The simple secret high achievers do differently

“Guard your time fiercely. Be generous with it but be intentional about it.” – David Duchemin

High achievers drive outcomes and exceed targets on a consistent basis. They’re able to do this because central to their real expertise is they action what’s important. If only all workers worked this way. Unfortunately, the majority don’t, however, there’s a simple secret to success that high achievers do that can be a learned skill by anybody.

I’m intrigued by what sets high achievers apart from everyone else. Is it talent, attitude, focus, other criteria or a combination of a bunch of things? What I notice with high achievers is they have a clear intent on what and when they will work towards achieving their goals. Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson from Columbia University says: “Deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success.”

In other words, high achievers are exceptionally good at planning and doing the intended work. They don’t let the unintentional low priority work get in the way. It’s this focus and discipline that sets them apart. I saw this recently while I was coaching a senior leadership team. Two of the lesser talented members of the leadership team were the high achievers of the group. What they did differently was they didn’t overcommit or allow themselves to get distracted from their goals and actions they had determined to be important. They allowed some time for the unexpected issues that tended to pop up each day, but they ensured they made progress every day towards achieving their goals. This distinction was subtly different from the rest of the senior leadership team who were letting the unintentional low priority work replace too much of their high priority intended work.  

It’s not a difficult concept to comprehend but for many, it is difficult to execute due to ingrained work habits. Points of failure include:

  • Having a schedule full of back to back meetings
  • Being too ambitious on what can realistically be achieved
  • Not allowing time for issues requiring attention that unexpectedly pop up each day
  • Lacking the necessary discipline to action work that has been scheduled
  • Poor levels of personal productivity

High achievers have a balanced approach to working on the proactive and reactive tasks. Their secret is they don’t let the unintentional unplanned work completely wipe out the intentionally planned work. That’s why they’re constantly driving outcomes and exceeding targets.

What’s your secret to success?