how to get things done

7 Habits Highly Effective People DON’T Have

You’ve got too much to do and too little time to do it.

But you have that one friend who seems to get everything done. She’s busy but not ridiculously so, and isn’t stressed or rushed. She seems to manage family, work, and hobbies with ease, and even gets a weekend away on a regular basis.

How does she do it? Does she have a magic potion she’s not sharing, or did she make some sort of productivity deal with the devil?

Nope, it’s more mundane than that.

Whether you think so or not, you’ve got habits that are bogging you down, making you less effective than your seemingly charmed friend, and leaving you with a To Do list that never ends.

Where did those bad habits come from? You’re not a bad person – you don’t want a never-ending To Do list, or to feel frazzled at the end of the day. You want to get stuff done.

It’s just that you’ve been doing things the same way for so long, you don’t notice how bogged you are. That’s the definition of a habit: “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition.” No mention of efficiency.

But the beautiful thing about habits is you can change them. Ditch the old unproductive ones and get new powerful ones, and become one of those highly effective people.

Here are seven habits your efficient friend doesn’t have, along with ways to get rid of them:

Multi-tasking

It might seem smart to do a few things at once, but the truth is you end up doing all of them poorly. There’s a limit to what our brains can handle at one time, and multi-tasking only sets you up for inefficiency and stress.

The fix: Do one thing at a time. (Duh.) It calms the mind, allows you to focus, and you’ll do better work and enjoy the process more. Once you do that one thing, check it off the list and move on to the next. Simple.

Spending your most productive time on tasks that aren’t important

You’re a morning person? Then you’re wasting high-energy hours if you’re cruising Facebook, organizing your sweater drawer, or calling a friend to chat before lunch.

The fix: Every night make a To Do list for the next day, no more than two or three most important tasks. Know your productive time (morning, middle of the night, whenever), then schedule those things for those hours. After you’ve cleared your To Do list for the day, catch up on non-essential tasks.

Working at a messy desk

Even though you say, “But I know exactly where everything is!” I’m not buying it. Physical clutter = mental clutter, and mental clutter is no good for getting stuff done.

The fix: Take two hours, tops, and make three piles: toss, pending, and deal. Then, guess what? Toss the first pile. Put the pending pile into a folder on your desk. (The strange part about that is some items will resolve themselves and you can move them to the toss pile. Yay!) Lastly, the deal pile has to be dealt with now, or moved to your To Do list and knocked out that way.

Starting and stopping and starting again

Inconsistency is the enemy of productivity. And it’s frustrating to have a task or project take way longer than it should.

The fix: You don’t need to be the smartest, most talented person in the room, but you do need to be persistent. Take regular, consistent action, even when it feels like you’re not getting anywhere, day in, day out. You’ll see results in time. (Think Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”)

Giving in to fear

Fear is normal; it means you’re challenging yourself. Just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you should avoid it. It might be the best thing for you.

The fix: Give the thing you’re afraid of the worst-case scenario test. Will it kill you? No? Good. Consider what could happen – realistically – if you do that thing. Imagine the scenario, and picture yourself dealing with it. Let me tell you a secret: the worst case probably won’t happen. Let go of your fear and plunge in.

Setting vague goals

You say you want to “make more money” or “be healthier,” but what do those goals mean? They’re too vague to translate to any kind of purposeful action, which will have you mucking about forever.

The fix: Set goals and make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Change “make more money” to “add one new client a month,” or “be healthier” to “walk 30 minutes, five days a week for three months.” Admire your progress.

Blaming situations or others for why you can’t reach your goals

Blaming is a losing game. Sure, you’ve got an anemic bank account or a jerk of a boss, but at the end of the day it’s your life. Whining keeps you stuck in “poor me” limbo, far removed from your goals.

The fix: Suck it up and take responsibility. You owe it to yourself and the world to make the most of your talents and step into your greatness. Own your past, present, and future. Quit wasting energy complaining and watch your productivity soar.

