10 Secrets of Highly Productive People

Productive PeopleTo some, it’s a mystery why many people are driven to action, while some people have a difficult time getting things done. Research indicates that genetics might play a role in motivation (specifically for exercise); however, there are secrets that productive people know that keep them in the fast lane. Keep in mind, these methods can be adopted by just about anyone.

If you want to get more done, without jeopardizing your health or well being, get to know the secrets of productive people that we’ve outline for you today.

1. Productive People Establish Routines

A routine is a daily recipe or roadmap — a guide to follow every day the same way. Productive people, who are juggling work, school, children, a household or other obligations, follow a daily routine. A daily routine is essential for becoming efficient and productive.

Productive people first establish a routine for the simple things, such as brushing their teeth and making their beds; then they make routines for more complicated activities, such as making a to-do list each morning for work or school that outlines each day’s obligations.

Why it Works

When you establish a consistent schedule, you’re less likely to encounter the unexpected. Unexpected activities are the things that slow you down. For example, imagine you can’t find your keys in the morning. If you have a routine of placing your keys in the same place every evening, you’ll know where to find them every time. The action becomes automatic.

2. Productive People Use Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990).

Some researchers believe that Emotional Intelligence is innate, while others believe it can be developed. To improve EI, take note of others’ body language, voice patterns and other verbal and non-verbal cues as to their state of mind and feelings.

Why it Works

People who use Emotional Intelligence information make better decisions based on emotional information from themselves and others. Emotional Intelligence can be used to prioritize life tasks, problem solve, and to lead and communicate effectively.

Comprehending and recognizing your own emotions can motivate you to work toward the accomplishment of your goals. Understanding the emotions of others helps you empathize and prioritize by taking into consideration emotional cues. For example, when making decisions regarding tasks that are important to complete at work, considering management’s feelings can guide you in the right direction.

3. Productive People Read Books

In the modern days of on-demand television, online books, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, reading books might appear old-fashioned and passé. However, highly productive people never stop learning, and they make time to read books — regularly for leisure and for learning. Books provide a new perspective and allow individuals to escape.

Why it Works

There are several productivity benefits of reading books. Reading provides stress relief, improves vocabulary, improves sleep, keeps your mind sharp and improves focus.

Making reading a nighttime ritual can set you up for a good night’s sleep, which increases productivity. However, make sure that your reading material is made from paper because lights from electronic devices actually inhibit sleep. Light exposure before sleeping suppresses the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep.

4. Productive People Listen to the Beat of Their Own Drum

Everybody is different. Some people are morning people. Others are not. Some like to work in spurts, while others keep a steady pace throughout the day. Some like to work in a quiet room, while others thrive in a busy coffee shop.

What’s important is knowing what works for you. Keeping a diary of productive times and places helps you harness the power of your own rhythm and personal style.

Why it Works

Self-awareness is the ability to have an understanding of your personality – and in this context, your work style. Becoming aware of what works and doesn’t work empowers you to alter behavior to set yourself up for success.

5. Productive People Work With Passion

Productive people wake up each day with a passion for their life and work. Their day gives them meaning and purpose and they cherish every moment of it. They’re motivated by their goals and the tasks they’re taking to accomplish them. Passion doesn’t come naturally; productive people go out and search for it.

Steve Jobs once said,

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

This doesn’t mean that you should immediately quit your job to pursue your passion of becoming a golf pro or polo player. It’s important to love what you do — not necessarily to do what you love. Focus on what is meaningful about your work and you’ll feel satisfaction from it.

Why it Works

Those who feel truly successful are proud of the work that they’ve accomplished. There’s always something to feel good about at work — appreciate your achievements. Being delighted about your accomplishments motivates and encourages you to keep going.

6. Productive People Don’t Let Others Tell Them What They Can’t Do

Limitations are something that unproductive people know well. Self-imposed and external limitations squash productivity. Productive people don’t let others hold them back from the greatness that they can achieve. They see their goal and keep going no matter what others might say.

Don’t let the naysayers impose limits on you. Distance yourself and keep your eye on the prize.

Why it Works

It goes without saying that focusing on the positive, rather than the negative fosters success and productivity. Those who focus on the goal and are passionate about it are likely to achieve it.

7. Productive People Practice Self-Restraint

Self-restraint is one of the most difficult practices to achieve, and learning self-control is challenging for many. Productive people know that limiting temptations, such as time wasting activities, can lead to enhanced productivity.

It’s important to recognize when self-restraint is an issue. Keep a diary of wasted time. There are practices that can help you learn self-control. Software and apps can block and limit distractions. Practicing yoga and meditation increases self-awareness and control. Eventually, self-control becomes automatic or a habit and it comes naturally.

