6 Ways to Maximize Productivity and Achieve Extraordinary Success

Your success every day depends on these six crucial actions

Over my 26 years experience as Co-Founder and President of imageOne, I’ve been obsessed with becoming a better person and leader. It’s a life journey and each day I hope to be just a little better than yesterday. There are many components to becoming a better person and leader, and one of those is to use my time productively so I can focus on the things that matter most.

Each day starts and ends with my meditation practice. I’ve found it to be the most useful thing I do to set up for and wind down a successful day. But it doesn’t stop there. While meditation gives me a strong foundation for success every day, there’s no shortcut to realizing the lives we imagine for ourselves. Rather, our success every day depends on a series of actions that will help us become more productive, successful, and often happier individuals. Here are six ways to maximize your productivity and achieve extraordinary success.

1. Define Your Purpose

“The purpose of a life is a purpose.”
– Robert Byrne

My company, imageOne, is a Document Lifecycle Management company, and we’re great at it. But what we do is not the first thing I think about as a leader. I think about our purpose — to deliver extraordinary experiences that positively impact the lives of our team members, the goals of our customers, and the fabric of our community. Genuinely, from my heart, I am excited every morning to get up and get going. I ask myself, “What can I do to help people today?” Servant leadership is the reason I am an entrepreneur.

Consider taking some time to sit down and define your purpose in life and your vision. When you lead your life with purpose, you’ll start to think more deeply about why you’re doing the things that you are. Start with your purpose in mind, and determine which aspects of your life connect to it. Aim to get to a place where 80 percent of your activities revolve around your purpose, and watch your productivity and passion skyrocket.

2. Create Healthy Habits

Often, it takes us years to break bad habits and form good ones, even when we know deep down that those changes would make us happier, more productive individuals. For a long time, I had considered starting a meditation practice. I researched its benefits, I learned how to get started, but it took years for me to finally commit to a daily practice.

Twelve years into a daily meditation practice and biannual silent retreats, I am humbled to have grown as a person and a leader. My company also reached new levels of success, both financially and through recognition — like being named one of Forbes Small Giants 2017: America’s Best Small Companies. This year, I was inspired to write a book and share how my meditation practice has benefited me as a person and leader.

Is my meditation practice the reason for this success? No! It’s one of many. Identify which healthy habits would benefit you and your purpose most and set realistic goals. Consistency is key to forming good habits that actually stick. If you choose to start a meditation practice, consider Tim Ferriss’s advice: “Start small, rig the game so you can win it, and get in five sessions before you get too ambitious with length. You have to win those early sessions so you establish it as a habit.”

3. Know When to Say No

When you’re seeking success, it’s tempting to say “yes” to every opportunity. After all, you’re trying to build something great — that opportunity you just turned down could be your next big break! This impulse to take on too much is also a socialized behavior of American culture. Workaholics are celebrated for their “grind” and seen as ambitious, successful individuals.

Work smarter, not harder. Instead of saying yes to every opportunity and hoping to strike gold, consult your purpose. Would this move fulfill your purpose? Does it bring you closer to realizing your personal vision for yourself?

4. Block Out “Focus Time” For Your Work — No Distractions

Recent studies have found that the average person spends about half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are currently doing — and research shows that mind wandering often makes people unhappy. Equally important, the interruptions of modern life prevent you from doing your best work and weakens your ability to tackle the most challenging projects. Scientists call this “deep work,” and we know it as the work that is most closely linked to our purpose and our ultimate success.

I have a very busy mind, so I began setting aside “focus time” in my schedule to work in blocks of time with zero distractions. Set your schedule so that as often as possible, you can be entirely focused on the task at hand. If you have an afternoon meeting, answer your emails in advance. If you have an important project to complete, move to a quiet space and turn off your phone. The more you can create distraction-free work time, the more you can cultivate your attention and achieve great success.

Remember: we’re not looking for perfection. If you do this 80 percent of the time, you’ll reap the benefits. Tweak the process as you go — I’ve learned in the last few years to also add buffer time between the blocks of time in my schedule. I was scheduling too many different activities back-to-back, and my head was spinning. Be realistic and check in with yourself by asking, “Am I really being productive, or am I just busy?”

5. Take Care of Yourself

It’s easy for high achievers to work until midnight every night, burning out quickly. The reality is that burnout culture puts more distance between you and your purpose in life. Your health — mental, emotional, and physical — is key to maximizing your productivity and achieving personal success. Whether you think of it in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or simply consider the academic research linking your personal well-being to your happiness at work and home, taking care of yourself is a key piece of the puzzle.

The good news is that we often overthink health and wellness. We might think that if we’re not going to become a triathlete or get six-pack abs, why bother? Instead, find simple ways to take care of yourself and increase your overall wellness. For example, researchers at Simon Fraser University in Canada found that just 20 minutes a day of physical fitness improved cardiovascular health and reduced the risk of early death. Research also shows that exercise reduces stress, and when we’re less stressed, we’re healthier, more creative, and more productive individuals.

6. Strengthen Your Self-Awareness

Self-awareness allows us to recognize, regulate, and stay in control of our emotions and behaviors. We’re most productive when we’re confident, happy, and in control. Seek out tools that allow you to more deeply understand your intuitive, instinctual self. Assessments like the Kolbe A™ Index help you understand your tendencies and natural state. When you understand how to use your natural strengths, you can harness your full potential.

Think of self-awareness as a muscle in your brain that you can continually build and train. Meditation is one powerful tool for training your brain to practice self-awareness. A Harvard study revealed that meditation literally changes the parts of the brain connected to self-awareness, learning, and memory, improving cognitive function.

My experience during this journey is that a clear vision, purpose, and discipline (mixed with a little luck!) is a solid recipe for success. Give it a shot and please feel free to contact me with your progress!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to start a daily meditation practice, check out the donothing™ book and silent leadership retreat.