The top 5 secrets of productive people



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It has been more than a decade since the release of a Microsoft survey on productivity. Interestingly, the study found that employees only have 3 productive days in a working week. Some key findings of the research include the following:

  • 55% of the survey participants revealed that software is a huge determining factor on their productivity level.
  • Every week, people expend 5.6 hours in meetings.
  • 69% of employees feel that meetings are not productive.
  • 60% of the participants have no sense of work-life balance.
  • 42 emails/day is the average number of messages employees receive.
  • 34% of the participants claim scheduling techniques and tools help them have more personal time.

Although it has been many years since this survey has been conducted, many people today still have the same productivity woes. The advent of social media and smartphones has only added more pitfalls to the already dwindling time and work balance that people experience.

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Now, over a decade later, more and more people are discovering new ways to make money online. Now, when mobile internet is handy and outsourcing is easy, people can earn extra money from legitimate online work.

Yet, with all this online money making conveniences, productivity is still a major work issue.

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Luckily, you can experience the same balance and freedom to have personal time just like the minority of the participants in the Microsoft survey.

Unlike them, however, scheduling techniques are not the only things that will help you gain work-life balance. It takes more than that to master efficiency.

Here are the top 5 secrets of productive people:

Secret #1: They don’t have a To-Do List

Surprising, isn’t it? It’s easy to imagine efficient people jotting down and ticking off errands. Having a list of things to do has a way of making people feel grounded and in control. Yet, according to a study, 41% of the items in a to-do list are left unfinished. It has been found that productive people integrate their tasks for the day in their calendar instead of working on a list of errands. To be more efficient, it is best to work on a 15-minute block. This may sound tedious at first but it has been found to be more effective than a list of tasks.

Secret #2: They’re not afraid to say NO

They say that time is the greatest equalizer: the business tycoon and the beggar on the street both have the same 24 hours a day. Yet, some people make more money with their time than others.

Have you ever experienced putting off tasks or pushing deadlines because a friend called and invited you to hang out? Learning to say no is one of the skills you need to master if you want your hours to churn out more work instead of having your work lengthen your hours.

Secret #3: They have mastered outsourcing

Replacing “How can I do this?” into “How can this be done?” will still get you from Point A to Point B except that the latter can have you expending less time and effort. Are you getting overwhelmed by your managerial responsibilities and administrative work? Hire a virtual assistant to lessen your workload. Productive people are not micro-managers. They know that delegating tasks to other people can get more things done.

Secret #4: They take good care of themselves

Many people cram their days with work as though overworking is something to be expected or admired. They skip meals, sleep late, miss spending time with family and friends, and put off exercise to spend more time poring over their work. As a result, their energy level is low. If you want to get things done on schedule, you need a sharp mind and a healthy body.

Secret #5: They don’t believe in multitasking

Multitasking is counterproductive. It will have you thinking that you are on top of things although, in reality, you are just stressing yourself out and still ending up with substandard work.

Focus on one task at a time and switch to another when you are done. Switch-tasking is ultimately more effective and healthier in the long run.

Now that you know the top 5 secrets of productive people, what changes are you making today?

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Catherine vanVonno
Catherine vanVonno
The author, is the President and Executive Director of 20Four7VA, a global Virtual Assistant (VA) Service Provider. She holds a doctorate degree in Applied Statistics, Research Design and Program Evaluation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and has over 10 year's experience in facilitating evidence-based strategic planning, product development, brand management, legislative communications, and medical policy. She is married and has four children. You can reach her at

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