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:


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!

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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.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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