Every company these days is trying to recruit and retain high-performing employees to stay competitive. It’s not surprising given that a McKinsey study estimates that high performers are 400% more productive than average ones. And as the job’s complexity increases, so does the productivity gap. In more complex occupations (like management and software development), high performers are an astonishing 800% more productive.
But becoming a high performer at work takes more than just completing projects on time and under budget. As Will Durant wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” So, if you want to impress your manager and get that well-deserved promotion, you’ll have to dedicate yourself to developing solid work habits.
These five proven habits of high performers will help you move up the corporate ladder so you can attain even the loftiest career goals.
High performers seek clarity
In Brendon Burchard’s book, High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, Burchard maintains that high performers don’t necessarily get clarity. They seek it. Look at Oprah Winfrey. She starts every meeting by saying, “What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?” Why? Because clarity isn’t something you get, it’s something you actively search for. Determining your objective prior to the meeting ensures you can get the most out of it. The ability to eliminate distractions and continue to focus on what’s important will give you the professional edge you need.
High performers know their why
To be a high performer, you need a purpose. Before every critical project, they decide why it is essential to perform well. They have a deep desire to perform with excellence. Burchard says, “Most people are scared to attach their identity to their performance. High performers are willing to put themselves out there and place their identities on the line.” In other words, know whom or what you’re doing it for.
High performers work smarter, not harder
In a survey of over 1,500 managers and employees, researchers David Maxfield and Justin Hale found that the key thing that sets high achieving professionals apart is their ability to work smarter—not harder. “Productivity is more than just being busy,” Hale writes. “Employees who learn to manage their workload quickly and efficiently don’t just get more done; they get more of the right things done.”
According to the study, top-rated employees are:
- 55 times less likely to start projects they don’t finish
- 21 times less likely to experience tasks falling through the cracks
- 17 times less likely to have an inbox full of unread emails
In Morten Hansen’s book, Great at Work, he describes working smarter in this way, “When you work smart, you select a tiny set of priorities and make huge efforts in those chosen areas.”
High performers take regular breaks
Do you find yourself eating at your desk most of the time? According to one survey, half of US workers feel unable to take a full lunch break. However, high performers understand that without regular breaks, they will be overworked and less productive as a result. One trick is the rule of 52 and 17. The idea is to take 17-minute breaks after every 52 minutes of intense work. This specific time ratio was proven to increase productivity through an experiment using the time tracking app DeskTime. Researchers found that the top 10% of their most highly productive employees adhere to a similar workflow because it replenishes attention, creativity, productivity and motivation.
High performers don’t let fear get in the way
Actual high performers aim to be extraordinary. Everyone experiences fear. High achievers don’t let fear get in the way of their success. Even Man vs. Wild star and professional adventurer Bear Grylls had to find methods to control his feelings of anxiety. “I’ve learned that the best way over our fears is right bang through the middle,” Grylls said. “It really is. The only way you don’t see the fear is when you’re right on it.”
Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines was also fearful of failure in the beginning.”At the time, choosing the right paint colors seemed to be the scariest decision of an entire renovation. So, of course, I wanted to play it safe,” Gaines wrote. “There was this continual, underlying dread that any one of these decisions that I was trying to pull out of thin air could be the one that proved once and for all that I was no good at this work.” But by putting her fear aside, Gaines has had five successful seasons of her hit show and a thriving business empire.
High performers understand the importance of excellence, consistency and balance. By modeling these proven habits, you’ll get that much closer to achieving more than you ever dreamed of.