Is there a habit you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Hit the share button if you found something useful!

DEONNE KAHLER writes at Life on the High Wire. Drop off your email address and get access to her free live training event, “Game Changer: Add Spice and Satisfaction to Your Life in 10 Minutes a Day” (plus a bonus!). She’ll teach you four steps you can take right now to start getting the creative, independent, hugely satisfying life you deserve.

 

  • http://www.lifestyleupdated.com/ Slavko@LifestyleUpdated

    Great post Deonne.
    Making those to-do lists always helped me a lot when it comes to increasing productivity. And less procrastination, I can say too. 

    Consistency also is a great trait if one tries to adopt it. Having to start all over again not only wears us down, put we also lose track of our progress, and we lose our momentum, sort of speak.
    In the end, I love what you say about blaming others for our own mistakes. Doing that we will always stay behind with whatever improvement we hoped to achieve, because we will not see our mistakes for the teacher they are, and start learning from them. And that is indeed one of the best ways to learn.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Slavko,

      Mistakes are a gift, aren’t they? They’re a pain at the time, but there is that great moment when you think, Okay, won’t do that again! Lesson learned. The hope is it only takes once for that particular lesson (ha).

      Deonne

  • Cindy Barrett

    I love the comment about giving in to fear.  That’s one of the things that holds me back. Really, most times you have very little to lose by trying something new.
      I’m in the process right now of setting specific goals for myself.  I find I’m always happier working towards a goal.
    Keep up the good work, I love reading your blog.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Cindy,

      Thanks for the kind words! I agree about goals – I feel lost without at least one. Drifting. I believe it’s the human condition to want to accomplish something, and it’s just that we let all the other crap get in the way when we don’t.

      I hope your goal-setting is going well, would love to hear more about what you come up with. Feel free to email me over there.

      Deonne

  • http://www.mazzastick.com/blog-3/ Justin Mazza

    Great points Deeone. Scheduling/managing my life was an art form that took some time to “master” and I still have to remember to stay flexible while doing it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Justin,

      I agree that flexibility is key, especially if you work for yourself. I have a day once in awhile where it’s like I’m swimming through mud to accomplish anything, and I’ve learned to get the bare minimum done, then call it quits for the day. And it never fails, if I do that I wake up the next morning with tons of energy and am able to make up for whatever I didn’t do the day before.

      Deonne

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Justin,

      I agree that flexibility is key, especially if you work for yourself. I have a day once in awhile where it’s like I’m swimming through mud to accomplish anything, and I’ve learned to get the bare minimum done, then call it quits for the day. And it never fails, if I do that I wake up the next morning with tons of energy and am able to make up for whatever I didn’t do the day before.

      Deonne

  • Maverick

    Good job on this post. You really helped readers to be more productive. These are true and do happen most of the time. Also, thank you for the suggestions on fixing these bad habits. You’re a real help Deonne

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Maverick,

      I’m so glad! Changing habits is a process – life-long, I think – but so worth it. Best of luck with whatever you’re pursuing these days.

      Deonne

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Maverick,

      I’m so glad! Changing habits is a process – life-long, I think – but so worth it. Best of luck with whatever you’re pursuing these days.

      Deonne

  • http://twitter.com/Ani_LifeProb Ani

    Great post. Illustrates the most common evils :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Ani,

      Glad it struck a chord! I’m sort of (okay,thoroughly) obsessed with goal-setting and productivity, and am always tweaking my own systems. It was fun to write up my philosophy in this post. Hope you have a great weekend!

      Deonne

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Ani,

      Glad it struck a chord! I’m sort of (okay,thoroughly) obsessed with goal-setting and productivity, and am always tweaking my own systems. It was fun to write up my philosophy in this post. Hope you have a great weekend!

