Do you do all the things time-management gurus tell you to but still end up less productive than you thought you would? There are several secrets that not everyone will tell you about. I will touch on 4 of the ones that stood out to me.
After an immense amount of research on the world’s most productive people, it becomes evident that they define productivity differently. It’s not about doing more, not about stuffing your schedule to the brim, not about getting more things done. If you follow this definition of productivity as many people do, as did I, you’ll end up running like a headless chicken in your personal race to integrate new habits, get every planned dead done.
In reality, productivity is about doing less rather than doing more. It all comes down to what you DON’T DO.
In my research of the incredibly productive and successful, I noticed several patterns. Here are the five things that all these people DON’T DO:
1️⃣ They never stop learning
After their formal education, these successful individuals keep absorbing knowledge throughout their entire lives. In contrast, the vast majority of those who succeed less rely solely on their prior knowledge to get them through life.
The successful make a habit of learning every day and improving themselves. One of the greatest ways to do this is to read books. If you don’t have time to read them, you definitely have time to listen to them, be that when you’re on the go, commuting, doing the dishes, or going on a walk. Reading isn’t just a pastime; it’s a necessity if your goal is to get ahead in life. A great book to start would be “12 rules for life” by Jordan Peterson; it’ll give you the guidelines that will allow you to improve yourself.
2️⃣ They don’t work hard for the sake of working hard
This is a flaw that so many of us make. Nowadays, society has started idolizing work. We work hard for the sake of working hard when in reality, we should only be working hard because the goals that we’re trying to accomplish need us to.
If we slide our focus to just working hard, we’re going to end up action faking, solely, so we look like we’re working hard. The difference between this mindset and that of the most productive people is that they hustle only for the sake of reaching their goals, never for the sake of hustling. They may allow others to call them super productive or uber hard working, but to them, it’s just a necessary part of reaching their goals.
So set your goal, figure out what you have to do and just how much effort you have to put in to reach it, and direct your thoughts and efforts, so you work hard solely in the right direction. This is linked with the next point on the list.
3️⃣ The most successful never wander aimlessly
Here’s the catch. Most people think that there is such a thing as objective productivity. For example, meditation is productive, and watching TV or playing video games is unproductive. This is just not the case.
Productivity is relative.
For some people playing a video game is a productive task, for example, if it allows them to relax or do what they want to do professionally.
If you don’t know your ending point, you can’t measure whether you’re getting closer. It’s like going on a road trip: you set the end destination and start, it’s easy to see whether or not you’re making progress.
So remember that the most productive people never wander aimlessly. If you do, you might end up setting a goal by working hard for the sake of it, or, even worse, just setting a goal that society tells you to do. What I mean is your goal is the same as everyone else’s, which by definition means that you won’t be the most anything.
4️⃣ Focus on the process
There’s this great book by Bill Walsh called “The Score Takes Care of Itself.”
It’s not very popular, but you will never me the most by doing what most people do. If you read only the best-selling books, you’re only getting the information that the majority of people already have. What you should be on the lookout for is rare and valuable information. So let me give that to you now.
Bill was a transformative figure in the NFL. He took his team from literally the bottom of the NFL to win the Super Bowl in just two years. How did he manage this? He reveals his secrets in the book, but let me break it down.
Basically, the way he did this was by getting his team to focus on a few things. He got them to focus on positioning, on how they were passing the ball, the way they communicated with each other. He taught them not to look at the score but to focus on their positioning, how they pass the ball, and their communication with each other on the field. He told them to put all of their efforts into the process of playing better, and the score will take care of itself.
This is an important little life-hack that the world’s most productive know firsthand. They know not to focus exclusively on the outcomes because you can’t always have complete control of it. What you can directly control are the processes that get you to your set goals.
If you get better at your craft, continually improve what you can already do, you won’t even notice how quickly you will reach your wanted destination. If you’re a student, focus on your logic skills, on becoming better at researching, on writing better essays, on seeking out feedback, and gathering it relentlessly. This will get you the good grades that you’ve wished for all semester.
It’s not to say don’t think about the goal, it’s rather put your effort primarily into the processes, and the outcomes will undoubtedly find you.
5️⃣ Stop saying YES!
Last but not least, on this list of things that super-productive and ultra-successful people don’t do is quite simple, but there’s more to it, so read till the end. This is the thing that people like Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs say make the difference between an incredibly successful person and just a kind of successful person. Most really productive people don’t often say “yes.”
As Steve Jobs said in an interview, “When you think about focusing, right? You think, “Well… focusing is.. is saying yes! NO! Focusing is about saying NO! And the result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts”.
The problem is nobody else on this planet is ever going to value you rime as much as you do. How you value your time determines the very upper limit for how the rest of the population is going to value your time. If you value your time a lot, then the other people are going to kind of value your time. If you kind of value your time, of course, other people aren’t going to value your time. How you value your time sets the upper limit.
How you spend your time is a zero-sum game. If you spend your time on activity “A”, you cannot spend your time on activity “B”. You can’t just create more time, we all have 24 hours in a day and, therefore, we’ve got to be incredibly careful with the things that we choose to invest our time in.
Also, if you say your “yes” to loads of different things, you’re going to divide your focus. Divided focus means there are going to be divided results.
This graphic sums it up well, but I know that saying “no” for some people is easier said than done, so I’ve included two different action steps that you can take in order to make this process simpler.
- Get a deep emotional understanding of the importance of time. If you waste that time, you can never get it back. If you focus on that fact, you dwell on the past. It’s easier to say “no” because you’re now comparing two different options. Saying no is difficult, but wasting your time is right out painful, so when comparing, keep this in mind.
- Come up with default replies. You know in your life you’re going to be offered lots of different projects or asked to do lots of different things, so take some time to come up with default responses. This will save you loads of time in the longhand, especially over e-mail or texts. You can set up a hotkey so that you can reply to that message without even having to think about it much.
Here are the 5 main things that you need to keep in mind: when you want to boost your productivity or think that you are straying away from your goals. I am confident they will help you get on the right track. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to trace your advancement, so what better way to do that than in the comments 😉.
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