3 Secrets to Exceptional Productivity in Life and Business

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Dr. Mo Ibrahim, mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire

By Chris Myers

People often ask me about how I manage to find time to run a company, write for Forbes, publish a book, and raise a young family. My answer is always the same. There are no life hacks or secret techniques that one can employ to boost productivity. Instead, I believe productivity is the result of a holistic, action-based lifestyle.

Put simply, living a life of conscious action requires you to push yourself a little bit harder, drive a little bit deeper, and take decisive action in every situation. This sort of lifestyle is easy once you set your mind to it and dispel the false beliefs that so often hold us back.

Don’t chase perfection  

It has been said that disappointment resides in the gap between expectations and reality. While this is certainly true, I’m inclined to take it a step further. When we set unrealistically high expectations for ourselves or our projects, we inadvertently place our focus on what could be, rather than what is. That focus on what “could be”, often stunts us in the present.

As humans, we all have the tendency to strive for things that are unattainable. However, if we’re looking for perfection, we’re less likely to produce anything. It’s better to settle for “good enough” and keep moving forward than allow the search for perfection to grind you to a halt.

I struggled with this tendency when I first started contributing to Forbes. I wanted each article to be perfect, reach a massive audience, and be enjoyed by all. The anxiety associated with coming up with an idea and crafting the post was almost overwhelming. I took so long to decide that I was lucky if I managed to produce five pieces in a month.

Eventually, however, I realized that it didn’t matter if every post was a home run. Some would be hits, and others would be duds. However, the more I published, the higher the chance I would strike gold. In learning to focus on the present and simply put in the work, I found a path to achieving the goal. It was the classic cart before the horse scenario.

Just do it

When it comes to taking action, there are always a million excuses and distractions that can take you away from the task at hand. The key to overcoming these obstacles is to take a page from Nike’s playbook; just do it.

It sounds trite, but it is the best advice I have to offer people looking to become more productive. Consider the current state of your home. I have a five-year-old son, so it is a constant battle to stay tidy and organized. I often find myself slipping into a certain type of complacency, where I’ll condition myself to just step over the toys that are so often spread throughout my living room.

The problem with this, of course, is that that toy you get used to stepping over becomes part of the landscape. It’s just another thing to step over, and never gets taken care of. Rather than grow complacent, I’ve found it’s better to take action the minute I see an issue.

Whether it’s a matter of a messy house, challenging work project, or some other task that you dread doing, procrastinating only makes matters worse. When you dive in and “just do it,” you’ll often find that the process wasn’t nearly as bad as you expected.

Practice, practice and more practice

As with almost everything in life, practice really makes perfect. On balance, most of us spend more time and effort avoiding work than actually doing it. If you want to live a life of action, you must first unlearn the bad habits you’ve picked up over the years.

Whether you’re writing every day, picking up after a kindergartner, or summoning the will to hit the gym, consistency is the key to success. When you start making small compromises, perhaps mistaking inactivity for relaxation, you cede control of your productivity and your life.

There is no secret formula to success. The key to exceptional productivity is to make it a lifestyle. It may seem daunting at first, but once you get going, you’ll quickly find that it wasn’t as difficult as you thought.