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Four Habits That Make a Difference in Productivity Every Day

Woman a top a mountain with arms raised.

Do you sometimes feel you’ve got good habits, but you’re still feeling a little stuck? Wondering how to tweak things to acquire habits that make a difference? 

In their book, 212 The Extra Degree, authors Sam Parker and Mac Anderson reiterate what we all know: Water at 211 degrees is very hot. But water at 212 degrees creates steam. Steam can power a locomotive.

The question you might ask yourself, then, is this: What can you do to make 1 degree of change in your personal and professional life that will make such a difference?

Here are four simple habits you can use to power that locomotive called “you.”

1. Use your planner every day

I don’t mean “own” a daily planner. I mean, open that planner every day, and look at what you are trying to accomplish. Visualization is hugely important. Maybe critical.

I use (and coach) the Full Focus Planner, but I also use electronic planners e.g., Fantastical and Asana. A hybrid system helps me to feel more productive and more in control of my time.

But whatever system you use, make sure you open it and use it every day. Compared to the other habits that make a difference to your overall productivity, this one is the easiest to master.

2. Share your goals, wins, and lessons learned with others

A study by Professor Gail Matthews concluded that by writing goals, and verbalizing those goals to others, people are more likely to achieve them.

Yes, you may want to use the SMART system for writing goals. Or some variation of the SMART framework. But a critical action is writing the goals. Otherwise, they’re just floating around in your head.

A word of warning. Neither Dr. Matthews nor I are suggesting you tell the world on social media. That has never been shown to be beneficial.

Rather, we’re suggesting you seek and accept the support of like-minded people who will cheer your current successes and help you overcome obstacles to goals in the future.

3. Do a weekly and quarterly planning session

Setting annual goals is a great idea. But presuming those goals will be completed by December 31 isn’t.

To distill your big goals into smaller more manageable actions, you’ll need to think about — and plan — actions for the upcoming quarter, week, or day. Compared to other habits that make a difference, this one is the big kahuna. Lots of bang for your buck.

How long will it take to make such a plan? Well, everyone is different.

Weekly planning? I’ve seen dozens of people finish their weekly planning in one 45-minute session. Personally, I need more time.

Quarterly planning? I’ve seen people complete their quarterly planning in about 2-3 hours. Not me. I need at least a half day, preferably more.

I’d also say that how long it takes might depend on the CliftonStrengths you bring to your life, and hence, your planning session. One who is an “activator” will probably be in a shorter space of time whereas one who is “deliberative” will take much longer.

4. Join an accountability group

Entire books have been written on accountability. (For example, Moran and Lennington’s book, Uncommon Accountability.) In his book, Willpower Doesn’t Work, Dr. Benjamin Hardy reminds us that humans are born as pleasure-seekers.

When we rely only on our internal discipline, we can be successful. But success is much more likely when we have a partner or a group to help us to “keep on keeping on.”

For many months, I have seen a transformation among small group of people who meet for weekly small group coaching session.

First, they have set aside the time to actually sit and plan. It’s a regular Friday afternoon ritual.

They’ve gone from being “hot water” to powering a locomotive; themselves.

Second, they have the support of a coach and like-minded colleagues who are there to do the same. If you’re in need of a group that can help you plan and hold you accountable, email

What are your habits that make a difference in your everyday life? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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