14 Things Highly Productive People Do Differently

I was prompted to write this post as I am finding the post-holiday return to discipline quite challenging.  I heard somewhere that it takes 30 days to build a habit, and 1 day to lose it.  Time to get the habits back again for 2013.

14 Ways to Get Things Done

  1. Start the day slowly – Ken Blanchard told me how here.
  2. Do in sprints – The Pomodoro technique is explained here. (Page 2, Self-Discipline)
  3. Say No More – Say “No” to most requests.  Often the best way to say “no” doesn’t use the word “no”. More on saying “no” here.
  4. Double up on Priorities (throw in the €50) – Life gives you little nudges, but you must choose the sacrifice.  More on chosen sacrifice.
  5. Create barriers (email, phone, social media) – Jim Collins keeps away from all digital devices before midday. More on Jim Collins 3 tools for productivity here.
  6. Remove Waste – Stop doing stuff that is no longer relevant.  Close the chapters.
  7. Read – You must out-learn the competition.
  8. Rest before you Need it – Ernest Hemmingway would always stop his writing mid-sentence to take a break.  When he returned, it was much easier to get started again.  Stop before you are finished.
  9. Take proper breaks – Walk away from the computer.  More on rest and sleep here.
  10. Use the right tools – Hammers work on nails, not on screws.
  11. Ask Questions – How to ask better questions here.
  12. Work with A Players – Your scarce resource is not time, it is energy.  You have limited energy.  Some people suck it, some people are neutral, and some help you find even more.  Florian Mueck helps me find more.  How to find A players?
  13. Use the gaps – Do your little admin tasks in the 5 minute gaps.  Productive people get the necessary crap done in the 10 minutes waiting before a meeting, in the 4 minutes waiting for a friend to arrive for lunch.  If you call your bank in the gap, the 2 hours of time for productive creation can really be spent on creation.
  14. Ship when done, not when perfect – This is my Achilles Heel.  I don’t know how to solve it.  Any ideas?  I will be most grateful.  My book project is often blocked by the search for perfection, not the acceptance of good enough.

What else am I missing?  What gets you into productive mode?  What signals help you see when you are becoming un-productive?

19 comments

  1. Jayhamess · · Reply

    Not that I’m a practitioner of this advice, but delivering product can be like descending on a bike: set a clear line of attack at the start and then focus on that line. Then, just stay off the brakes and don’t turn. You’ll be amazed.

  2. erisuner · · Reply

    Thank you very much for providing us with knowledge that could not be priced. I am amused by your way of giving presentation.

    I am trying to learn presentation skills. If you have time could you recommend some books to read.
    Thank you very much,
    Merry Christmas

  3. re:ship when done, not perfect-
    I am an artist. I restore items to their former glory. I once restored a Louis XIV writing desk for a man to give to his 13 year old daughter…she decopaged it with Hello Kitty and Anime. He was thrilled.

    The project does not belong to you; you were hired to perform a service. Allow the project to be flexible to the needs of the end user by writing down the attributes that will satisfy “done”, – they will make it “perfect”.

    1. Love it!!! I talk sometimes about the difference between giving a gift and giving a burden – the 13 year old received a gift, not a burden. She was free. So often we don’t allow people to be free with our gift(burden) ;-)

  4. […] 14 Things Highly Productive People Do Differently […]

  5. Awesome, and for the record, I have personally experienced a few of John Zimmer’s humorous speeches and would probably laugh uncontrollably during one of his stand-up routines.

    1. I also agree…”perfection is the enemy of good enough”

      1. I wrote down on a note here on my desk “focus on progress, not perfection” ;-)

  6. Well done, Conor. I just finished working my way through the post and the linked posts. Lots of great stuff here. One to Tweet for sure.

    On the shipping point, my sense is that getting comfortable with shipping even if it is not perfect is like exercising a muscle. The more you use it, the better you become at using it. And how do we start to exercise our muscles? Light weights. So start shipping “light” stuff today. Hit the Publish button on the blog post, hit send on the email, distribute notes to your class. We can adjust for most things. Even with a book, you can always have a second edition.

    It’s like Flo and me with the board game. We put in the time to make it as good as possible and then went ahead. We are very happy with the result but there is certainly room for improvement but that will come in the tweaks for the next edition.

    One last idea out of left field. I recently started doing improv comedy here in Geneva. What a riot! Really makes you work with others and think fast on your feet. And you have no choice but to ship, right there, right in the moment. You might find it a creative way to strengthen the shipping muscles.

    Cheers!

    John

    1. Great ideas! And yep – ship a little is the path to ship a lot ;-)

  7. Rosa Maria Cuadros · · Reply

    Hey my Achilles Heel is the same… sooo, I’m sometimes goofy, I laugh about myself when I commit a mistake, and I put post when I have finished a post on my blog (by the way I got that from you).

    1. Excellent ;-) Glad to see you dealing with our demon!

  8. [...] 14 Things Highly Productive People Do Differently [...]

  9. Hi Conor, if I may, there will be one thing between “Double up on Priorities (throw in the €50)” and “Say No More” called organize your space and data. All of us need everything in place to help us find what we need and when we need it. We need to save our time more, not to spent our extra time searching for a phone number, or a certain file that makes us forget what we were about to do. Once it’s gone, it takes a while to get it back. Time is everything.

    1. I know what you mean. One thing that I do on “to-do” lists is ensure that each item is an actual action. “Sort out the boiler” is not an action, it is an idea. “Call boilerman 93 254 1358 to come Tuesday morning” is an action. Anything that is not immediately actionable opens me up to the procrastination delay…

      so yes, your concept of tidy desk, available contact information etc makes a big difference as to whether I have another coffee or finish my admin ;-)

  10. Great post! My advice for your last point, since you seem to have everything else under control, would be this: try and set a realistic, not too generous deadline for those tasks you feel too much of a perfectionist about. I don’t think you should be at risk of being too indulgent with yourself, so when the deadline expires, pencils up and job done. Good luck, keep it up and thanks for sharing your ideas!

    1. Yep, those deadlines make stuff happen… I know I need to put one, finish a draft. Gotta get onto that very soon…

  11. mr. conor neill, i am a person who used to be quite active, interrupted by times when my disabilities would hold me back for a spell. Even when i was active i see that i was often not as productive as i should have been, kind of like ” chasing spilled marbles” , i saw that on puter this am and i realized that was me.
    today my life is different, i am disabled now with a disorder that takes lots of time to respond to, as in preventative actions. i feel myself feeling melancoly, missing so much, reading your material, makes me feel good, maybe i can find new ways of having a fulfilling life at completely new endeavors. iI THINK I WILL KEEP FOLLOWING YOU….MY IRON ISNT SO SHARP RIGHT NOW ALLOW ME TO SHARPEN IT BETTER THAN BEFORE EVER. YOU ARE DEFINATELY SHARP, I DO NOT MEAN THAT AT ALL LIKE FLATTERYY BUT RATHER GREAT RESPECT. THANK YOU KAYCEE DEAN

    1. Thank you Kaycee. Life hits us with blows that hurt. A friend told me years ago in a tough time “God would never send you an obstacle that he didn’t know you could overcome”… I laughed and said “I don’t give a shit, I just want a few days off.” I know I grow with the obstacles, but I sure would prefer them to go away…

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