There’s an outdated notion in business that just won’t die. It’s the idea that productivity means doing more things faster, marking off mile-long to-do lists, and plowing through tasks all day long. According to this mindset, a productive person multitasks, moves quickly, and never stops.
The thing is, science and our day-to-day experiences show this is exactly how not to get work done. The multitasking, Bluetooth-wearing, fast-talking businessperson may look and feel wildly efficient, but how much of what they’re doing falls into the category of busywork?
True productivity isn’t simply doing more things; it’s doing more of the right things. A productive person works smarter, not harder. They might do fewer things in a day—and even take more breaks—but their work is higher quality, and they’ve focused on what counts. Here are five habits of highly productive people and the research to back up why these techniques work.
Stick to a Morning Routine
There’s a reason we’re all fascinated by the morning routines of successful people. It’s easy to see there’s something powerful about how we start our days. The first few hours of the morning can set the tone for the rest of the workday, so developing a routine with minimal distractions and a few easy wins can set you up for productivity. Some people meditate, others make their bed as soon as their feet hit the floor, still others exercise. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it.
Did you know that research has proven the effectiveness of giving your brain a break? No matter how bionic we like to think we are, nobody can focus for hours on end with no rest. Many productivity hacks dictate breaks interspersed between concentrated, short periods of work. A growing number of studies have shown how periodically resting your brain can make you more productive overall.
Plan Work Strategically
Everyone has a window of time during the day they’re most energized and ready to tackle projects. For some, this is after their first cup of coffee, while for others it’s right before dinner. Start taking notes on your own productivity and try to see if a pattern emerges. Once you’ve identified your most productive part of the day, start scheduling your critical tasks for this time.
Curate a Trusted System
According to the productivity program Getting Things Done, everyone has what’s called a “trusted system.” A trusted system is a way to collect thoughts, tasks, ideas, notes, reminders, and more that float around your brain. You can use sticky notes, apps, a day planner, or a simple notebook. Whatever you use, GTD stresses how important it is to declutter your mind by using a trusted system consistently. Don’t rely on yourself to remember things—this only makes it harder for your brain to function properly while it struggles to hold too much information.
Delegate and Ask for Help
It can be hard to admit you’re stuck or need help, but if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s a crucial step to take. The most productive individuals know when to delegate and how to get the right help at the right time. Don’t sabotage yourself by assuming you’re always the right person for the job—sometimes, you’re not.
With the right mindset and some tools in your belt, you’ll soon master your own productivity techniques. Next week, we’ll share some of our favorite apps for getting things done. Here’s to conquering your next project.