7 Secrets of Incredibly Productive People

If you look around and wonder how everyone gets stuff done without pulling all-nighters or saying no to plans on weekends, you might need a few tips on how to become more productive — and who better to take inspiration from than exactly those people and their habits? Here's what productive people tend to do every day.

1. They Make To-Do Lists

All productive people swear by their to-do lists. They help you organize your day and understand what you need to accomplish. There are many different ways to execute a to-do list, from electronic apps to scraps of paper. It is important to figure out which method works best for you and to run with it. You should also try to choose a method that keeps your lists all in the same place. If you use an app, choose one that can be used on multiple devices. If you are more traditional and use a notebook, make sure you carry it with you wherever you go. You want your to-do list to always be within reach so that you can add to it or change it.

2. They Are Realistic

Productive people are also realists. When they create their to-do lists, they put down small actionable steps that they know they can accomplish. Rather than write, "Plan Vacation," they write, "Call Travel Agent at 11 a.m." They don't write, "Prepare For Meeting," but rather, "Finish Slides For PowerPoint Presentation."

3. They Go Into Each Day With a Plan

Before beginning their day, productive people know exactly what they have to do. To-do lists are especially key here, as well as a good calendar system. The calendar on the iPhone is very effective (not to mention pretty!) and is a great way to keep events organized and clear in your head. If you know what you have to do the next day, you will be much more likely to do it!

4. They Are Flexible

Though productive people are notoriously good planners, they are also flexible. This means that they aren't stressed when something comes up or their schedules change, because they expect the unexpected. One way to handle this is writing your to-do lists and appointments in pencil. That way, when something changes, you can simply erase it!

5. They Know When to Take a Break

It's important to know when you need to stop working. According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois, brief breaks actually increase your focus. Being more productive doesn't necessarily mean staring at your computer screen all day, but knowing when you need to take a break, so you can come back and be even more productive! Going for a walk around the block is a great break to let your mind refocus.

6. They Set Goals

Life is all about setting goals. And productive people are experts at it. Little goals for the day are the perfect trick to stay focused. You can give yourself a reward for the completion of a small goal, such as a frozen yogurt or a fun workout class. Bigger rewards can be used for bigger accomplishments, such as finishing your college thesis or getting promoted at work. Goals both big and small will make sure that you stay focused on what you need to accomplish.

7. They Reflect

While productive people are good at getting things done, they also take the time to reflect. They look back at their week and ask themselves, "What went well? What could I have done better? How can I improve next week?" Another useful trick is to look over your calendar from the previous week and to mark items that you were glad you did and to cross off the events that were unproductive. This helps bring a greater awareness of your goals and what needs to be done to accomplish them.