      Deonne

  • Jessica Pope

    Hi Deonne,

    These are habits we all need to look out for in our own lives if we want to become highly effective like that one friend we’ve all got!

    When I recognize these habits in my own life, I ask what my actions say about how I value my time, my energy and the possibilities of my creating something great. The 7th habit (blaming others) can be truly devastating to my sense of self-worth. The “poor me” limbo is a state of helplessness and reactionary thinking.

    Changing my language helped me get rid of the habit of blaming others. My language used to be full of victim-talk: “My boss made me come in early,” or “My friend never returns my calls.” This language externalized my problems. It’s wasn’t my fault the boss insisted I come in early. I wasn’t to blame that my friend was negligent. And, while this kind of talking did keep me from feeling blameworthy for all the problems in my life, it also kept me from feeling empowered to fix them.

    I learned to frame situations and talk about them in ways that highlighted my agency. “My boss asked me to come in early, and I did, even though I didn’t want to.” Framing the situation like this empowers me to ask myself why I acted that way. I wasn’t forced to come in early. I had a choice. Whether I made the choice based on fear, guilt, lack of confidence, ambition, love or strategic maneuvering is something I need to consider, but the fact remains that I did choose.

    “I continue to call Kim even though she hasn’t returned my calls in over three months.” This forces me to deal with my actions and to ask the hard questions like whether I should confront Kim about her behavior and even whether I should continue to have Kim in my life.

    Once I changed my language, I was able to get out of the rut of habit #7 and replace it with the empowering and liberating habit of reclaiming my agency and choice in every situation, no matter how bleak.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Jessica,

      I love your description of reframing your language to escape the “poor me” syndrome. Brilliant. It’s true that there’s so much we can’t control, including other people’s actions or attitudes, but you’re right, that doesn’t mean we just lie down and whimper about it. You seem like a person who takes responsibility! I admire that.

      Deonne

  • http://www.financial-lessons.net/10-common-career-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-making-them/ Jcrosskey@Financial Lessons

    Great article! The key to being effective is choice. We choose every action and reaction, even though it doesn’t always seem that way. If I oversleep in the morning and it leads me to be late to work, which will push a bunch tasks back on my schedule, it’s ultimately my fault. It would be easy to blame the alram clock, tiredness or my current schedule, but really I made the choice to sleep the extra 15 minutes.  If I want to get up earlier, I have to change the environment to make that a more viable choice. This applies to just about everything in our lives. Choice is key to effectiveness.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       J,

      Yes! Taking responsibility for your choices is key, and learning to do this on a regular basis will get you where you want to go *so* much faster.

      Deonne

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  • Downloadsandsimilar

    this is great!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Glad you think so! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Deonne

  • http://www.communicationskillsactivities.net/ Steve – Improve Your Speaking

    I definitely get more done and get it done more effectively if I take a deep breath and focus on one thing at a time as best I can. It helps to have a list of all the things I need to get done so my mind doesn’t worry that I’ll forget about any. That lets me relax and do them one at a time to the best of my ability.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Steve,

      I totally agree about the reason for lists – they’re like a safety net. I’d never get any sleep without them (ha).

      Deonne

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

    Doing mindful things during your peak hours is huge. The rest can be done during your down time, for sure. I also agree with writing goals before bed, and timing them. I actually just started doing this recently and it is an amazing tool!
    Oh, yes, and stop blaming. It’s really immature!

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Suzanne,

      We’re kindred spirits! I find that I’m always tweaking my habits to be more productive, which in itself has become a habit. Funny.

      Deonne

  • http://twitter.com/Training2U Eric Bierman

    This is a very well written and informative post.  Was shocked at how efficient you can be with your advice - so tactical, easy, and useful.  But I guess that’s the point of being “highly effective.” 
     
    I especially liked the points around a messy desk and setting vague goals.  I’ve seen those both negatively affect me in the past so it was nice to see a refresher on the importance of those.
     
    Again, nicely done Deonne!

