11 surprising habits of highly productive people

Have you ever wondered how highly productive people have that natural ability to get things done no matter what’s happening around them?

First things first, they’re very intentional in everything they do. 

Simply put: They work smarter, not harder (or longer).

In this article, we’ll explore 11 habits of highly productive people. Take a cue from these habits so you can level up your productivity and make the most out of your day.

Let’s dive in!

1) They take regular breaks

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: How can slacking off make anyone productive?

Taking breaks from the task at hand is actually one of the best strategies that highly productive people use to improve their focus. 

Many studies have shown how this habit can jumpstart the brain and improve cognitive performance.

But the sad reality is, many people overlook taking breaks because working nonstop makes them feel good about themselves. 

On the contrary, our obsession with busyness may take a toll on our physical and mental health.

Highly productive people schedule regular breaks throughout their day to avoid burnout. They may use these breaks to ….

  • Get some sunshine
  • Get up and stretch
  • Take a long walk
  • Sleep
  • Make snack time special

2) They don’t multitask

Lots of research prove that multitasking is a productivity killer. The more you juggle things at once, the less efficient and productive you become in all the tasks you’re trying to do.

You may think that you’re alleviating the anxiety of having too many responsibilities by getting started on them all at once. The reality is, you’re making little progress that way.

You’re only setting yourself up for failure due to too much stress and a diminishing ability to learn.

That’s why highly productive people make a conscious effort to focus only on one task at a time and give it their full attention. It allows them to perform better and finish the job faster.

3) They list their priorities

Highly productive people understand that time is a precious commodity, and that’s why they use it wisely.

Something as simple as scheduling everything on a calendar and listing priorities for the day can do wonders for time management.

The thing is, not all tasks are the same on a to-do list. Many of the productive people in my circle recommend listing tasks in order from most important to least and checking them off as they go by their day.

Plus, they keep in mind that it’s about working on the right things. Finishing a harder, more time-consuming task first will free up more time for less tedious ones. 

4) They stick to a morning routine

Jeff Bezos. Steve Jobs. Oprah Winfrey. Jack Dorsey. Barack Obama. And the list goes on….

What do these highly successful people have in common? They all have powerful morning routines that boost their productivity and overall well-being.

Here’s the deal: How you spend the first few hours of your morning can set the tone for the rest of your day.

That’s why highly productive people commit to morning rituals that may include ….

  • Waking up early to enjoy all the benefits of mental clarity and energy
  • Meditating
  • Eating a warm, nutritious meal
  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Working out
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Listening to a playlist or podcast

5) They eliminate distractions

habits highly motivated people 11 surprising habits of highly productive people

Highly productive people don’t just ignore distractions, they shut them out. 

We all know that social media, technology, gossip, chatting with co-workers, long meetings, and background noises are time traps — they steal away time that we would otherwise use in ways that make us happy. 

But do you know a subtle form of procrastination that can be one of the biggest barriers to productivity? It’s constantly checking emails.

Highly productive people don’t spend every minute checking their emails or responding to every phone notification. 

They only check emails at designated times of the day so they can process them quickly and efficiently. For some, that’s once or twice an hour. For others, it can be once or twice a day.

6) They use technology to their advantage

Technology is a double-edged sword. Yes, it can help us save time and focus, but it’s also a major distraction that takes our time away.

Highly productive people navigate this paradox by taking steps to put technology to work for them.

They make it a habit to unplug from their devices for even a few minutes. This may sound counterintuitive for some, but it pays off for your mental health and well-being. 

You see, research shows that being overly immersed in technology leaves us stressed out and fatigued, which means we become less productive over time.

Highly productive people counter this stress by setting filters in their e-mail accounts or by using software to block several websites.

7) They pay more attention to the work they’ve done

Let’s face it: It can feel very frustrating when you can’t get through your whole to-do list. 

But instead of complaining about tasks they haven’t accomplished, highly productive people focus on what they’ve already completed.

They cheer themselves on by reminding themselves of how far they’ve come.

And when they feel their motivation dipping, they go back to the “whys” behind the things they’re doing.

Knowing that they’re striving to make a difference for someone or something they care about gives them the push they need to keep going. 

8) They say ‘no’

Highly productive people set clear and healthy boundaries. They know that a person can’t be everything to everybody.

Again, this goes back to our point about being deliberate or purposive. Time and energy are very limited resources. 

That’s why highly productive people only commit to saying ‘yes’ to things, activities, and tasks that they value most.

This means saying no to anything that doesn’t fit their values, goals, and plans. 

9) They delegate

So, here’s the kicker: Delegating tasks is not as simple as it seems. But it has a major impact on productivity.

Highly productive people get tasks done because they know how to delegate well. In other words: They’re not afraid to ask for help. They delegate jobs to people they can trust. 

And it doesn’t stop there: They stay accountable by empowering the doer to achieve the desired results.

They lay out their expectations of the output and they communicate the value of contributing to the end goal. More importantly, they collaborate with the person to ensure they’re invested in the task.

10) They make a plan

things intelligent people do without even realizing 11 surprising habits of highly productive people

Highly productive people are very organized, which means they have a game plan for ensuring they remain productive every day.

They try to spend a few minutes of their day planning and preparing for tomorrow. That way, they won’t have to spend time worrying about what it is they’re going to be doing on any given day. 

11) They take care of themselves

Ultimately, your best resource for productivity is YOU. You can’t increase your attention and focus if you don’t stay healthy.

Highly productive people invest in themselves by making self-care a priority. They don’t sacrifice their health and well-being in the pursuit of more, more, and more.

They nourish their minds, bodies, and spirits so they can have the energy to take on their workload. And these self-care practices don’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as….

  • Not skipping meals
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthily
  • Exercising
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Finding joy in the everyday moments

Let’s recap

Here are 11 surprising habits of highly productive people:

  1. They take regular breaks. They value the need to rest and recharge. 
  2. They avoid multitasking. They make a conscious effort to focus only on one task at a time and give it their full attention.
  3. They list their priorities. They spend their time wisely by scheduling everything. 
  4. They stick to a morning routine. They spend the first hours of the morning setting themselves up for success.
  5. They get rid of distractions. They avoid regularly checking their email or responding to every phone notification.
  6. They put technology to work for them. They unplug from their devices.
  7. They pay more attention to the work they’ve done. They remind themselves of how far they’ve come.
  8. They say no. They set clear and healthy boundaries.
  9. They delegate. They ask for help from people they trust.
  10. They make a plan. They have a game plan for what they’ll be doing for tomorrow.
  11. They take care of themselves. They prioritize self-care practices that nourish their minds, bodies, and spirits.

I hope this article inspires you to establish routines around what you want to achieve. Start small and stay consistent. Here’s to a more productive YOU!

Maria Fatima Reyes

Maria Fatima Reyes

Fat Niebres is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter. She finds meaning and inspiration in the mundane. When she's not writing, she's probably reading, eating, traveling, or having deep conversations with her husband. She brings her experience in broadcast, print, and NGO communications, and has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net.

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