Why it Works

Reducing time-wasters, such as television, video games, unhealthy snack breaks, etc. shifts attention to the important tasks at hand. When self-control is no longer an issue, focus becomes easier and time becomes free to do the things you really want to do — without guilt.

8. Productive People Experience Life

People who are productive get out of their comfort zone and experience all life has to offer. They crave new experiences, travel, pursue education and socialize often. Every new life experience is an opportunity to learn something new. Powerful, exciting and new life experiences provide important memories that people reflect upon for years.

Why it Works

It’s simple. Interesting life experiences foster joy, learning and contentment. Happier people work harder and are more productive. Productive people make better decisions based on past life experiences — whether those experiences are good or bad.

9. Productive People Say “No”

One of the most important skills to learn is to say, “no.” Management consultant, educator and author, Peter Drucker, once said,

“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

Productive people know when requests don’t align to their personal goals or professional goals. They understand how to prioritize and which tasks and activities to focus on. They know what can be deferred or ignored. They know when it’s the right decision to say “no.”

Why it Works

When time is limited and demands are insurmountable, prioritization becomes more important than ever. Saying yes to everything wastes time, sacrifices quality of work and can be overwhelming. Learning to say no to meetings, invitations and projects that don’t move the needle is hard to do, but advances productive people to meet their most important demands.

10. Productive People Schedule and Record Everything

Do you get anxiety about forgetting your daily obligations? Many of us do. Holding too many items in our heads creates excessive stress and anxiety.

According to studies, most people are only able to remember three to four things in the mind at once. If you’re the average person and not a master of memory, use a paper calendar or mobile app to manage schedules and obligations.

Why it Works

Recording commitments, ideas and goals ensures that you won’t miss appointments and other obligations, but also reduces the anxiety associated with forgetting those items. A reliable mobile calendar or personal organizer provides you with audible and visible reminders to keep you on track.

Your Turn

What are your secrets for success, motivation and productivity? Please comment and share!

Understand Your Brain Dominance for Better Productivity

Brain Dominance

Sometimes people are described as right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant. Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize winner and Neuropsychologist, described right and left-brain dominance in 1981 when researching the split brain. According to his findings, the left side of the brain controls logic and focus, and the right side of the brain controls creativity.

Corresponding to Sperry’s theory, people who are left-brainers excel in project management and they’re inclined to follow productivity systems. Those who are right-brainers are more artistic, and they decide their course of action as they go along. In reality, most people have both left-brain and right-brain characteristics. However, they might have more characteristics associated with one side or the other.

We typically associate prioritization and planning with left-brainers. However, the right-brainers use intuition and big-picture thinking to manage their time so don’t discount their valuable skills. Being conscious of the less dominant side of the brain can help strengthen it. This understanding can be useful for productivity goals. Learning balanced thinking skills (using both sides of the brain) can boost productivity.

Are You a Right or Left-Brainer?

Right-brain characteristics include imagination, artistry, and intuition. People who are right-brain dominant tend to be more passionate, empathetic, and impulsive. They choose professions in marketing, fiction writing, teaching, sales, art, and design.

Left-brain characteristics include language skills, logical thinking, and math and spelling skills. People who are left-brain dominant tend to process information linearly when solving problems. They are usually good planners and tend to make to-do lists. They choose professions in science, legal, programming, engineering, non-fiction writing, and health care.

If you want to learn if you’re a right or left-brainer, you can take a quick test online. This short quiz from Eterna helps you determine your brain hemisphere dominance. I personally took the test, and it determined that I’m right brain dominant which was not a surprise for me. My intuition told me where my dominance falls.

Messy and Clean Desks Play Roles in Productivity

Messy desks can be associated with creative, right-brainers, while clean desks can be associated with the more orderly left-brainers. This is a generalization, of course.

I recently discovered an article “Why You Should Have a Messy Desk.” The article states that many of the most successful people in recent history have or had messy desks – including Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Tony Hsieh, and Mark Twain. What do these successful CEOs such as Hsieh and other leaders have in common? They’re creative visionaries and big-picture thinkers — most likely, right-brainers. My theory is that they’re heavily involved at the beginning phases of the creative process — the stage that new, innovative ideas develop. And after they’ve designed the new concepts, they hand over the project to the team members who plan, implement, and develop the final products under their creative guidance.

After research and thought, I concluded that messiness AND neatness play a role in productivity. A study from the University of Minnesota determined that an orderly environment activates a mindset of following convention and a disorderly environment promotes exploring new ideas.

