Most of us know at least one madly productive person--someone who's able to accomplish more in a couple of hours than the rest of us get done all day. And chances are that person is also quite successful.
It's no accident that great work habits and success go hand in hand. Improving your work habits may not guarantee that you reach the top, but it will definitely help you advance.
Here are 12 of the top ways successful people boost their productivity:
1. They create structured to-do lists.
Most people who have a to-do list just keep a running list, with no sense of timing or priorities. There are lots of ways to structure your list to avoid making it a never-ending drudge. One technique I suggest to my coaching clients is to take an index card and make a list of five things that need to be done that day. If you do more, great--but you always have to do the five.
2. They know they don't have to reinvent the wheel.
Many people think that to be productive you have to invent an entirely new system to manage your work and time, but most successful people take one of the many systems that already exist--some built into a list program or other software, others not tied to technology--and put their own personal twist on it.
3. They break down goals into realistic smaller tasks.
Successful people take their most important goals and break them down into smaller components they can realistically accomplish. Every time you break down a goal, you're supporting a bigger vision. And when you complete a number of small tasks every day, you start building a sense of achievement.
4. They eliminate distractions and stay focused
We're all surrounded by distractions, but getting things done means turning everything off and tune into the task at hand. Focused work makes you twice as productive as trying to multitask.
5. They focus on being productive, not being busy.
Successful people don't just get things done, they get the right things done. The hardest thing about being productive is not the work, but the split second it takes to decide to take control. Don't get caught up in odds and ends and busy work--pay attention to what's important, because what gets done is what's been given priority.
6. They look ahead.
The most productive people don't fret about the past but are all about moving forward and envisioning the future. The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you have come. Make progress by taking constant steps forward.
7. They know the value of persistence.
Successful people know that if they want to get things done, they have to be persistent and not stop until they're done. Persistence is as necessary in dealing with yourself as it is in dealing with others.
8. They know there's no progress without definitive action.
The most successful people know that if there's no action there are no results. They concentrate on focused action instead of endlessly studying the options.
9. They invest in their own growth.
Productive people devote time and energy to developing their own talents, abilities and interests. They know it's the best investment they can make.
10. They admit when they are wrong and learn from their failures.
Mistakes that are hidden away or ignored are the ones that will be repeated. But admitting when you've gotten off the path is the first step to learning to do better. More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them.
11. They know they're responsible for their own success.
When you hold yourself accountable, you make your own rules and have your own game plan where you will do what you need to do to get the job done. Accept responsibility for your actions, be accountable for your results and take ownership of who you are, because you're the only one that knows what success means to you.
12. They help as many people as they can.
Successful people know that long-term success is directly tied to how well you serve others. We rise by lifting others; a person's most useful asset is not a head of full of knowledge but a heart full of understanding, an ear ready to listen and a hand ready to help. When you help others achieve their dreams, you will achieve your own.