There's abundant advice on how to be more productive. Endless hacks, tips, motivational quotes, trainings, apps, and tools all promising to increase your productivity.
It's enough to make your head spin. It definitely made our heads spin over the years as we tried to help our clients increase execution and accountability after training programs. So, we asked the question, "What actually helps people be more productive?"
To find out what really makes a difference in productivity, we studied and analyzed the work habits of 2,377 business people, performing a statistical test called a key driver analysis.
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).
When you run an analysis like this, sometimes you find something, sometimes not.
We certainly found something this time around. In fact, we found that 12 of the behaviors we studied were key drivers of Extreme Productivity.
These are the actions exhibited by the most productive people.
Productivity Increases When...
Your productivity increases when you embrace these 12 behaviors:
12 Key Behavioral Drivers of Productivity
Hold yourself accountable. The importance of accountability cannot be understated. Accountability is not only the #1 key driver of Extreme Productivity, but also the #1 behavior shown by The Extremely Productive, and the behavior with the greatest percentage-point difference between The Extremely Productive and The Rest.
Do what you say you're going to do. Better yet, get an accountability partner with whom you check in with on a weekly basis to discuss priorities and progress. The simple act of regularly checking in with yourself—and with an accountability partner who wants to see you succeed—will make you much more likely to achieve what you set out to.
Be proactive. Those who drive their own agendas accomplish more.
In fact, 67% of The Extremely Productive (The XP) agree that they are "very proactive." They get started and push their projects forward. The Rest? Only 25%.
The majority of people aren't proactive. When you ignite your proactivity and drive your own agenda, your productivity soars.
Embrace productive habits. In some ways, this one is the culmination of the other productivity behaviors. Productive people aren't just born this way. The Extremely Productive employ habits that enable their success. They know how to change habits to maximize productivity.
So, pick the right habits, and then get yourself to adopt them.
Sustain your energy. Everyone needs downtime. Productive people realize this and feed their mind, body, and spirit to sustain their energy over the long-haul. Work is a marathon, not a sprint. Prioritize doing things that help refill your tank so you can keep going.
Multi-task the right way. The Extremely Productive are more likely to multi-task. That being said, it's important to clarify they're not rapid media switchers, checking their email one minute, reading Yahoo the next, and then responding to a Slack message—all in the span of 2 minutes.
The Extremely Productive balance juggling several priorities, but they also don't let themselves be distracted when they are focusing on one of them. (See #7 below). The key here is to learn to get in the zone quickly when you switch to another task. That way you can do multiple things and reduce the time to being productive on each.
Maximize your TIME on Investment activities. It's easy to fall victim to doing whatever comes up rather than working on your top priorities. The Extremely Productive avoid this. They prioritize their greatest impact activities and focus on them intensely.
Get into the zone while working. "The zone" is a state of intense focus and attention which allows for higher levels of performance. It's a familiar concept often used when talking about athletes or musicians. You can also apply it to work.
When you work in the zone, you're fully engrossed in what you're doing. Nearly half of The Extremely Productive report they regularly get into the zone while working.
Start with your Greatest Impact Activity (GIA). How you begin each morning impacts how the rest of your day goes. Extremely Productive people begin their day working on their most important activities. They spend their TIME, attention, and energy where it counts, and they do it when their energy is at their highest.
Recover quickly when derailed. A coworker interrupts you while you're in the zone. Your boss requests a report. Your phone buzzes with a new text message. How you respond to distractions greatly impacts your productivity. We all get distracted and derailed. The difference, however, is The XP recover much more quickly than everyone else. They're able to swiftly rebound and get back on task.
Calendar Investment activities. Numerous studies show it, and our research validates it: when you put something in your calendar, you're more likely to do it. The XP are 2.7x more likely than The Rest to block off time in their calendar to work on Investment activities.
Have written goals. Only 12% of The Rest have written goals (and The Rest represent 86% of respondents!) It's surprising that so few people write out their goals. If you don't know what you want or where you're going, it's easy to spin your wheels.
The first step in improving your productivity is to define your goals. This goal setting worksheet will help guide you in this process.
Don't react to others' agendas. Extremely Productive individuals are masters of their own schedules. If you're good, everyone will want a piece of you for themselves. Be like The Extremely Productive—learn to say no.
If you want to learn to get more done in the time you have, take a page from The Extremely Productive. Drop the latest hack and focus on these 12 key drivers. You'll begin to see a remarkable difference in your productivity and sales results.