How High Achievers Get Things Done

hand flipping the page of status notepad

What’s the secret to a high achiever’s success?

We’ve all heard those stories of successful people who work constantly and get by on three hours of sleep a night.

While many high achievers appear to have a superhuman work ethic, let’s not forget that they are human beings just like the rest of us. They have the same hours in a day. They have insecurities and worries. They’re juggling work and family. And they also feel tired!

The key to their success isn’t super human strength or intellect. Rather, it’s a mix of internal drive and motivation along with external systems and tools that help a high achiever succeed. 

If you’ve ever wondered how high achievers get things done, here’s how.

They find internal motivation

From Olympic athletes to CEOs to politicians and creatives, high achieving individuals are incredibly self-motivated. They have a fire burning inside of them that drives them to succeed. This internal fire is what inspires them to wake up at the crack of dawn to exercise or write or keep competing after a devastating failure.

Whereas internal motivation is finding an internal reason to pursue your goals, external motivation is tied to material things or outside approval. While wanting a dream house or more money or the approval of your parents is certainly understandable and generally motivating, it can also leave us feeling somewhat dissatisfied. And when those external results don’t appear right away, we can lose our focus and desire to achieve.

The key to sticking to your goals is to find an internal motivation to succeed.

Ask yourself: What motivates me? Do I want to challenge my limitations? Do I want to uplift my community? Do I love the spirit of competition? 

Find your motivation and you will find the will to succeed.

They embrace pressure

Whether it’s a big presentation or making their debut onstage or competing in the championship game, high achievers don’t shrink under pressure, they grow even bigger.

It’s not that high achievers don’t experience nerves or fear. In fact, it’s the very presence of these feelings that excites and thrills them. Nerves are a reminder that you care. Nerves are a reminder of why you do what you do. We don’t know when we’ll get this big opportunity again, so it’s important to relish the moment and trust in yourself. 

High pressure moments are a chance to rise to the occasion and show people what you are made of.

They create specific goals

Rather than setting vague goals like “I want to be successful” or “I want to be happy,” high achievers create specific and measurable goals to pursue. For example, an entrepreneur may set a goal to increase profits by X percent by the end of the quarter. A runner will set a goal to run a marathon by the end of the year. A college student may set a goal to land an internship by the summer. 

You can create specific goals by using the S.M.A.R.T. method: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. 

And don’t forget to put your goal in writing. Studies have shown that you’re more likely to achieve your goal when you write it down. So record it in your planner or put it on a post-it and commit to your goal. 

They rely on good systems 

While internal motivation fuels our desire to achieve, effective systems sharpen our focus and boost our productivity. High achievers know that on those days when they’re feeling unmotivated or tired, they have good systems in place to get them through. 

Effective systems include defining your priorities by writing a to-do list first thing in the morning and picking the top 3 things to accomplish that day, or managing your time with the Pomodoro method or time blocking

These external systems will add structure to your day and help you stay organized and productive. 

They have good tools at their disposal

In addition to having good systems in place, high achievers have the best tools by their side.

This doesn’t mean having fancy or expensive gadgets. These are practical instruments that help you get your work done. If you’re all about writing things down, you’ll want a regular supply of pens, notepads, planners, and notebooks. If you love all things tech, you’ll need digital calendars and project management tools like Asana or Trello to help you execute your tasks.

You could also use a hybrid analog-tech method to stay organized and on top of your work.  

They have stretch goals

High achievers often enjoy challenging their own self-limits and setting stretch goals

Like the name implies, stretch goals are the ones that cause you to stretch yourself. For example, if your current goal is to write a screenplay, a stretch goal can be to win a screenwriting competition.

Stretch goals push you out of your comfort zone and test your own limits. We may think that we’re only capable of achieving one thing, but stretch goals can surprise us and have us overcome our own expectations. 

They create momentum with small wins

While high achievers like to set big lofty goals like winning a gold medal or starting a successful company, they also know the importance of regularly setting small goals.

Big goals take time to achieve. And you may not see dramatic results right away. So to avoid feeling like you’re treading water, you need to set yourself some small goals that you can easily accomplish. Small goals get you accustomed to the feeling of reaching the finish line. Which will prime you for eventually landing your big goal.  

  • If you’re training for a marathon, a small goal can be to run for five minutes without stopping.
  • If you’re trying to write a screenplay, a small goal can be to write one page a day.
  • If you’re trying to change careers, a small goal can be to update your resume.

After you execute one small goal, move onto the next one. This will create a domino effect and over time, you will have completed your big dream goal. 

They take time to reflect

In order to continue growing and learning, high achievers know it’s important to make time for self-reflection. Whether it’s writing in your journal every day or doing a weekly review, take a moment to check-in with yourself. Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? What’s been weighing on me? What would take a weight off my shoulders? What’s giving me satisfaction?

Not only is journal writing incredibly soothing, it can lead to new insights about yourself or offer solutions to problems that are occupying your mind.
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