A Forbes reporter recently interviewed over 200 ultra-productive people (including seven billionaires, 13 Olympians, 20 straight-A students and over 200 successful entrepreneurs), asking a simple, open-ended question, “What is your number one secret to productivity?” After analyzing all of their responses, he coded their answers into 15 unique ideas.
Secret #1: They focus on minutes, not hours.
Average performers default to hours and half-hour blocks on their calendar. Highly successful people know there are 1,440 minutes in every day and there is nothing more valuable than time.
Secret #2: They focus only on one thing.
Ultra productive people know their Most Important Task (MIT) and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions.
Secret #3: They don’t use to-do lists.
Throw away your to-do list; instead schedule everything on your calendar, using 15-minute blocks of time.
Secret #4: They beat procrastination with time travel.
What can you do now to make sure your future self does the right thing? Anticipate how you will self-sabotage in the future, and come up with a solution to defeat your future self.
Secret #5: They make it home for dinner.
Highly successful people know what they value in life. There is no right answer, but for many, values include: family time, exercise, giving back. They consciously allocate their 1,440 minutes a day to each area they value (i.e., they put it on their calendar) and then they stick to the schedule.
Secret #6: They use a notebook.
Ultra-productive people free their mind by writing everything down.
Secret #7: They process email only a few times a day.
Ultra-productive people don’t “check” email throughout the day. Instead, like everything else, they schedule time to process their email quickly and efficiently.
Secret #8: They avoid meetings at all costs.
Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander in their topics and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can, hold fewer of them yourself, and if you do run a meeting, keep it short.
Secret #9: They say “no” to almost everything.
Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in every day. Don’t give them away easily.
Secret #10: They follow the 80/20 rule.
Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases 80% of outcomes come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results, and focus on those and ignore the rest.
Secret #11: They delegate almost everything.
Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead they ask, “How can this task get done?” They take the “I” out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues and they are not micro-managers. In many cases good enough is, well, good enough.
Secret #12: They theme days of the week.
Highly successful people often theme days of the week to focus on major areas. Batch your work to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness.
Secret #13: They touch things only once.
Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than five or ten minutes—whatever it is—they’ll deal with it right then and there. It reduces stress since it won’t be in the back of their mind, and is more efficient since they won’t have to re-read or evaluate the item again in the future.
Secret #14: They practice a consistent morning routine.
Most people I interviewed nurtured their body in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast and light exercise. They nurtured their mind with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading, and journaling.
Secret #15: Energy is everything.
You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy which will increase your attention, focus, decision making, and overall productivity. Highly successful people don’t skip meals, sleep or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and pulse and pause with “work sprints.”
I'll have to test these out myself, though, because here's another article where the very first suggestion is the exact opposite of the one above. I wonder which tip really does work best! Some of the other are similar, though, so I imagine we can find something useful in each list.
Tips from successful people to guide you to a more fulfilled life:
1. They Make Lists
2. They Maximize Down Time
3. They Reflect on Mistakes & Grow
4. They Limit Technological Distractions (schedule email times)
5. They Forget About Perfection
6. They Collect Their Thoughts Immediately (keep a notebook)
7. They Do Nice Things, But Don’t Tell Everyone
8. They Remind Themselves of Death (imagine future self)
9. They Define Success Themselves
10. They Outwork Everyone
11. They Don’t Envy Others
12. They Heed Danger in Lounging
13. They Believe That Fate Is Fake
14. They Are The Man in the Glass
15. They Embrace Criticism
16. They Always Finish Strong
Next time you’re in the situation of becoming your own worst critic, remember that “The road to personal excellence has no end.” Trust in yourself, keep your head down, and keep moving forward no matter what.