Two and a half years ago, I made a decision that would change the trajectory of my career: I challenged myself to get to know one new person a week who was doing something I thought was cool.
This decision alone was worth its weight in silver. What turned it to gold, however, was asking a few of the people I was speaking with to team up to form a mastermind group.
Fast forward to today and I currently run two groups consisting of successful creators, coaches, and entrepreneurs. When it comes to both professional advancement and my personal happiness, no other decision in my career can touch forming these groups.
Not only has it made work more fun. But on a daily basis, I have a front-row seat to observe the behaviors of people who have a proven track record of getting the work they want to do, done.
Below are the 5 actions that stand out the most.
1. They don’t expect anything to be given to them
When I first started these groups, despite a lot of the members having young families and multiple businesses, I was amazed by how much they were able to accomplish in a day.
It didn’t take me long, however, to uncover the first reason why they’re able to make such a high-impact: instead of sitting around waiting for approval or opportunities to come to them, they ask for what they want.
This may sound basic. But think about how much time you’ve spent in your life either questioning yourself or talking about what you want to do instead of just doing it.
Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. The one thing they have in common, however, is they are given to us by other people. Productive, high-flying people understand this. Despite having fears just like the rest of us, when they want something, they count to 1 and they go after it.
The late Steve Jobs got it right:
“Most people never pick up the phone. Most people never call and ask. And that’s what separates sometimes the people who do things from those who just dream about them.”
2. They don’t allow other people to steal their energy
If you want to be productive, setting up a distraction-free environment isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must. Getting in the zone to do deep work, however, isn’t only about turning off your phone and having the discipline to not scratch your email itch. It’s also about learning how to silence the daily annoyances that come up throughout the day.
Everyone gets cut off in traffic. Everyone gets criticized. Everyone has disagreements with co-workers and loved ones.
The difference is, however, when it’s time to work, productive people choose to focus on what’s in front of them instead of complaining about the problems around them.
Productivity is all about energy management. Don’t allow the negative actions of others to steal your valuable headspace.
3. They know the discipline to stop is just as important as finding the motivation to start
Productive people embrace the mantra from Jocko Willink, “Discipline equals freedom.” But this doesn’t just entail finding the motivation each day to start. Of equal, or arguably greater importance, it means developing the self-control to stop.
When the workday is over, productive people remind themselves that they’ve done enough. They don’t have to be called three times to dinner. They’ve learned that the most effective way to get their ideas to connect is by being the type of person who allows themselves to disconnect.
Out of all the habits, this is the one for me that separates the pros from the amateurs. Our careers are long. Productive people handle themselves with care.
4. They can’t wait to learn from their mistakes
Recently I was on a call with a coaching client who’s been dragging their feet to launch an online course. Like a lot of people who are doing something for the first time, he wanted everything to be perfect.
What he failed to realize, however, and is a theme that shows up again and again when working with productive people, is if you want to get something right, you have to open yourself up to what you’re doing wrong.
Productive people love the feedback stage.
Can you please tell me what I got wrong?
Can you please tell me what I got right?
Can you please tell me the one thing I could have explained better?
They do this because they don’t care about who’s right. They only care about getting things right.
But please don’t think they run around all day asking for and accepting feedback from every Tom, Carl, and Sally. If productive people understand anything, it’s the importance of bringing the right question to the best person.
When it comes to making key decisions, few things can save you more time than having a trusted board of advisors.
5. They keep copious notes of what or who is slowing them down
Getting clear on what you should be doing when you sit down to work is obviously important. Productive people prioritize more, however, what they shouldn’t be doing. They understand that it is often the little things that detract people from reaching their big goals.
- What zapped my energy today?
- Who brought me down today?
- Is this an effective use of my time?
- Will this make my boat go slower?
The most productive people I know consistently ask themselves these questions. They know that the most effective way to increase their speed is by identifying the things that are slowing them down and then working like hell to rid them from their environment.
Never underestimate the power of keeping a “Stop-Doing” list.
Tying it all together
When I started these groups my original goal was to simply make a few new friends and to stay in better touch with old ones.
In addition to accomplishing this goal, I’ve received so much more.
By working day-in and day-out with people who don’t just talk, but consistently make valuable things for their clients and audience, I’ve been able to do the same for myself.
A productivity hack can’t compete with getting to know the people who are doing what you want to do. It will only be a matter of time before some of their good habits rub off on you.
Originally published on Ladders.