High-performers don’t become that way by luck.
They work on their process for hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to refine what they do– and how they do it.
Everyone is a bit different, however, when you tease out the major elements in the process of achieving high performance, you find many common habits that you can apply to your own life to make yourself more productive and successful in your next project.
Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent.
– David Rockwell
When it comes down to it, high-performers do these five things differently when tackling a project:
1. They work intentionally
High performance vs. average performance often lies in the difference between the quantity of action vs. reaction.
When tackling a project, most of us are 20-30% action and the rest reaction, answering emails, phone calls, making corrections, adjustments, and generally putting out fires.
And while this might always be the case to some extent, especially on a big project, high-performers strive for a more healthy balance between action and reaction.
They do this by structuring their day in a way that allows them to prioritize creative work and other high-priority tasks first thing in key blocks of time, while keeping reactionary work such as email under control.
Examples include blocking email notifications from your smartphone and setting up your phone so that it only rings for a select few team members.
2. They focus on results, not busyness
One of the most defining factors of high-performers vs. the average person is their intense focus on results.
Many of us become seduced with the feeling of busyness. When we’re overwhelmingly busy, we feel as though we’re being productive. However, the only truth that matters is in the numbers.
When it comes to the project, are you on schedule? Have you accomplished what you set out to do? High-performers focus on results and don’t bother with whether they feel busy or not. In fact, when things are running smoothly, there’s a feeling of calm control as opposed to the chaos experienced in busyness. Everything is tracked.
The idea that we need to be juggling and fumbling 20 things around at a time to be maximally productive is a lie — and high-performers know this.
3. They recognize their physical limitations and design accordingly
Long gone are the days where the vision of maximum productivity was working non-stop with little sleep and no concern for one’s personal health (or anyone else on your team).
High-performers are well-versed in the latest research on productivity, so they know that we work better fully rested, clear-minded, and working in short 45-90-minute blocks of time with 5-15 minute breaks in between.
They know that physical exercise can increase energy, improve focus, and lead to fewer sick days. They also know that mental health is just as important, and they meditate, read, or do other activities regularly.
This makes them sharper and more efficient, and helps them come up with their best creative ideas as well as make quicker, more clear-minded decisions when needed.
Creativity requires a delicate balance between mental clarity and exposure to ideas.
Therefore, high-performers know they can’t just keep their head down looking at the same thing for long stretches of time, especially when their brain becomes mush and they can’t seem to get anywhere.
When that happens, they step away from the project and get some fresh air– and a fresh perspective. When they come back to work later, their mind has had the chance to organize itself and ideas are now flowing freely, making problems and creative roadblocks much easier to solve.
5. They focus on their strengths
The final common denominator of high-performers is in how they use their strengths.
As opposed to keeping their hands in everything, high-performers have done the work to discover their unique talents and abilities and intentionally focus on those when spending their time on a project, delegating the tasks they’re weaker in to others who complement their strengths.
In every way, a high-performer’s process is about maximizing impact. By making sure that each task is being handled by someone that excels in that task, the high-performer is maximizing the quality of the work produced for every project.