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Eric,

      Thanks for the kind words! “Easy” is a huge goal of mine. Being productive shouldn’t require fancy software or systems or layers of thought.

      I catch myself on the setting vague goals point, too, so we all need refreshers (ha).

      Deonne

  • http://www.followomswami.com/ Navjot

    Oh how well i realte to this article…amazing read…i cannot work on a messy table and i love to make a to do list or else i feel so lost. And how true we need to change ourselves..its even easier than to change the entire world so we need to stop blaming and start improving. Navjot

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Navjot,

      “Stop blaming and start improving” – well said! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Deonne

  • http://www.theterritoryproject.com/ Dan

     The blame game…  oh what fun people have with that.  Great post!  Keep them coming! 

  • http://www.theterritoryproject.com/ Dan

     The blame game…  oh what fun people have with that.  Great post!  Keep them coming! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Dan,

      Definitely! Thanks for the kind words.

      Deonne

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Dan,

      Definitely! Thanks for the kind words.

      Deonne

  • http://twitter.com/deepexistence Stephen Guise

    Definitely true and a fine article. Multi-tasking is the one that bothers me so much. People talk about it like it is a skill – IT’S A HINDRANCE! I wrote an article about it with supporting scientific evidence that shows why multi-tasking is inefficient.

    http://deepexistence.com/2011/04/multi-tasking-is-killing-your-productivity/

    Cheers,
    Stephen

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Stephen,

      Great article! I love it when readers give me homework (ha). You’re right, people do talk about multi-tasking like it’s a skill, just like people talk about how crazy busy they are as if that’s a good thing. There’s now this American pride around fragmented activity and ridiculous schedules, and I really hope we can get back to focused, purposeful lives.

      Deonne

  • http://glynisj.com/ Glynis Jolly

    I think I needed to read what I’ve been doing wrong before I could make it right. Although I don’t believe anyone can actually multi-task, I do need to RE-do my task list every night. I’ve been just crossing off what I have done and adding what is new. It’s sloppy. Also, I’m guilty of having vague goals. I need to start being more specific.

    Thank you for the great post.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

       Glynis,

      So glad you got something out of the post! I rewrite my to-do list, too. Things come up, schedules change – flexibility is the key. But since my daily list is usually only a few items long, it doesn’t take much time to rewrite (ha).

      Deonne

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  • KCCLARK

    GOOD

  • KCCLARK

    GOOD

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      KC,

      Thanks!

      Deonne

  • KCCLARK

    GOOD

  • KCCLARK

    GOOD

  • http://www.self-esteem-tips.com/ Self Esteem Tips

    I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Thank you for the kind words! The blog is a Genesis theme – Tapestry – and I had a designer do the logo. I appreciate you reading and commenting!

      Deonne

  • http://www.self-esteem-tips.com/ Self Esteem Tips

    I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. :)

  • Droovroyabuddy

    I would like to add “Just planning without taking any action”

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Yes! That’s a good one. It’s easy to dream and scheme, but if you don’t do anything after that, it’s a waste. Thanks for sharing.

      Deonne

  • http://www.bignewsarticles.com/ news articles

    that trueeee

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonne.kahler Deonne Kahler

      Glad you think so!

      Deonne

  • http://www.buysocialmediatraffic.com/ Mikel Lito

    I find trying to stay focussed and motivated on what I’m trying to achieve can be a struggle at times, I waste too much time when I lose track of what I’m meant to be doing. This great article will help me with my motivation

    • http://twitter.com/deonnekahler Deonne Kahler

      Mikel,

      Focus and motivation are a struggle for all of us, and I’m so glad this article helped. Take small, daily steps toward your goals and you’ll get there. I promise! 

      Deonne

  • http://www.salary-loans.com/ Jesica Smith

    good insight on effectiveness on us. :)

    • http://twitter.com/deonnekahler Deonne Kahler

       Thanks, Jesica!

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