The 6 Meta Habits of Highly Effective People

Strengthen your “effectivity muscle” to thrive in all areas of your life.

Sinem Günel
May 4 · 6 min read
Image by katemangostar

Most people complain about “not having enough time” but waste hundreds of hours every single month.

They don’t even know how exactly they use the majority of their waking hours but complain about the lack of time.

The harsh reality, however, is that we all have enough time. It’s just a matter of how exactly we use it.

While few people have a sharp mind, clearly mapped out schedules, and a clear goal, most of us struggle to be effective.

And even though being effective can look different for everyone, there are a few core habits that most effective people have in common, regardless of their industry and background.

They put themselves in jail

In jail, you have lots of time and no distractions — the perfect conditions for high productivity.

By putting yourself in a metaphorical jail, you can make the most of your time. You can get your work done effectively and give your best because you don’t need to rush yourself.

In jail, you can tackle one task after the other without stressing yourself because you know that you have enough time to do it all.

You can slow down, focus, and put yourself in a flow state that allows you to be effective instead of busy.

Flow states are defined as the following:

“A mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

When in flow, you can get much more done in a few hours than most people complete in multiple days. That’s because you have mental clarity and focus on completing tasks instead of skimming the surface and working on numerous to-dos simultaneously.

Additionally, jail mode forces you to eliminate all distractions.

You might have access to the internet to get your job done, but there’s no mindless social media browsing in jail.

Imagine sitting in your metaphorical prison cell and only having access to the items and tools you need to get your job done.

Suddenly, getting your work done will be easier and you won’t be surprised about your long to-do list at the end of a workday.

Jail mode can help you to get the most out of your time and mind.

Your energy is too precious to be wasted on procrastination or multitasking.

Enter jail mode, get your job done effectively, and use the rest of your time doing things you love.

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.”

— Nolan Bushnell

They never aim for 100%

Truly effective people don’t expect to perform at 100% of their capacity all the time. Instead, they leave time for interruptions and unexpected situations because they know these will happen.

You can only control your own behavior, not the actions of others.

And even though you can set boundaries and limit your accessibility, there’s always going to be unexpected distractions.

Being highly effective is not about micro-managing your time but about being aware of the bigger picture.

Don’t expect yourself to give 100% all the time. That’s neither human nor possible.

You can’t stretch your mental and physical abilities without taking breaks and slowing down.

Being effective is not about pushing your boundaries but about finding balance.

Don’t aim to do everything all the time. Instead, focus on doing the few things that truly matter and leave a mark at your own speed.

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.”

— Jana Kingsford

They think

You can’t be effective if you’re always in action mode.

To take smart action, you need to plan ahead, strategize, and think. Even though that might sound obvious, most people don’t do it.

The majority is rushing through their weeks, starting their workdays feeling overwhelmed before even tackling the first tasks, and not allowing themselves to pause for a minute.

And if we dare to take a break, we end up scrolling through toxic social media pages that only remind us of how miserable our lives are.

Instead, we should take mindful breaks, relentlessly eliminate distractions, and allow ourselves to think clearly.

It’s no surprise that Bill Gates started going on Think Weeks back in the 1980s. These breaks helped him zoom out, let go of distractions, and think of his next strategic moves.

Even though we practically think all the time, most of our thoughts are blurred and unclear.

Social media content, advertisements, sales messages, and unnecessary information is waiting for us at every corner of our lives. This makes it more challenging but also more important to reset your mind to think more clearly and critically.

If you don’t allow yourself to stop and think, you’ll end up being busy and distracted, having no time for yourself or the things that truly matter.

Your ultimate goal, however, should be the contrary: Being productive instead of busy and making the most of your time.

They (sort of) use the 5-Second Rule

Effective people are quick movers. They simplify problems instead of overcomplicating them. Additionally, they make decisions and take action quickly.

Their sharp minds allow them to be critical and effective.

In her book The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins preaches that the moment you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds, or your brain will stop you.

That’s why most of us fail to reach our small daily goals.

We want to build a running habit, but the moment we think of going on a run, our mind holds us back with numerous excuses: it’s too cold, it’s too hot, my back hurts, I’m hungry, I have so much to do,…

Once you allow your mind to take over, your good intentions die.

That’s why you need to set up systems and habits that don’t allow you to search for these excuses and instead push you towards action.

In the end, being effective means doing what you said you’re going to do, even if you start small.

In fact, effective people are often in love with baby steps. They choose to move fast instead of looking for excuses.

They take care of themselves

The biggest misconception around being effective is that you need more time. Based on that belief, many people cut down on essentials such as sleep or exercise and stretch their physical limits.

By doing so, they ignore a toxic doom loop: Sleep deprivation leads to a decrease in productivity, they get less done, stay up longer, get even less sleep, and get even less done on the next day.

Add a few shots of caffeine to that equation and you have the perfect foundation for a toxic lifestyle that’ll leave you feeling nervous, anxious, and exhausted all the time.

Effective people, however, do the contrary. They know that keeping their mind and body healthy is essential, so they invest in themselves, even if they have lots to do.

What most people don’t understand is that keeping your body and mind healthy doesn’t require excessive amounts of time or money.

Getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, and fueling your body with healthy foods isn’t time-consuming or costly. It’s just a matter of discipline.

They ask for help

Quite often, huge success stories look like a one-person show.

Mark Zuckerberg seems to be the one who built Facebook.

Steve Jobs seems to be the only brain behind Apple’s success.

And Oprah seems to be managing her empire on her own.

The reality, however, is that great things are never done by one single person.

We all have unique gifts and talents, but the way to turn those talents into real impact is by collaborating and asking for help.

Great things don’t happen because of you. They happen if you dare to ask others for help.

By doing so, you’re allowing yourself to focus on your zone of genius instead of trying to master everything on your own.

Next time you face a challenge, replace how by who and ask yourself how you can leverage the skills and expertise of others. Most of the time, asking for help helps.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new.”

- Barack Obama

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Sign up for Personal Growth Newsletter

By Personal Growth

Free articles, courses, and other things you might like.  Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Sinem Günel

Written by

Entrepreneur, Coach & Dreamer. I write about Personal Growth & Business. 🇦🇹 🇹🇷 Grab your Personal Growth Toolkit: I IG: sinem.guenel

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Sinem Günel

Written by

Entrepreneur, Coach & Dreamer. I write about Personal Growth & Business. 🇦🇹 🇹🇷 Grab your Personal Growth Toolkit: I IG: sinem.guenel

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store