Visualize effective brainstorming sessions in messy offices or conference rooms — ideas flowing freely in an unstructured way. Imagine a creative war room at an advertising agency – think Mad Men. These unstructured spaces are where ideas flow. On the other hand, picture times when you’re getting things done. In my case, I clear my desk of clutter so the things around me aren’t demanding my attention. I’m a right-brainer who employs practices of the left-brainer to boost my productivity.

To encourage productivity, consider your task at hand and your brain dominance. Messiness promotes the creative process and neatness encourages the implementation of projects in a conventional way. If you’re a right-brainer, don’t be afraid to tidy your workspace when you’re in the execution phase of a project. If you’re a left-brainer, go with the flow of a messy environment when you’re brainstorming and generating new ideas.

Exercise the Less Dominant Side of the Brain

You can greatly improve your productivity by complementing your thinking with thoughts and behaviors that don’t come naturally to you. You can also perform brain exercises to develop the less dominant side of the brain.

If you’re a left-brainer, you probably believe you don’t need advice for being productive because you have an excellent system in place. However, you might lack big-picture thinking. Do you get bogged down in the details and tend to lose sight of the big picture? Do you analyze the numbers, but lack intuition about the direction you should take? Is finding creative answers to problems difficult for you?

Understanding the above weaknesses of the left-brainer can help them to improve their decision-making, problem solving, and productivity. This type of thinking might not come natural; however, the left-brainer can benefit from brain exercises such as drawing, playing an instrument, and playing sports to strengthen the right side of the brain.

If you’re a right-brainer, you probably don’t use a productivity system because you intuitively know how much time it takes to complete a project or task. Do you keep your agenda and your ideas in your head and easily visualize your projects and tasks? Do you get your projects done (sometimes at the 11th hour), but forget to pay your mortgage? Do you ignore the numbers and make decisions based on creativity and intuition? Are you late for meetings because you don’t make appointments and use reminders?

Using a productivity system or software with projects, appointments, reminders, and tasks can greatly improve the right-brainer’s productivity. The right-brainer can also improve their focus by working in 90-minute intervals with 10-20 minute breaks. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, coding, writing, and reading (without skimming) can exercise the left side of the brain.

Your Turn

Did you take the test to learn your brain dominance? Do the ideas and notions in this post ring true for you? Do you use a productivity system? Comment and let us know!

7 LifeTopix Organizational Tips For Adults Living With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are complex and there can be many symptoms, but generally adults who are living with ADHD face difficulties staying organized and focusing on the task at hand.

LifeTopix and ADHD

Most experts agree that productivity apps or day planners can help those with ADHD manage their lives. The LifeTopix app is designed specifically for life management. It includes 12 life topics: Tasks + Projects, Shopping, Events, Travel + Places, People + Services, Health + Activity, Finances, Home + Assets, Education, Notes + Files, Media, and Bookmarks.

The simple routines and strategies I’ve outlined below can put those living with adult ADHD on the road to getting better organized and avoiding excess stress.

Being on Time

Those living with ADHD generally have difficulties being on time, whether it’s showing up or paying bills. Often they become distracted and lose track of time. This can lead to problems with relationships and difficulties at work because the perception is that the person is inconsiderate and disorganized.

A strategy for always being on time is to schedule every item to which the person has committed to on their calendar, and to make sure that audible and visual reminders are set. Add a buffer to each appointment. For example, if an appointment is at 12:00, schedule the prep time and the actual appointment on the calendar, as shown below.

LifeTopix Calendar ADHD

In LifeTopix, I’d suggest changing the settings so a reminder is triggered at the time of the appointment. For example, go to Settings and set Other (which includes Appointments) to Remind on same day as shown below. This way, the reminder will sound and display at the time of the appointment, which will trigger a prompt.

LifeTopix Reminders

Also, define how many days in advance that’s required to address paying bills. As soon as a bill is received, pay it or schedule a reminder for the payment in the LifeTopix Finances topic.

Managing Finances

Managing money could be a post all by itself, but keep in mind, for those with ADHD, micromanaging budgets is the key to success. According to HelpGuide.org, “Start by keeping track of every expense, no matter how small, for a month (yes, thirty days). This will allow you to effectively analyze where your money is going.”

Living with ADHD can lead to impulsive buying so keeping track of even the smallest purchases keeps spending in check. With LifeTopix, those with ADHD can record expenses, schedule payments on their calendars, add accounts, track bank accounts, create payment templates, track charitable donations, track assets, and take financial notes. The following screenshot shows an overview of the Finances topic showing the items that can be managed.

