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20 Habits of Insanely Productive People



Increase your productivity by practicing these habits

“You are never going to get it all together.”

So says Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun, author of a dozen books, and internationally acclaimed wise woman.

Maybe so, Pema. But some people appear to have made great progress, especially where productivity is concerned.

You know the type: they speak here and there, write books, travel widely, read everything, have great relationships and still get to the gym. Occasionally you may even find them sitting still, doing nothing, which is especially annoying.

How do they do it?

There are a thousand tricks, but the bulk of their wisdom can be distilled into habits. Strategic habits. Here are the ninja productivity habits of the ridiculously productive:

1. Pick one thing. What is the single most impactful thing you could do today? (Hint: Usually it’s a bit scary, and you’re inclined to resist doing it.)

2. Focus on what’s important. Side effect: ruthlessly cull the unimportant—even if it angers some.

3. Group similar tasks. Do all your bills at once. Make all your calls in one afternoon. There is a limit to how effective this is and you’ll know it when you’ve hit burnout. Feel your energy failing? It’s time to change gears.

4. Set deadlines. This can mean finishing your book by November, or giving yourself no more than 5 minutes to reply to each email. Whatever the task is, define its scope and the time it gets. Stand fast on the deadline.

5.  Automate everything. Set rules for your inbox. Set up auto delivery for dog food, toothpaste, and whatever else you need. (Thank you, Amazon Prime!)

6. Say “no.” It’s a tricky little word, “no.” Yet so powerful.

7. Multitask where appropriate. For example: You can get your “reading” in while working out at the gym. (Or do the audio version of “reading” while in the car.)

8. Focus. Some things require undivided attention: writing, interviewing, negotiating, learning. Shut out all distractions until you have created the outcome you want.

9. Outsource/delegate. At what point will it be worth your money to hire a cleaning service so you don’t spend three hours every weekend cleaning? At what point would it be worthwhile to hire someone to do errands? If you’re not there yet, consider the amazing potential of ( and see how it might free up some of your time.

10. Acknowledge your fear. See it and know it, but don’t give in to it. Fear slows you down in a thousand little ways. It is the underlying cause of most distractions, and the root of procrastination.

11. Be a finisher. Small things, big things, simple things, complex things… finish them. If they aren’t worth finishing, cull them.

12. Don’t attempt to know everything. Ever noticed the uber productive have a surprising number of competent friends? They don’t spend a week learning a skill they are unlikely to need again. They will know the expert, hire her or him, and get the task done in a day.

13. Leverage 80/20. Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule is the proven tendency for 80% of your results to come from 20% of your efforts. It’s rarely split exactly that way – sometimes it’s 95% of your results from 5% of your efforts – but the law applies to work, money and a plethora of other realms. Make it work for you.

14. Create routines. You’ve already got one for getting out of the house in the morning. How about making one for your next meeting? A hipper version of the routine: the checklist. Checklists allow pilots to zoom through a hundred tasks without making any mistakes.

15. Speed read. It’s easier to learn than you think when you master speed reading. You’ll be bowled over by how powerful you’ll feel when you can actually read a book in an hour.

16. Take care of yourself. Don’t work until 2 a.m. if losing sleep makes you a moron the next day. Be good to yourself. You’re the best asset you’ve got.

17. Define the most important metrics. Track them. What we measure increases, whether that’s sales figures or personal savings.

18. Manage your energy, not your time. This idea comes from The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Many people manage their energy unconsciously, but some of us have to practice. Use your best energy for the most important projects that demand it. Make optimizing your energy one of your top priorities.

19. Embrace change. Technology evolves at a lightning pace. The elite adapt quickly, but don’t chase every passing fad.

20. Know what you want. From this all goals arise.

Now go practice getting more productive. Adopting even one new tip here could create positive results.

Peter Doan is Vast Conference's customer service lead and dedicated account manager. With 10-plus years of experience, he's a customer service superstar and a regular contributor here.

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