10 things highly productive people do that lazy people don’t, according to psychology

We all have moments of laziness and procrastination, but some people have far less of these moments and accomplish much more. 

What’s their secret?

The habits and mindset of highly productive people tie into time-tested psychological and behavioral truths about human nature and motivation. 

By adopting the following habits and attitudes, each of us can become much more productive. Even if we’re already operating at a high level, there’s always room to grow!

Let’s dive in. 

1) They prioritize their objectives

Highly productive people are able to prioritize what they have to get done. 

They break things down into categories of what needs to be done now, versus what can be done tomorrow or next week. 

Then they stick to that. 

They don’t spontaneously take on way more work than they can do or do a task that’s not due for another week:

They do what needs to be done when they have the time and ability and they don’t take on more than they can handle. 

This brings me to the next point: 

2) They set SMART goals

The next thing that highly productive people do is they work smart, or SMART, if you prefer. 

This refers to specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. 

Having SMART goals helps to provide clear direction and motivation. 

Because their goals are achievable and actionable, these productive people are able to work toward hitting their target without being unsure or confused about where they stand. 

As clinical psychologist Ron Breazeale, PhD. notes:

“If we are to be resilient and if we are to be hopeful, we need to establish specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific goals.”

3) They keep a set and defined routine

Just as a little bit of exercise each day will make a much larger positive difference than a massive workout once or twice a month, so it goes in every other area of life. 

The highly productive person understands that having a set routine and defined schedule is extremely important:

They know that keeping to their schedule and getting their daily tasks done is more than just going through the motions.

It’s steady progress towards their goals, and it’s also a valuable journey in and of itself that keeps them strong and on their toes. 

4) They practice self-discipline

Highly productive people understand that nobody else will live their life for them or achieve their goals on their behalf. 

They have to do it themselves. 

No amount of help, coaching or personal meditation will ever make up for rock-hard discipline when it comes to deciding what to do and doing it.

They understand that managing their attention and directing it to their goals is up to them and not anybody else. 

As social psychologist Ron Friedman, PhD. explains:

“No matter how much time and energy we have at our disposal, we cannot be productive without mastering the art of attention management.”

5) They minimize distractions 

This relates to the previous point of managing attention and having self-discipline:

The productive individual understands that distractions are their enemy. 

Even small distractions can throw them off their tasks for the day in a big way:

This is especially true of emotional arguments, personal issues or trying to make huge decisions before they are ready to do so. 

They focus on taking things step by step and minimizing even small distractions that could throw them off course. 

As psychotherapist Amy Morin points out:

“Every interruption, whether it’s a phone call, a question from a co-worker, or an email, disrupts your concentration and impairs your performance.”

6) They always strive to improve

Those who are high achievers are on a journey of constant growth. 

But there’s a catch:

They are highly self-aware in terms of identifying and doubling down on their own talents.

If they have an aptitude for mechanical skills but are terrible at creative endeavors, they don’t become the head of an art gallery: they go in to be a mechanic at an auto body shop. 

They are always working to improve, but they are improving at what they’re already good at. 

This ensures that they don’t waste time on things they’re not very skilled at and that they keep improving in a way that also ensures they don’t waste their time and energy. 

Which brings me to the next point: 

7) They know when to take a break

Highly productive people are not the people you see who work 24/7.

Highly productive people have learned to double down on what they’re good at so that they are able to work effectively and quite fast. 

They don’t spend all their time sweating and crying for something they’re not much good at. 

This also means they take large and restful breaks in between to respect the needs of their body and mind for some tranquility. They know that self-care is more than just a buzzword: it’s a necessity. 

As Friedman observes:

“Being productive requires recognizing that you can’t work for extended periods of time and maintain a high level of performance. As humans, we have a limited capacity for focused attention.”

8) They delegate and say no effectively

Highly productive people are not people-pleasers. 

They don’t have to be a jerk by any means, but they are able to say no and stick to it. 

They are also able to delegate to others who are more suited for a certain task or more talented at doing something than they are. 

They feel no need to be in charge of everything or to always know what’s going on in a job, for example: if something is more somebody else’s department they let them handle it. 

If they are too busy to take on a new task then they say so. 

“One method of counteracting priority dilution involves having a strategy in place for saying “no” in advance, so that you don’t have to stop and think about how to phrase your response each time you need to turn someone down,” notes Friedman.

9) They reflect on setbacks and adjust plans

Highly productive people do their best to learn from failures and setbacks. 

They are also able to effectively judge when to bail or not:

For example, if a work project is going very slowly or having many hiccups, they are able to decide whether it’s worth continuing or not. 

Is it time to eject or is this just a rough patch?

By being able to decide what is worth their time and what has become a waste, they cultivate an effective and timely approach to work. 

This pays off in them being much more productive than many others around them. 

10) They stay in good physical shape

There’s no substitute for physical exercise when it comes to both physical and mental health. 

By keeping up a steady regime of physical fitness (at whatever level they are able), productive people keep themselves in a can-do mode.

They keep the endorphins flowing and cultivate a schedule that leaves time to get a good sweat in. 

This makes a big difference to their overall level of performance and capability. 

As Morin explains:

“Previous research concluded that exercise provides an immediate boost in attention. A walk during a lunch break could help you concentrate when you return to work, for example.”

Becoming a highly productive person

Becoming more productive is all about priorities. 

By adopting the habits and mentality outlined in this article, you can supercharge your days.

You’ll discover that you not only get more done, but also have a higher energy level and much more appreciation for the breaks you take. 

By committing yourself to a productive and fulfilling work life, you find that your personal life and time off takes on even more value, while your work also becomes more rewarding and empowering. 

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