One of the worst feelings in the world is being incredibly busy but not making any progress. You’re fighting the good fight, but your approach is wrecking your health or compromising your well-being. Projects seem to take forever. Progress comes too slow. Happiness is always a distant horizon never reached.
Most of us have experienced this at some point. We’ll finish each day with a lot of to-do’s crossed off our list, but without any big-picture progress. Yet all along, balance and increased progress were possible if we had the right habits in place.
Sometimes being effective and checking things off of a list isn’t enough. Achievement can be hollow if it gets out of sync with who we are, what we really want to be doing and what we’re actually capable of. We need to learn the difference between just getting things done and reaching high-performance productivity.
I study high performers, and I have learned they all have a very deliberate approach in planning their days, projects and tasks compared to underperformers. Like most productive people, high performers score well on statements such as, “I’m good at setting priorities and working on what’s important,” and, “I stay focused and avoid distractions and temptations.”
We need to learn the difference between just getting things done and reaching high-performance productivity.
When they compare themselves to their peers, high performers are more productive and yet also happier, less stressed and more rewarded over the long term.
The happiness finding is especially relevant since many people believe they can’t possibly do more without compromising their well-being or sense of balance. But that’s just not true. High performers have found a way to produce more but also eat healthier, exercise more and still feel a greater love for taking on new challenges than their peers do. And they don’t just get more busywork done in the sense that they sloppily pull things together—high performers complete more activities and report being more excellence-driven than their peers.
None of this is because high performers are superhuman or over-caffeinated. Nor is it because of the feel-good ideals we’re often sold today to become more productive. Believing you give more than your peers or that you are making a difference can certainly increase your sense of motivation and satisfaction, but that doesn’t always lead to increased productivity. Just because you’re a giver doesn’t mean you’re good at setting priorities or avoiding distractions.
Givers might feel a lot of heart, but they don’t always finish what they start. So how is it that high performers produce more but also maintain well-being and balance? It’s because they have cultivated many deliberate habits over the years that allow them to increase their productivity.
In examining over 20 years of research, I’ve found that if you feel you are more productive, you are more likely to feel happier, more successful and more confident. You’re also more likely to take better care of yourself, get promoted more often and earn more than people who feel less productive. These are not my opinions; they are important and measurable life outcomes that we’ve found in multiple surveys and studies.
In my coaching experience, it’s clear that high performers are also the most valued and highly paid people in an organization. Companies want high-performance, productive leaders because they are focused, manage tasks well and succeed more often in taking projects through to completion. They get overwhelmed less, and they work on their goals longer, with a greater sense of joy and camaraderie than others experience.
Mastering our ability to set good habits and be more productive has a lasting impact. And we all have it in our power to get started.
Adapted from Brendon Burchard’s book High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way; Hay House; September 2017.