Productivity Tips For A Lifetime

World-class athletes and successful entrepreneurs easily come to mind when thinking high performance and that is rightly so. However, the reality is that we are not all to be elite athletes, scientists and Nobel Prize recipients…. High performance can be defined as an above-average ability to create results with the resources, skills and talents at hand. Irrespective of what these results look like – e.g. gold medal at the Olympics or a successful swim meet – there is a pattern that can be observed across individuals sharing this way of living and being.

While there is a lot to write and say about high performance and productivity, the following ingredients stand out for high performers:

Clarity in what they want to achieve: Clear goals are the starting point for high performance. High performers know that it is important to be clear on what their goals are, and if they find themselves unclear about their long-term aspirations, they start with short-term goals. They think in terms of what is it that they want to change, improve, or do over the next three months or one year… Or they simply think about their top priorities as an initial set of goals. Ultimately, high performers understand that goals drive priorities and that’s when higher levels of performance start. High performers also understand the pitfall of attempting to go for too many goals at the same time- which is a set-up for feeling overwhelmed or for giving up on goals.

Drive and determination: High-performers are driven individuals. They like to challenge themselves, keep growing in what they do or areas of interest to them, and hold themselves to high standards – not for the sake of fame, acolytes, a promotion or more financial wealth, but because they are intrinsically pulled to reach new horizons and their potentials. Their determination might be anchored in a genuine desire to help others around them or achieve a particular outcome that would make a difference (e.g. a cause); in some cases, this desire came about after a negative experience such as a dysfunctional environment or a traumatic event. Even if such past experience was and might remain a source of hurt or grief, it is the experience in itself that has transformed these individuals, acting as a catalyst for extraordinary levels of determination and strength, and for finding purpose. It is what psychologists refer to post-traumatic growth. But not all high performers have trauma in their lives. High performers have drive and determination, fueled by the understanding of and acting upon a unique set of values: e.g. if someone values providing support to unprivileged kids in under-developed countries for instance, their efforts will be fueled by this desire.

– Focus and removal of distractions: High performers know they need focus. Anecdotally, as a high performer myself, I recall how as a kid excelling in school, my parents always told me to focus on school, while they took care of the rest. This might seem mundane; but they did that with a lot of sacrifices. That clear direction – to focus on school at the time- built a habit in me to stay focused on and be responsible for my number one goal. High performers also understand very well that one focus killer is multitasking, a performance myth over the last decade. Studies show that tasks take in fact longer when multitasking and ultimately performance is hurt. High performers are also not shy about shunning social media, another enemy of focus, or removing distractions in their environments. For instance, they understand that social media creates a risk of mindless scrolling, brain fog, and zapped energy levels (same as lack of sleep!) and might revert more often to social media breaks as a way to re-energize, be more present and gain some time and energy back for their own goals and the relationships they want to prioritize outside a virtual environment.

– Planning systems that lead to new disciplines and tactics: High performers know that having a good memory and to-do lists is helpful but not an enabler of sustained high performance – sooner or later, such system fails or overwhelms. High performers are typically using planning tools (e.g. planners) to enhance performance via the regular exercise of writing down specific goals and targets for each day, week, month and year, with thought-through tactics and timelines for achieving them. Planners also typically include a regular progress review which helps to identify challenges, breaking points, areas of concern and improvement, as well as to experiment with new disciplines and tactics. High performers understand two big realities. First, high performance cannot be achieved overnight. Second, good habits, disciplines and tactics have a compounding effect (e.g. reading 20 minutes to a young kid translate into 121 hours or 5 full days of reading in one year). Likewise, negative habits compound with higher costs over time including negative outcomes like disease, addictions or depression.

– Self-care and fun: High-performers are not overworked and stressed out, although there are certainly blind spots with being a doer or times when these feelings might be present. High performers understand that sustained high performance requires rest and relaxation and having fun … they are, after all, human beings and not human doers. A common denominator for high performers is that they are finding or attempting to find genuine ways to take care of their souls, minds and bodies. For some, fun might look like a party with friends, for others, it is reading a book or going on a hike. And besides understanding what their self-care and fun needs really are (and experimenting with that), high performers are also carving out this area in their planning and strategy.

High performance is not an ability we are born with, but one we need to use and strengthen … just as a muscle. It can start with the framework above and continue with refining a high performance recipe that works for you, some days with more determination, other days with more disciplining….

Ultimately, the conduit for high performance is the understanding that we are responsible for our own actions and that, as per actor and comedian, Julia Louis-Dreyfus,

“The best way to make a difference in the world is to start by making a difference in your own life.”

The Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

Published by Helene R. Johnson

Helene R. Johnson is a pseudonym. Living life as a mom and manager. Articles are also published on, a site dedicated to human resources with a focus on transformational change and development.

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