Habits of Highly Productive People

  • Focus on most important tasks (MITs) first

You probably didn’t go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—but an MIT can help you be more productive.

The theory behind Most Important Tasks is that any given to-do list has some tasks that are more important than others. If you focus on simply checking off to-do list items, you’ll end up with a mix of important and less important tasks completed.

It also exposes you to the potential for procrastination—it’s easy to spend the whole day checking off easy, less important to-dos instead of buckling down on the hard stuff.

Instead, spend a few minutes at the beginning of your day to choose 1–3 MITs—the things that, no matter what, you need to finish by the end of the day.

  •  Keep a distraction list

With emails, social media, and a thousand little to-dos, it’s easy to get distracted when you’re trying to be productive.

Whether you’re trying to focus on deep work or just dealing with smaller tasks, distractions are the bane of productivity. It’s hard to maintain efficient work habits with distractions around.

One powerful method of reducing distractions is creating a “distraction list.”

Keep this list—whether it’s a Google Doc or a physical piece of paper—nearby while you’re working. Whenever a distracting thought pops up, write it down on the list and get back to work

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  • Use the 80/20 rule

Another way to prioritize tasks comes from the 80/20 principle.

To maximize efficiency, highly productive people identify the most important 20 percent of their work. Then, they look at ways to cut down the other 80 percent of their schedule, to find more time for the things that make the biggest impact.

  • Break tasks into smaller pieces

There are a variety of reasons that people procrastinate, but one of the most important is that the tasks on their to-do list just seem too daunting.

If you have to-do list items that are large in scope and not very specific, tackling those tasks becomes challenging. You look at the item and think “I don’t even know where to start.”

You can start by breaking large to-dos into smaller to-dos. Each item on my list is incredibly specific. All I have to do is tackle them in order.Image result for break tasks into smaller tasks

  • Take breaks

Nobody, not even highly productive people, can focus for eight hours straight. It simply isn’t possible. No matter how many efficient habits you build, you can’t maintain distraction-free focus for that long.

That’s why taking breaks is so important. Even breaks that are just a few minutes long can help you recharge and come up with new ideas.

When you take breaks, it’s important to make them structured and deliberate. It’s easy to justify distractions as “taking a break.” But if you don’t have that break time scheduled, it’s possible that you’re actually just getting distracted.

Scheduling breaks can keep you fresh and productive throughout an entire day.

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  • Eliminate inefficient communication

It’s time we got to the elephant in the room: email.

Email is often considered the bane of productivity habits. Many people spend their work day with their email inbox clearly visible, responding to every notification as it comes in.

There’s a lot of value in reducing these kinds of distraction. One way to do that is simply by minimizing your inbox and checking at specific intervals.

Another is to become more efficient in your email communications to begin with.

  • Learn from successes as well as mistakes

One of the challenges of highly productive people is ensuring that fast work is also good work.

When you’re working quickly, you open yourself up to making mistakes. Highly productive people tackle that risk by learning and improving at every possible moment—so that producing good work becomes intuitive.

Learning from mistakes is obvious (although of course valuable). When something goes wrong, analyzing the mistakes and looking for ways to prevent them is a massively valuable learning experience.

  • Fill the tank and recharge

Productivity tactics, email templates, and prioritization are valuable methods of improving your productivity.

But they won’t help if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Highly productive people spend time recharging. That means getting enough sleep every night, exercising, and eating healthy.

If you aren’t thinking straight or have trouble focusing, take a look at your personal habits. I personally know that seven or eight hours of sleep just isn’t enough for me—I really need closer to nine, and missing out on sleep affects my productivity for days.

Sleep. Exercise. Eat well. Taking care of your healthy habits is a crucial part of efficient work habits.

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  • Manage energy as well as time

Time management is a huge part of productivity. Many of the productivity habits on this list will help you manage your time more effectively.

But just as important—and often overlooked—is energy management.

If you are exhausted and can barely think, it doesn’t matter how many hours are left in the day. You won’t be able to use them productively.

Highly productive people know that it isn’t enough to have time to do things. Managing your energy—to ensure that you tackle the most intense tasks while you have the energy to handle them—is an important trick that can make you more productive.

  • Get better at saying “no”

It’s so tempting to say yes.

New projects and opportunities crop up all the time. It’s easy to get excited by the possibilities—and then wind up with too many commitments.

Saying no is hard. It means consciously setting things aside so that you have the time to work on your most important priorities.

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