It’s easy to think that by copying how a productive person schedules their day, we’ll see a miraculous boost in our productivity too.
But that, unfortunately, isn’t true.
They’re quick fixes that won’t last; we’ll be back to our old ways in no time.
But there’s another way.
Over time, a highly effective person has developed a set of habits that help them achieve their goals much better than any of these “quick fixes”.
It all starts with knowing themselves: what their priorities are, and what they’re willing to sacrifice.
If you want to be highly effective yourself, here are 12 common habits of highly effective people.
1. They’re Self-Aware
Highly effective people are aware of their own biases and perspectives.
Before, they might have done things a certain way because “that’s how it’s always been done”.
But now they realize that isn’t very efficient. It limits growth and progress.
So they learn to be aware of their old models of thinking and try to break free from them.
If they don’t have a background in graphic design but they want to get into a graphic design job, they’ll take the time to learn it.
They won’t tell themselves that the job is only for graphic designers – they can be one themselves if they learned enough.
2. They Know what They Stand For
A highly effective person knows what’s valuable to them, whether it’s spending time with their family, the virtue of honesty, or living a simple life.
People can be busy and productive, but a highly effective person knows what to be busy and productive for.
Knowing their values helps them align themselves with the actions they take.
They aren’t the type of people to do things just because.
They live intentional lives.
Having their own set of values is the foundation of everything they do.
3. They Take Charge of Their Own Lives
According to Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there are two ways of approaching events in life: reactively and proactively.
Being reactive means waiting for something to come and then responding to it.
It’s standing by and waiting for a job promotion, or the “perfect time” to start a business.
Being proactive, on the other hand, is the opposite. It’s action first.
Highly effective people are rarely idle for no reason.
Instead of waiting for a promotion, they learn new skills in their spare time, making them more valuable to the company.
Instead of waiting for the right time to start a business, the highly effective person does their research and launches – even with a bad plan.
They do this because they know that the “perfect time” for anything is a myth.
So they get started and make progress while others wait.
4. They Focus on what They can Control
In Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about the concepts of the circle of influence and the circle of concern.
The circle of concern is everything around you that affects you in any way – the weather, the attitudes of your coworkers, the opinions of the audience.
The circle of influence lies within the circle of concern, and is much smaller.
Within it are things that you can have direct control over – your words, your behavior, your hand movements, how you choose to manage your time.
Highly effective people don’t bother stressing themselves out with the things they cannot change.
What can they do about it anyway?
So that’s why they put all their focus onto the things they can control – and that’s what makes them different.
5. They Know What They’re Working Towards
Some people go about their daily lives essentially winging it.
They start the day and improvise their plans as the hours pass by.
The problem with this is that it’s an aimless approach to living life.
While winging it can be relaxing at times, not knowing what to work towards can become its own source of stress and frustration.
One way that highly effective people make progress is by working backwards.
If they want to be a film director, they know that spending time playing tennis may not be the best use of their time.
Instead, they read up on cinematography or watch classics to learn. They know the right activities to focus their energy on.
6. They Break Down Tasks into MIni-Tasks
Large goals are exciting. But they can also be daunting.
It’s like looking up at a large mountain, gulping with fear as you question, “I have to climb that?”
Highly effective people know that feeling all too well, especially since they might seem to always be taking on large projects.
Instead of taking on a large project with their entire being, they break the project down into smaller projects they can do.
If their end goal is to publish a book, they might first start with a very rough outline of everything, a simple list of topic ideas, and a bad draft they can keep improving upon later.
7. They’re Consistent with their Habits
Success comes from consistency, doing things over and over, often much longer than most people.
Consistency comes from habits, which are the things we do over and over. This is why forming good habits is so important to one’s success.
When starting a habit, a highly effective person will start small.
If 2-hour workouts are too much for them, they know that they’re less likely to keep it up.
So they make their workouts shorter, just so they can keep it up in the long term.
And over a period of time, their consistency is going to give them the body they want much faster than the person who works out hard, then burns out and has to restart over and over.
8. They Want To Succeed Together
Highly effective people don’t live in a bubble.
You’ve probably seen this.
They’re often the team leaders, guiding people on what to do, or the planner that creates strategies that everyone agrees with, or they negotiate with others to win clients.
An essential part of being highly effective is to have a “win-win” mindset, as Stephen Covey would suggest.
The world doesn’t have to be binary; other people don’t have to lose for you to win.
There are more situations where both parties can get something about working together.
And by working together, they push each other to succeed even more.
9. They Listen before Speaking
When someone says something questionable, it’s easy to stop them right then and there, interrupt them, and call them out.
Then you talk about why their opinion might be wrong, but they might interrupt you.
So you argue and a meaningful relationship becomes harder to form.
Highly effective people don’t make quick judgments.
They sit back and wait until they have all the data they need to make the best decision possible.
If they let someone talk, they might eventually understand and even empathize with that person, thus creating the advantage of forming a more meaningful relationship.
10. They Don’t Shut People Out
Highly effective people are team players.
They welcome others to the group and see how they can best manage their relationship.
They understand that success does not come in isolation. It’s always going to be a group effort to achieve something great.
And sometimes, to make things as efficient as possible, they need to work as a team as best as they can.
11. They Reflect on Themselves Often
David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, wrote about the concept of the weekly review.
The weekly review is a time, once a week, where someone looks back on what they did that week, what they can improve on, and what to work towards the next week.
This is a common practice among highly effective people.
It’s what allows them to set a weekly direction towards their larger goals.
It’s what ensures consistent movement and progress, no matter how small.
12. They Take Care of Themselves
No matter how productive they are, highly effective people are not machines. They’re fresh and blood, just like you.
And just like you, they feel stressed, or they need to look for a sense of meaning in their lives, or they just need a drink with their closest friends.
Highly effective people know that everything they do in a day affects how they work.
So they take care of themselves. They rest, socialize, and find something to believe in.
It’s what keeps them going towards their goals.
Living a Highly Effective Life
Life is short.
According to Oliver Burkeman, on average we live for about four thousand weeks.
Highly effective people, whether implicitly or not, know this.
Every second is precious; no amount of money can buy back 1 second.
So they spend their time as wisely as they can.
While it might take some time, becoming a highly effective person yourself is possible.
You can take these habits and spin them to fit your own life.
There is no path, so carve your own, but you can use these as things to refer back to.
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