I can hardly read a magazine, pick up a business book, or watch a talk show without hearing someone talking about the latest trick for improving productivity.
Being a skeptical person, my first reaction to these claims is “show me the research.” Sure enough, nine times out of 10 these “tips” aren’t backed by any research at all. It is so-called experts sharing what they’ve observed and experienced.
While observation is nice, I want cold hard facts. What really works?
To find out, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research studied 2,377 business people’s work habits. As a part of the analysis, we wanted to know if we would uncover any actual key drivers of productivity.
A key driver analysis seeks to discover and demonstrate whether a factor (the key driver) causes a particular outcome. For this study, we analyzed work habits and behaviors to determine whether or not they impact the outcome of productivity (as well as performance, happiness, and job satisfaction).
Twelve behaviors were, in fact, key drivers:
12 Key Drivers of Extreme Productivity
- Overall productive habits
- Sustained Energy
- Maximize TIME on important activities
- Work into the Zone
- Begin the day with the Greatest Impact Activity
- Recover when derailed
- Calendar important activities
- Have written goals
- Don’t react to others’ agendas
If you look at these drivers together, they form a picture of exactly what The Extremely Productive (The XP) do. If you can exemplify these behaviors too, you’ll rapidly boost your productivity.
4 Proven Ways to Improve Your Productivity
- Define your goals.
The Extremely Productive start by defining and writing their goals. When you know where you’re headed, it becomes clear what you need to do to get there. Defining and writing your goals has also been shown to jumpstart motivation.
The first step to improving productivity is to define goals. If you’re not working towards clear objectives, it’s easy to get distracted by everyone else’s.
Download a Goal Setting Worksheet to get started.
- Plan your work and work your plan.
Extremely Productive people develop a plan to reach their goals. And they’re committed to sticking to that plan.
However, their commitment isn’t innate. They do certain things every day to drive that commitment higher.
One top strategy of The XP is to block off time in your calendar to work on your Investment time. (Investment TIME are activities that will get you the most ROI and best help you achieve your goals.) Calendar and you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked reacting to others’ agendas.
If you want to achieve Extreme Productivity (and you wouldn’t have read this far if you didn’t want to), work your plan and stick to it by adopting these habits.
- Get into the zone.
When working, The Extremely Productive get into the zone—a mental state where a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Many use Sprinting—a form of time boxing—as an effective way to get into the zone.
Now, this doesn’t mean you only have one priority. The Extremely Productive are, in fact, multi-taskers. They do, however, only focus on one activity at a time. The Extremely Productive are not rapid media switchers. They don’t read an email, open a spreadsheet, work on a presentation, respond to a Slack message, make a phone call, and read the New York Times all at the same time.
- Get back on track when derailed.
We all get derailed. The difference between the Extremely Productive and The Rest, however, is that The XP get back on track more quickly. They don’t let weeks, days, or even hours pass by where they get bogged down by distractions.
If you find yourself reacting to others, getting distracted, or constantly putting out fires instead of working on what will drive you forward, get back on the right path. Accept where you are right now and create a plan to change it.
Demonstrating these productive behaviors may sound simple. However, most people don’t work this way. In fact, only 14 percent of respondents rated themselves as Extremely Productive.
This leaves huge opportunities for the remaining 86 percent to improve.
Define your goals, make a plan and work it, get in the zone, and get back on the horse when you fall off. Do these consistently over time and your productivity will skyrocket.