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According to tax data from 2013 provided by the IRS, the top 1% of Americans earned over $428,712.  Obviously, there is a high degree of variance considering, according to the NY Times list of highest paid CEO’s for 2016, Thomas Rutledge of Charter Communications, raked in $98 million including base salary and stock options.  Essentially Rutledge earned $268,493.15 per day – over 7X what the lowest 50% of income earners in the United States bring in annually.

Some may attribute luck, education, or pedigree to earning in the top 1%. However, anyone I know, myself included, will tell you that it is really productivity, sweat equity, determination, drive, and discipline.

When it comes to improving productivity, it ultimately comes down to habits. High achievers run a very efficient day and nothing is done by accident.

I have the privilege of knowing many high achievers who make being productive seem like an art. Many are self-made millionaires in their own right.  All of these people share common routines and herein lies the so-called secret to their success – they apply the tried and true methodology of the ages; they implement proven techniques that create what I call the 3 P’s – profit, productivity, and progress.

As someone who did not inherit wealth, I too have had to create exceptional habits.

These habits are constantly being refined and are not without their share of occasional angst.  Take, for example, pre-planning the next day.  There are some evenings when I am tired and the last thing I want to do is stay in my office for another five minutes however if I do not pre-plan the next day, I am ridiculously ineffective and not productive at all.

Over the years, I have come into a routine that has allowed me to see very clearly what works and what doesn’t.  Having five children, three businesses, and a seventeen year MS diagnosis, I have learned a thing, or three, about efficacy when it comes to time management and productivity.

Sadly, I believe that there are many amazing people who needlessly struggle because they simply cannot get organized.  I also believe that discipline is a learned behavior and comes through repetition and that people often give up before they reap the rewards of self-mastery.

Knowing how to plan your day is a key to improving productivity and creating a more productive life.

Living into the plan for a minimum of a year is another thing entirely.  The late business philosopher, and mentor to people such as Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, used to say, ‘I can teach all of you this information however only about 10% of you are going to do it.’  I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Mr. Rohn on two occasions and see him speak live on three.  Daily discipline was always at the core of his message.

If you need to get buy-in to shifting your routines, take your income, and multiply it by 10.  Now ask yourself –  what that level of revenue could do for you, your family, the charities you want to contribute to, and the world as a whole?  Now, ask yourself this key question, ‘if I keep on going the way I am going, will I get to this amount?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then shifting your daily routine – improving productivity – is an excellent start.  With this in mind, let’s look at what achievers do.

1.  They Pre-Plan

Achievers do not launch into their day without being absolutely clear on what they want to accomplish.  They fully understand that their long-term goals only become manifest if they apply daily actions that are in alignment with those goals.  They are also very clear on what those daily actions are and thus before they plan their day, they know what is important.  Lastly, they carve out time for these daily activities; having the necessary conversations, re-arranging their schedule, and clearing out non-essential endeavors.

2.  They Have an Exceptional Getting Started Routine

High achievers wake-up very early.  Some of my friends are up at 4:00 a.m.  My ideal time is [4:30] however lately, as I am recovering from the illness I contracted in Africa, it is [5:20].  I will be getting back to [4:30] because I get so much more done before the kids get up.

Brendan Bruchard, Oprah’s coach, takes time to journal, meditate, exercise, and review his day before he gets started.  I do the same thing.  Every high achiever I know has a similar getting started routine.  They fully understand that evenings are generally filled with business dinners, conference calls, and in my case – children, so getting the essentials done early ensures that they get accomplished.

3.  They Deliberately Executive Their Plan

High Achievers take on the things that will make them the most money first.  They have decided who they are going to reach out to, follow-up with, and what actions they are going to take.  What they do not do is get distracted.  High achievers are extremely focused on what needs to be done.

4.  They Set Boundaries

People in this category value their time.  High achievers understand that time is finite and are able to set boundaries with people, meetings, and themselves.  For those in this space, there are no one hour calls just shooting the breeze so to speak.  They limit their time and are very clear about the desired outcome for each, and every, action they take.

High Achievers also tend to have someone, a gate keeper, who either grants or gently denies access to the individual.  The gate keeper’s role is to discern who qualifies for the high achiever’s time.

If you do not yet have a gate keeper, using a program such as Schedule Once, can assist.  When people request your time, send them your custom link.  This will save you time instead of going back and forth to book appointments and furthermore, you can limit the amount of time that people can book.

5.  They Work in Time Blocks

High Achievers understand that they cannot produce 24/7.  There is an opportunity cost when it comes to attempting to give one hundred percent all day long.  High achievers realize that they can give their best in blocks of time.

I coach my clients, and students, to work in 90 minute blocks.  At the end of the block, they take time to do something fun such as plan a date night with their partner, surf Pintrest, or walk their dog.  In working like this, they are much more effective and productive.

 6.  They Have a Winding Down Routine

All high achievers have a winding down routine.  Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week, suggests reading fiction.  Some people like to journal.  Personally, after I plan the next day, write out some gratitude items, and reflectively journal, I take time with my kids and then either read fiction or watch a favorite show and then read the Bible.  I also have the habit of doing one of the Course In Miracles Chapters each night.  This helps to clear my head and deeply relax.

The last message I want to convey is that becoming a high achiever starts with modelling the habits of those who have gone before you.  Some people wrongly believe that they will develop the habits when the results come.  The truth is that the results come after the habits are formed.

If you have developed some new habits that are contributing to your success, please leave your comments below.

Susan Sly is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, certified NLP practitioner, coach, and trauma recovery specialist.  Susan specializes in helping people become more productive so they can lead ridiculously fulfilling lives.  She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.




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