A Psychologist Explains How Successful People Do More in a Day than Others Do in a Week
“You have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé.”
Everyone knows someone who works full time, volunteers, runs a successful blog, and somehow still finds time to go grocery shopping, cook organic Instagram-worthy meals, foster a loving relationship, walk his or her adorable Boston Terrier, and, oh — train for a half marathon.
These kinds of “super-achievers” have the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us, but somehow, they always seem to get more done. How do they do it?
As a psychologist and life coach who has spent thousands of hours working with clients over the past 28 years — including hundreds of hours with clients who meet this super-achiever character profile — here’s what I’ve noticed about people who consistently succeed. Plus: How you can tweak your mindset to become a high achiever, too.
Whatever you’re doing right now? Be fully in it. Commit.
When you see an Olympic hurdler leaping over barricades with superhuman agility, does she look distracted? Nope. She is 100% invested in the task at hand. And as you can see from her success, commitment leads to greatness.
So what do you do when you feel your mind wandering away from the present moment? Josh Pais, creator of Committed Impulse, high-performance training for actors, public speakers, and entrepreneurs, recommends saying “I’m back!” out loud whenever you feel yourself drifting away. You might get a few odd looks from bystanders, but it works!
Your email inbox, Instagram, Facebook, that hilarious viral cat video, and an ad proclaiming a big sale at your favorite website — these are probably just a few of the tabs you have open, commanding your attention while you simultaneously try to finish a project a work. It’s not out of the ordinary; multitasking has become the norm.
But the human mind is not designed for multitasking. In fact, research has proven that we’re pretty terrible at it. When you try to multitask, you lose focus, you’re more likely to make errors, and projects tend to take longer.
To make sure you can focus completely, strive to shut off all distractions — even if that means locking your cell phone in a drawer while you work. Extreme? Maybe. But it’s worth a try!
Ban “Friendly Interruptions” at All Costs
You’re working on a project. You’re totally in the zone, making lightning-speed progress.
Then, a co-worker swings by. “Just wanted your two cents on this,” he says, handing you a report outline. You look it over and give him your thoughts. It doesn’t take more than 60 seconds for you to chime in. No biggie, right?
Unfortunately, that minor interruption just majorly derailed your focus. It will take an average of 23 minutes for you to get back into the zone of whatever you were doing.
Super-achievers know that interruptions are productivity-killers, so they avoid them at all costs. (There’s a reason why most CEOs have private offices — with doors!)
If you don’t have a door to close, try finding a quiet space where you won’t be nudged, turn off your incoming email notifications for a few hours, or talk to your boss about instituting company-wide “do not disturb” hours a few times a week.
Hang With Fellow Super-Achievers
You’ve probably heard the expression, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” Same goes for achievement and productivity.
There’s a reason why Beyoncé rolls with people like Oprah, the Obamas, and her mogul husband, Jay-Z. When you surround yourself with high-energy, like-minded people, you tend to rise to their level—while inspiring them, too.
Try to weed your professional life of people, colleagues, and even friends who don’t energize you. This doesn’t mean you should never see these people again or that you have to coldly cut them out of your life completely. But be mindful about who you choose to spend the majority of your time with. Try to surround yourself with super-achievers as often as possible.
Don’t know where to meet them? Join a challenging club or group (10K training, anyone?), or write an email to someone you admire. Or maybe there’s someone you already know in real life, but have been too shy to talk to. Drop him or her a note to say, “I’d love to treat you to lunch at your favorite spot.” You never know where one simple invitation may lead.
Prevent Emotions From Building
When you allow negative emotions—like frustration, anger, disappointment, or self-loathing—to build up inside of you like water about to boil in a tea kettle, you can easily head down a destructive path.
Sooner or later, all those bottled-up feelings are going to compel you to act out — whether that means binge-eating potato chips at midnight, watching 14 hours straight of Gilmore Girls instead of dealing with urgent deadlines, or engaging in some other behavior that leaves you feeling more frustrated (not to mention tired, hungover, or nauseous) than ever. Which is not great for productivity.
Super-achievers know how to manage their emotions effectively to prevent the tea-kettle effect. Most super-achievers I know have some kind of emotion-management practice that they rely on: meditating, journaling, a weekly check-in with a life coach, or a good old-fashioned punching-bag session at the gym.
Find a strategy that works for you. You’ll know it’s working when you feel a deep sense of release and relief—as if a ton of bricks have been lifted from your shoulders, leaving you feeling light, unburdened, no longer upset, and ready to get back to being awesome!
Last, but not least, remember that those incredible super-achievers you admire — and aspire to be like — are just ordinary people with flaws and fears, too.
As Beyoncé herself once said, “I know I’m stronger in the songs than I really am.”
We’re all just human beings trying to work, live, and navigate the world using all the tools and skills we have. Rather than aiming for flawless perfection, aim for your personal best — and you’ll always be a success.
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