types are luckier because they behave in a way that maximizes the chance for good opportunities. By being more outgoing, open to new ideas, following hunches, and being optimistic, lucky people create possibilities.

Does applying these principles to your life actually work? Wiseman created a “luck school” to test the ideas — and it was a success.

In total, 80 percent of people who attended Luck School said that their luck had increased. On average, these people estimated that their luck had increased by more than 40 percent. [Luck Factor]

(More about creating luck here.)

Have grit

Intelligence and creativity are great but you can’t quit when the going gets tough if you really want to accomplish anything big.

That’s grit. Perseverance. And it’s one of the best predictors of success there is.

The best predictor of success, the researchers found, was the prospective cadets’ ratings on a noncognitive, nonphysical trait known as “grit” — defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” [Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us]

Researchers have found that grit exists apart from IQ and is more predictive of success than IQ in a variety of challenging environments:

Defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, grit accounted for an average of 4 percent of the variance in success outcomes, including educational attainment among 2 samples of adults (N = 1,545 and N = 690), grade point average among Ivy League undergraduates (N = 138), retention in 2 classes of United States Military Academy, West Point, cadets (N = 1,218 and N = 1,308), and ranking in the National Spelling Bee (N = 175).

Howard Gardner studied some of the greatest geniuses of all time. One quality they all had in common sounds an awful lot like grit.

… when they fail, they do not waste much time lamenting; blaming; or, at the extreme, quitting. Instead, regarding the failure as a learning experience, they try to build upon its lessons in their future endeavors. Framing is most succinctly captured in aphorism by French economist and visionary Jean Monnet: “I regard every defeat as an opportunity.”

Here’s Angela Duckworth giving a TED talk on grit:

(More on how to be “grittier” here.)

Make awesome mistakes

Failure is essential.

Losers like to hear that because it makes them feel better about their past mistakes. Winners use it to go make more mistakes they can learn from.

Always be experimenting. In his excellent book Little BetsPeter Sims explains the system used by all the greats:

The mindset is what makes a big difference. The willingness to spend 5 to 10 percent of your time doing experiments will, over the long run, really open up that part of you that can be more creative and entrepreneurial, and yield, hopefully, some new opportunities that you hadn’t thought of before trying something. [Little Bets]

You must wrestle with your ideas. Dissect, combine, add, subtract, turn them upside down, and shake them. Get ideas colliding.

Successful creators engage in an ongoing dialogue with their work. They put what’s in their head on paper long before it’s fully formed, and they watch and listen to what they’ve recorded, zigging and zagging until the right idea emerges. [Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity]

How do you start? Do like the greats and keep a notebook.

(More on the creative process used by experts here.)

Find mentors

You cannot go it alone. It can be hard to learn from books. And the internet makes it difficult to separate truth from fiction.

You need someone who has been there to show you the ropes. A Yoda. A Mister Miyagi.

Yes, 10K hours of deliberate practice can make you an expert but what makes you dedicate 10K hours to something in the first place?

As Adam Grant of Wharton explains, the answer is great mentors:

Why would somebody invest deliberate practice in something? It turns out that actually most of these world-class performers had a first coach, or a first teacher, who made the activity fun.

Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety — especially in an uneven economy — means taking on big responsibility.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

2014 Outstanding Graduating Senior, Elin Nordegren, Commencement Speech

Source: msn.foxsports.com

Usually a person who takes nine years to get an undergraduate degree may not be the apropos commencement speaker, but in the case of Elin Nordegren, Rollins College didn’t care.

Yes, the famed ex-wife of Tiger Woods took a while to get her degree, but she finished with a 3.98 GPA and was named the most outstanding senior in her class.

Nordegren’s degree is in psychology. According to PEOPLE:

Nordegren started college courses at Rollins in 2005, when she was married to Woods and did not yet have children, chipping away at her degree sometimes one class at a time. She took a semester off following the birth of each of her children – Sam, now 6, and Charlie, now 5 – and again in 2010, in the wake of the spectacular revelations of infidelity by her then-husband. That period she referred to Saturday as “the wild storm of my personal life.”

We all know the Nordegren, who divorced Tiger Woods in 2010, was probably a little sidetracked over the course of the time that spanned her degree.

“Yes, nine years is a pretty long time,” she said. “When I received the honor of speaking today I was happy. I was also a little surprised. I have been called a ‘woman with no words’ in the media and criticized for not talking very much.”

She spoke about how far she’d come since coming to the U.S. as a married 25-year-old.

“Today, nine years later I’m a proud American and have two beautiful children. … But I’m no longer married,” said Nordegren, which elicited laughter and applause from the crowd.

“Your actions inspired me to keep on going to the finish line. We walked the talk,” she said.

If you want to hear her full speech, watch above.