LifeTopix Finances ADHD

Prioritizing, Starting, and Completing Tasks

Those affected by ADHD might have serious problems with prioritizing, starting, and completing tasks. It helps to have an understanding of the tasks’ steps so breaking them down into smaller tasks and recording them via a planner are both good strategies. It’s also difficult to stay focused for a length of time on large tasks, so breaking them down helps to achieve finalization.

Every day, most people have tasks that they need to complete. Some are transient, mundane, and routine — like making the bed or feeding pets. Others are more strategic, such as tasks that allow them to complete large home or work projects. LifeTopix includes the ability to record both through checklists (to-do lists) and tasks.

Checklists (to-do lists)

It’s important to make a list of the items that need to be completed each day. Establish a consistent time to complete these tasks so they become routine. The short, transient tasks can be recorded via LifeTopix checklists. These tasks include make beds, prepare lunches, lock doors, feed pets, etc. In LifeTopix, users can create to-do lists on the fly in their main Agenda view. A to-do list might look something like the following screenshot.

LifeTopix todo list ADHD

Projects + Tasks

Break large-scale projects into smaller units (tasks), such as planning an overall house de-cluttering project. This is a project that could take several weeks or months, depending on the home size and free time allowed. For a large de-cluttering project, breaking down the project into smaller tasks, such as 1) Install fridge bins, 2) Clean out junk drawer, 3) Install appliance garage, etc. paints a realistic view of the time commitment, breaks the project into manageable chunks, and allows the project to be completed over time.

LifeTopix projects can include associated tasks (and other items). To properly plan, tasks include description, status, priority, effort (time), started/finished date/time, category, location, and repeat options. These options help to establish a deadline and total amount of time to completion. Scheduling dates enable the tasks to be shown on the Calendar, ensuring visibility and accountability. The following screenshots show a LifeTopix project and list of broken-down tasks for the project.

Project and Tasks ADHD

Tracking Negative Behaviors

Adults with ADHD are more likely to abuse alcohol, smoke, or abuse drugs. Professional help is needed for those who suffer from abuse; however, tracking any undesirable behavior can be useful. For example, regular monitoring of alcohol consumption can detect binge drinking episodes.

The LifeTopix app includes monitoring through log forms. The types of items and units recorded are user configurable. The following screenshot shows an example of a log form and the log entries for alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Consumption and ADHD

Tracking Medications

Forgetting to take medications is a common complaint from those living with ADHD. It’s common to forget when medications were taken and at times a reminder is also needed. Taking medications can be part of a daily routine to-do list or device reminders can be used.

LifeTopix includes built-in functionally for logging medications such as the dose, frequency, and side effects. This provides patients and doctors with data that indicates whether the medication is appropriate. It’s possible to add any type of medication and log any side effect. Furthermore, graphs show correlations between medications and side effects that are tracked.

The following screenshot shows an example of a multi-topic log form with medication and a side effect on a scale from 1 to 10, such as anxiety.

ADHD App LifeTopix Med Logs

Implementing Healthy Routines

Good nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercise are important for everyone to achieve optimal health, but become especially important for those with ADHD. Research shows that some individuals have the ability to eliminate medications when they exercise regularly. And nutrition also plays in important role.

According to Additudemag.com, “Studies by Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist Richard Wurtman Ph.D., and others have shown that protein triggers alertness-inducing neurotransmitters, while carbohydrates trigger drowsiness.” Moreover, according to Livestrong, “Harvard Medical School’s associate professor of psychiatry John Ratey explains that some people who show symptoms of an attention deficit disorder may still need medication even when they do exercise, but others may be able to stop using stimulants altogether with an increase of physical activity.”

LifeTopix multi-topic log forms can also be created for nutrition, exercise, sleep, and associated ADHD symptoms. The method in which these forms are created is the same as with medication logs and side effects (discussed earlier), and are managed in the LifeTopix Health + Activity topic.

Under Committing and Over Delivering

Due to impulsive behavior, those living with ADHD take on too many commitments and tend to over promise. Under committing and over delivering might appear to be dishonest, but for those with ADHD it can be used as an effective strategy. Consider the level of commitment before taking on a project or event. Before committing, let the requester know that consulting with a calendar or planner is necessary. Schedule a reminder to ensure the requester receives an answer in a timely manner. Review lists of projects, tasks, and to-dos to ensure that delivery is possible.

The LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic allows users to gain awareness of the number of projects and the time committed. Also, the Agenda view (shown below) provides a high-level overview of the the current day, the next day, and the next seven days allowing the user to quickly evaluate the upcoming commitments and manage them as necessary.

LifeTopix Agenda View ADHD

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions, and please share your experiences about how you use LifeTopix to help you manage ADHD symptoms.