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9 Signs an Employee Is Exceptionally Productive (Which Never Appear on Performance Evaluations)

The most productive people do a lot more than just stay busy.

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BY Jeff Haden - 07 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Many people stay busy. After all, checking items off a to-do list isn't hard.

What's hard is checking the right things off your to-do list, completing the right projects, and getting the right stuff done. That's when an employee goes from busy to productive -- and in the process become indispensable to an organization's success.

Here are some of the things highly productive people do -- and why that makes them so valuable:

1. They always start with goals.

Effort without a genuine purpose is just effort. Effective people don't just know what to do--they know why. They have a long-term goal. They have short-term goals that support their long-term goals.

In short, they have purpose--and that purpose informs everything they do. That's why remarkable people appear so dedicated and organized and consistently on-task. They're not slaves to a routine; they're simply driven to reach their goals and quick to eliminate roadblocks and put aside distractions that stand in their way.

Productive people always set their goals first. So decide what success means to you. (Because your definition of success is and should be different from everyone else's.)

You'll find it's easy to stay focused and be effective when you truly care about what you hope to achieve.

Even so, once they establish a goal, productive people don't focus solely on that goal; instead ...

2. Then they create systems.

If you're an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a successful business. Your system consists of your processes for sales, marketing, fulfillment, operations, etc.

A goal is great for planning and mapping out what success looks like; a system is great for actually making progress toward that goal.

Productive people know a goal can provide direction and even push them forward in the short term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win.

Everyone has goals; committing to a system makes all the difference in achieving that goal.

3. They believe in themselves.

Diligence isn't easy. Hard work is hard. Pushing forward when successes are few and far between takes optimism and self-belief.

That's why busy people quickly give up and effective people keep going.

Productive people embrace the fact (and it is a fact) that the only way to get to where they want to go is to try ... and keep on trying.

They know that eventually they will succeed, because ...

4. They believe they are in control of their lives.

Many people feel luck -- or outside forces -- has a lot to do with success or failure. If they succeed, luck favored them; if they fail, luck was against them.

Luck certainly does play a part, but productive people don't hope for good luck or worry about bad luck. They assume success is totally within their control. If they succeed, they caused it; if they fail, they caused that, too.

Productive people waste zero mental energy worrying about what might happen to them -- they put all their effort into making things happen.

They know they can never control luck ... but they can always control themselves.

5. And yet they also embrace "random."

When your nose is to the grindstone, all you can see is the grindstone. And that means you miss opportunities to spot something new, try something different, or go off on a fruitful tangent.

Busy people stay on-task. So do productive people, but productive people also build in time and opportunity to experience new things, try new methods, and benefit from happy accidents.

They're not always trying to reinvent the wheel. But they're more than happy to adopt someone else's perfectly functioning wheel.

6. They find success in the success of others.

Great teams win because their most talented members are willing to sacrifice to help others succeed.

That's why great companies are made up of employees who help each other, know their roles, set aside their personal goals, and value team success over everything else.

Where does that attitude come from?

You.

Focus only on yourself and ultimately you'll be by yourself. To be productive, find fulfillment in helping other people succeed. In the process you will succeed, too -- in more ways than one.

7. They let their goals make their decisions almost automatic.

Tim Ferriss described in a podcast how Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, makes so many decisions every day. Kelleher applies a simple framework to every issue: Will this help Southwest be the low-cost provider? If so, the answer is yes. If not, no.

Productive people apply the same framework to the decisions they make. "Will this help me reach my goal? If not, I won't do it."

If you feel like you're constantly struggling to make decisions, take a step back. Think about your goals; your goals will help you make decisions.

That's why productive people are so decisive. Indecision is born of a lack of purpose: When you know what you truly want, most of your decisions can -- and should -- be almost automatic.

8. They rarely multitask.

Plenty of research says multitasking doesn't work. (Some research says multitasking actually makes you stupid.)

Maybe you don't agree.

Maybe you're wrong. Try to do two things at once and you'll do both half-assed.

Productive people focus on one thing at a time. They do that one thing incredibly well ... and then they move on to whatever is next. And they do that incredibly well.

9. They often ask for help.

Busy people ask for help getting something done. Productive people ask for help not just because they need help but also because by asking they show respect for the other person and trust his or her experience, skill, or insight.

Mutual respect is the foundation of every solid relationship--and the best way to create mutual respect is to first show respect.

Want to be more productive? Surround yourself with people who trust and motivate and inspire you -- and in turn are inspired by you.

Even if you don't achieve all your goals, your life will be much richer.