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The 3 Mystical Secrets of Highly Productive People:
Highly productive people – we all know them.
They’re the ones who always have a project or two (or seven) going. Coworkers who can handle impossible workloads. Creatives who produce an insane amount of work on a daily basis.
How do they do it all without breaking a sweat? Are they time management magicians? Well. Yes and no. Highly productive people (HPPs) understand 3 mystical secrets that help them do their best work…and prevent burnout in the process. But not all of those secrets have to do with time and effort.
What Does Productivity Have to Do With Mental Health?
Why the heck is a mental health blog talking about productivity anyway? Well it’s because here at MSB we believe mental health is holistic. This means every part of your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional life plays a part in your mental wellbeing.
And dangerous myths about productivity can seriously affect your mental wellbeing (read how hustle culture is toxic for your mental health). Being productive is okay – but companies expecting people to be 100% productive for 8 whole hours a day is a recipe for a mental health condition known as Burnout.
Burnout is when you’re mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Most of the time it’s from taking on an impossible load at work, home, and school. It can happen to anyone but it happens way more easily to people who are high achievers.
How are Highly Productive People and High Achievers Different?
Ever heard the saying “the candle that burns brightest is also the first to burn out?”
High achievers are often confused with highly productive people. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. High achievers tend to be enthusiastic, driven and productive just like HPPs. But unlike HPPs, an untrained high achiever can participate in behaviors that lead straight to burnout.
This would be your friend or coworker who always seems to be putting out fires. They always have a ton of work and no time to relax. They work long hours but never really seem to get anywhere except for more and more stressed.
These folks tend to be great employees at first but over time, their productivity seems to take a dive even though they are putting in so much effort. What gives?
It’s because these high achievers aren’t following the self care secrets that will make them truly successful.
So What are the Secrets That Highly Productive People Live By?
So just what are these mystical secrets that highly productive people live by? Hint: they are not at all what you think!
1. Highly Productive People Know That More Time and More Effort Don’t Correlate to Better Work
Contrary to what you might think – high productivity doesn’t require a ton of extra time. You don’t have to get up at 5 AM in order to be successful in life (that’s a total myth that I hate).
High productivity also doesn’t require a ton of extra effort. It requires what is known to Buddhists as “The Right Effort” Right effort is being able to do the most important thing at the just the right time. By focusing their emotional energy, having a plan, and having the right intentions (or state of mind) before getting to work, HPPs can get anything done in an astounding amount of time.
How can you apply this to your life and mental wellness?
- Create a space where you can get work done with minimal interruptions
- If that’s not feasible (i.e. an open plan office, working from home with kids) learn to set boundaries on your time and space.
- Don’t multitask! Multitasking is awful for your mental health and productivity. If you want to deep focus – turn off the tv, don’t listen to podcasts or music that has words (instrumental is fine), and shut down notifications from your phone, social media, and email.
- Meditate and set your intentions before getting to work – trust me, it really does help!
- Identify the 3 most important things you need to accomplish during your work session. These are going to be the 3 things that have the most overall impact on your business, life, etc.
- Understand that not everything is going to get done – nor does it need to. If you’ve focused on the 2-3 most critical tasks during a day, you’ve succeeded. Everything beyond that is just gravy.
2. Highly Productive People Live By the Laws of Time Management
Ever heard of Parkinson’s Laws of Time Management? If you’re a true HPP, you definitely have! If you haven’t that’s okay – we’ll go through it here!
Parkinson’s 1st Law states that work expands to fit the time allotted.
HPPs also know the inverse of Parkinson’s 1st Law: work shrinks to fit the time allotted. So a project with a long, vague deadline is going to be completed much more slowly than a project with a strict and (reasonably) short deadline.
Highly Productive people therefore know to set tight, well defined deadlines for their projects to encourage themselves to get things done. If they are faced with a long deadline, say for a group project that spans a semester, they institute their own smaller milestone deadlines to stay on top of things.
How can you incorporate this secret into your life?
- Put the most urgent and important task at the front of your work list
- Set a solid deadline for all tasks
- Break up large tasks with long deadlines into smaller, more manageable tasks with multiple deadlines
- Make sure your tight deadlines are reasonable and not impossible to accomplish!
3. Highly Productive People Place a Premium on Self Care
Last but certainly not least, HPPs know that self care is essential for them to do their best work. It takes a TON of mental energy to put everything you’ve got into a few good hours of work. Therefore HPPs make sure to recharge their batteries after work is done.
They also avoid pushing themselves past the point of diminishing returns. Forcing themselves to continue working at such a fast pace past their energy peak can be pretty detrimental. It’s at this point HPPs accept that work produced just won’t be their best (and that’s okay) or they take a mindful break until their batteries are recharged.
How can you use this secret to your advantage?
- Take mindful breaks between deep focus sessions (not sure how to take a mindful break? Check out our guide on the topic right here)!
- After a long day, get some quiet time to recharge. Don’t head straight into family or life duties when you get home. Try talking a quiet walk or a nap first if that’s possible.
- Keep work at work! Don’t continue to work when you get home and take at least one full day on the weekends without any work responsibilities.
- Set boundaries with others (no phone calls past 6, no meetings on Friday afternoon)
- Know your personal limits. I’ve found that I can safely do 1-2 creative projects in a day max. Trying to do anything beyond that makes me tired, cranky, and useless. So I don’t push past those limits (no matter how much I want to). You can do this too by exploring what your limits are and setting mental boundaries to keep yourself from crossing them.
And there we have it, kids! The 3 mystical secrets of highly productive people. Well, we’ve learned those secrets aren’t actually so mystical more just good sense and self care!
But don’t get me wrong. Following these secrets and becoming successful is not easy. It takes years of practice (and lots of failure) to get to the level of a true HPP. But with the tools listed here, you can start taking steps to ensure your success.
Remember – you are the most important tool in your own success so treat yourself accordingly and you cannot fail <3
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