In Practice

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10 Ways to Get More Things Done, Starting Today

Follow the lead of the super-productive and discover the difference.

Keen to be more productive? Try doing these 10 things that productive people do:

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1. Put your core priorities ahead of other tasks.

Productive people make sure they're always making some progress on their core priorities rather than letting all their focus and willpower get sucked up by administrative tasks, interruptions, meetings, and tangents.

2. Use templates and systems to avoid reinventing the wheel.

When productive people know they'll need to do a task repeatedly, they'll create templates and systems rather than making new plans from scratch each time. The big advantage of a system is that once you have one, it's usually easy to see how you can refine it. Systems also minimize disruptions—when an employee leaves a job, a system makes it easier to transition to someone else doing the tasks. But the concept doesn't just apply in corporate environments. A template could be as simple as having a "master" shopping list rather than writing out a new one from scratch each week.

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3. Streamline your focus rather than jumping from task to task.

Productive people don't start 10 different projects and end up with 10 things half-finished but nothing completed. Productive people don't excessively hop from unfinished task to unfinished task. They finish projects. 

4. Double down when something is working.

When productive people find something that works, they double down on that to maximize the benefits. They may try numerous things that don't work out. When they find something that does, they attempt to squeeze all the benefit out of it and ride it as far as it will take them. 

5. Use the same skills and knowledge multiple ways.

For example, a productive academic who has particular knowledge in one area wouldn't just write one journal article on that subject, they'd write numerous articles. There would be some overlap but each would have a different twist. Finding ways to repeat things you've already done (and that utilize your core strengths and unique skills) but with an interesting twist results in more productivity than always attempting something brand new.

6. Have systems for record keeping.

Productive people have systems for record keeping that help prevent lots of wasted time. This includes a system to record their ideas so they don't forget them.

7. Follow up.

When they get a promising lead, productive people follow-up. They don't reach out to someone, start a conversation, and then let that conversation go nowhere. If they've made a commitment to following up, they do so.

8.  Procrastinate in ways that make you more productive.

Some types of procrastination (like overeating) lead to ever decreasing circles of lethargy. Other types can actually boost productivity because they: 

  • (a) boost positive emotions and feelings of relaxation (watching a funny or inspiring YouTube clip);
  • (b) spark ideas (by reading blogs, for example);
  • (c) strengthen relationships (like emailing a colleague you haven't touched base with in a while when you're putting off some work).

Read more on productive procrastination here.

9. Think about rewards more than risks.

Productive people tend to think about the potential rewards of trying new things more than the risks of things not working.

10. Don't overly personalize.

Productive people don't overly personalize things that go wrong. They may care about being liked and accepted by others but they don't spend hours thinking about it.

The above are based on reading research, and my observations of the most productive people I've encountered. What are your observations about what very productive people do, that you perhaps don't (yet)? Which of the things on the above list are you good at? What's the one area that could be the most fertile ground for improvement?


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You can read my prior articles for Psychology Today here.

Alice's Twitter @DrAliceBoyes 

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.


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