5 habits of highly productive people

Posted on July 19th, by Dr Rob Yeung .

Five habitsI had a conversation last week with a client, the human resources director of a growing online business, who asked me what distinguishes top performers from the rest of the crowd.  At first, I said that it’s a complex answer and that there are a range of competencies or skills that help high achievers to shine.  But she (playfully) insisted on a top-of-the-head answer.

She said: “I know it’s not very scientific, but if you had to list a half-dozen behaviours that make a difference, what would they be?”

Here are the first 5 habits that came to mind that I think help people to shine:

  1. Productive people act in spite of how they feel. All of us feel lazy or annoyed or down or uncommitted at times.  But everyone I know who is successful – either at work or in their personal lives (e.g. losing weight and keeping it off) – can distinguish between how they feel in a given moment and how they should be behaving.  So unproductive people often decide not to network or study or go to the gym or go on a date because they don’t feel like it.  But productive people do it in spite of how they feel; they override their feelings and do it anyway.
  2. High achievers tend to say “yes”.  The high performers that I know are usually willing to give most things a shot.  Rather than finding reasons not to do things, they’re more likely to agree to give it a go.  That’s as true in their personal lives – trying new restaurants, new films, heading to parties to meet a different crowd of people – as in their professional lives.
  3. These energetic stars have strong passions outside of work.  Most of the most dynamic people I know tend to have activities or pasttimes that get them really excited.  One client enjoys stripping and rebuilding motorcycles.  Another client commits hours a week to traditional Indian dance.  Someone else has run several marathons and runs a half-dozen 10Ks a year.  They don’t just work and then go home to recover.
  4. Productive people make lists.  Yes, I know that lots of people make lists.  But perhaps it’s safer for me to say that few unproductive people make lists.  Of course, making a list is only part of it.  You have to follow through too.  But I meet lots of people with good intentions who never make any plans, who never try to figure out how they can translate their intentions into action.  So yes, most effective people I know make lists as opposed to just talking and talking about what they might one day do.
  5. They are deeply socially connected.  All of the top performers are embedded in rich social groups.  They don’t just network at conferences and events.  They mix business with pleasure and just enjoy hanging out with lots and lots of people.  Some build relationships because it comes easily for them; others do it because they know it’s good for them.  But all of them have lots of contacts, friends and acquaintances that they can ask for advice and opportunities.

I realise that my list isn’t very scientific.  It’s just based on my subjective experience of having coached and worked alongside of many exceptional entrepreneurs, managers, doctors and other high performers.  Do let me know what you think should be added to the list!

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