6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day

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 done and 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 done when 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 for procrastinating… 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 behavior is 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 had personal 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 tomorrow relieves 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?

(I’ll be sending out more tips from Tim Ferriss in my weekly email so make sure to sign up.)

Join more than 45,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Achieve Work-Life Balance In 5 Steps

Too Busy? 7 Ways To Increase Leisure Time, According To Science

8 Things The World’s Most Successful People All Have In Common

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5 tips for team leaders to achieve

achieve
1-      Let go of your ego and not of your ambition
Ego is one of the biggest enemies of success; it prevents you from listening to colleagues and asking questions. It restrains you from going down unfamiliar roads, whereas ambition does exactly the opposite
Be driven by your ambition so that your focus remains on the target and not on the glory of the moment
2-      Let go of the mundane
If others can do it, let them do it. Delegate in order to enable yourself to achieve the tasks that only you are capable of; the tasks that make a difference
3-      See. Don’t just look
Keep all your senses sharp and receptive at all times
Look out for talent in your team and nurture it. A leader’s big success is built on smaller success stories achieved by talented motivated team members
While small-time managers feel threatened by talented employees, ambitious leaders embrace and nurture talent within their team to achieve even greater success and growth
Look out for the black hole in your system and isolate it. One rotten apple will spoil the bunch
Even if you think you have enough energy to spend trying to turn around unmotivated staff, just don’t. You cannot inject ambition where there is none. Save your energy and quickly quarantine the black hole
4-      Respect your mind. Give and take
Don’t just ask for additional performance from your brain, instead learn to nourish your mind with inspirational imagery and sounds
It has been scientifically proven that in additional to a number of health benefits, listening to music improves brain function on many levels
Get quality rest as soon as you need it
Exercise regularly with good friends to benefit on both physical and psychological levels
5-      Be selfish
A good dose of selfishness is undoubtedly a key driving force to success
You need to put first things first; if you spend your time helping your peers achieve their goals, they will inevitably get there before you do
Time is a limited resource. It is physically impossible for one man to have more of it than any another. Spend yours wisely

Advice… better late than never

Growing up without a word of advice was original to say the least. Father out of the country working. You see, war had most families separated for one reason or another

So… no father guiding or giving advice on any topic whatsoever

Today I am a father myself. I am at that point where my words come from experience and are of real value. That is why I have taken it upon myself to start giving me some advice on life

So here we go. First thing I wanna tell you son:

Never argue with people to make them see common sense. It is common sense! if they cannot understand it then they do not have enough sense to grasp anything you say. They will drain you with their ignorance. Keep calm in their presence and stick to talking about the weather






p.s. This might indicate multiple personality disorder but as long as it feels good then so be it!

Dad, if only you had told me this 9 years ago. Would have… pfff

Oh well, better late than never

Don’t be a stranger now, more will come

Been almost a year of silence

Months have passed and our world is still heading in the same direction. No change of tempo, not even the slightest hesitation as to where it is headed

The only way to chance the course is by moving ourselves elsewhere
Just by standing still facing the opposite direction we can reverse the impact of this steady destructive motion
3rd world Lebanon is under the impression that tomorrow is defined by what we do today. At least the majority of the population seem to think so, otherwise how could we explain such hostility and anguish
Beirut my city by choice. Is it?
The middle east; origin of the three religions that rule and ruin the lives of the people who still insist on calling this home, this center of the world will continue to be the separating line between the two opposing powers
We are all contaminated here, we ought to be quarantined; as a matter of fact we already are
Stay at your own risk, i know I am

Is this WW3?

Prophesies speak of a third world war
Armageddon signs are all around

A distinct division of world powers is forming (Russia, China, India, and Iran unite in support of a Syrian regime VS the USA, UK, European union and the majority of the Arab countries)
With communication at its peak, an idea can travel the globe in a matter of seconds uniting or dividing
Uprisings and organized chaos all over the world

The year 2012 does not mark the end, but a new beginning
Civilization as we know it will reset

Was it predicted? planned? or is it simply a natural cycle that we still did not figure out
Time will tell…

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