Some people are highly efficient. They get things done. They consistently check items off their to-do lists. They’re extremely busy working… but are they accomplishing what matters most?
Highly effective people are highly efficient, but they take their effort to the next level: They focus on achieving the tasks that will make the biggest difference for themselves, for their families, for their businesses. Unlike merely efficient people, they get the right things done.
How do highly effective people stay on track? While not always easy, the process is simple. To be highly effective:
1. Always start with your goals.
Work without genuine purpose is just work. Effective people don’t just know what to do — they know why. They establish a long-term goal, and ensure their short-term goals support their long-term goal.
In short, highly effective people have purpose, and that purpose informs everything they do. That’s why they seem so dedicated and organized and consistently on-task. They’re not slaves to a routine; they’re simply driven to reach their goals, and quick to eliminate roadblocks and put aside distractions that stand in their way.
Always set your goals first. Decide what success means to you. (Keep in mind how you define success is totally up to you.)
It’s a lot easier to stay focused and be effective when you genuinely care about what you hope to achieve.
Even so, once they establish a goal, don’t focus solely on that goal; instead …
2. Always create systems.
If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a successful business. Your system consists of your processes for sales, marketing, fulfillment, operations, etc. If your goal is to get fit, your system consists of the workouts you will do, the diet you will follow, etc.
A goal is great for defining what success looks like; a system is great for actually making progress toward that goal. Your goal can provide direction and even push you forward in the short term, but eventually a well-designed system always wins.
Everyone has goals; committing to a system makes all the difference in achieving that goal.
3. Always use your goals to make your decisions automatic.
In one of his podcasts Tim Ferriss describes how Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, makes so many decisions every day. Kelleher applies a simple framework to every issue: Will this help Southwest be the low-cost provider? If so, the answer is yes. If not, no.
Highly effective people apply the same framework to the decisions they make. “Will this help me reach my goal? If not, I won’t do it.”
If you feel like you’re constantly struggling to make the right decisions, take a step back and think about your most important goals. Considering your goals makes it easy to make decisions.
That’s why effective people seem so decisive. Indecision is born of a lack of purpose: When you know what you truly want, most of your decisions can — and should — be almost automatic.
4. Always believe in yourself.
Diligence isn’t easy. Hard work is hard. Pushing forward when successes are few and far between requires optimism and self-belief.
That’s why busy people quickly give up, and effective people keep going.
Embrace the fact (and it is a fact) that the only way to get to where you want to go is to try … and keep on trying. When you do, eventually you will succeed, as long as you …
5. Always believe you are in control of your life.
Many people feel luck — or outside forces — has much to do with success or failure. If they succeeded, luck was on their side; if they failed, luck was against them.
Luck certainly does play a part, but don’t hope for good luck or worry about bad luck. Assume success is totally within your control. If you succeed, you caused it; if you fail, you caused that, too.
Spend no time worrying about what might happen to you — they put all your effort into making things happen for you.
You will never control luck, but you can always control yourself.
6. Always feel free to take a different path.
When your nose is to the grindstone, all you can see is the grindstone. And that means you miss opportunities to spot something new, try something different, or go off on a fruitful tangent.
Effective people stay almost totally on-task, but they also build in time to experience new things, try new methods, and benefit from happy accidents.
You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. If you stumble upon one, be happy to adopt another person’s perfectly functioning wheel.
7. Always find happiness in the success of others.
Great teams win because their most talented members are willing to sacrifice to help others succeed.
That’s why great companies are made up of employees who help each other, know their roles, set aside their personal goals, and value team success over everything else.
Where does that attitude come from?
Focus only on yourself and ultimately you’ll be by yourself. Highly effective people find fulfillment in helping other people succeed. In the process they succeed, too — in more ways than one.
8. Always single-task.
Plenty of research says multitasking doesn’t work. (Some research says multitasking actually makes you stupid.)
Maybe you don’t agree.
Maybe you’re wrong.
Try to do two things at once, and you’ll do both half-assed.
Focus on one thing at a time. Do that one thing incredibly well … and then move on to whatever is next. And then do that incredibly well.
9. Always ask for help.
Busy people ask for help getting something done. Highly effective people don’t just ask for help because they need it; they ask for help because doing so shows respect for the other person and his or her experience, skill, or insight.
Mutual respect is the foundation of every solid relationship — and the best way to create mutual respect is to first show respect.
Want to be highly effective? Surround yourself with people who trust and motivate and inspire you — and in turn are inspired by you.
Even if you don’t achieve all of your goals, your life will be infinitely richer.
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