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14 Brilliant Habits Of Successful High Achievers Who Actually Work Less Than The Rest Of Us

Photo: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock
successful woman smiles while she completes her work efficiently

In a world that glorifies the hustle and bustle of long working hours, there exists a group of people who have cracked the code to success without sacrificing their well-being. What's their secret?

Here are 14 brilliant habits of successful high achievers who actually work less than the rest of us:

1. They celebrate micro-wins.

It’s very easy to get caught up in worrying about the end goal, which can cause stress and task paralysis. Recognizing your small accomplishments along the way can help you maintain a positive, motivated attitude. 

Every major achievement is the result of a bunch of small actions, and to celebrate each micro-win is to celebrate each baby step in the right direction. By highlighting your progress, however small, you will build your confidence, increase motivation and reinforce the behaviors that got you to this point. 



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2. They rest.

The pace of modern-day life can make it difficult to prioritize rest. You likely have a never-ending to-do list, and there are only so many hours in the day. But truth be told, you will be more productive if you allow yourself adequate resting time.

Brilliant Habits Of Successful High Achievers Who Actually Work Less Than The Rest Of UsPhoto: Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock

Good sleep habits help improve your brain performance, mood and health. This is because the brain has a drainage system that removes toxins during sleep. When you’re skipping out on resting hours, your brain’s repair processes will be disturbed.

3. They prioritize their own identity.

In order to succeed in your work life, you must prioritize your personal life. If you give yourself more time to focus on your own identity and interests, you’ll find that you have more mental clarity when it comes to your work and other responsibilities.

It’s impossible to work efficiently when your mind, body and soul are lacking nourishment. If you get lost in the midst of your work, you’ll lose yourself.



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4. They delegate.

Let’s face it — you can’t do everything yourself. If you tried to, you’d just go crazy. That’s why it’s important to delegate certain tasks and responsibilities to others you trust. 

It can be scary to trust others with a task you feel you can accomplish better yourself, but choosing the right person, explaining why you need their help and providing helpful instructions will help you delegate tasks effectively, as well as relieve some of your workload, according to MeisterTask.

Delegating tasks doesn't just apply to your work life; you can apply it to your everyday life. For example, if you have kids, that only adds more responsibilities to your life. You can delegate some of these tasks to your partner, family member or friends. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help.

5. They bookend their day.

It’s easy to get caught up in your workday responsibilities, and you might find yourself working longer than you need to in order to stay caught up. However, this is how you lose yourself and struggle to maintain a healthy workflow.

In a TikTok, Dean Fordham explained how bookending your day with specific and structured morning and evening routines allows you to prioritize your most important tasks when you know you'll be able to complete them. This will help you to stop procrastinating, stay organized and get your work done more quickly and effectively — without overwhelming yourself. 



6. They accomplish the most important work task first.

Focusing on what is a priority will help you become more productive in the end. “Pick your most important task. Get it done thoroughly,” Fordham explained in his TikTok. “It doesn't matter if that's the only task you do that day.”

When it feels as though you have a bit more than you can handle on your plate, focus on the most important task first. Everything else will get done in its own time. Remember, you’re one person. You’re not designed to check items off a list at robotic speed. 



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7. They say 'no.'

It can be incredibly difficult to say no, but if you don’t set boundaries, you’ll find yourself drowning.

Everyone wants to be helpful and involved at work, but it’s okay to say no sometimes. Follow your instincts when new opportunities or tasks are presented to you. If you don’t have the time, energy or willpower, say no. 



Setting your boundaries allows others to respect and honor your needs. According to Forbes, when you set your own boundaries, you are being self-aware and improving your relationship with yourself by not sacrificing things that are important to you.

You should prioritize yourself before anything else. You don’t want to give away your time for free. Respect your personal time the way you would respect others’ time. And remember, you're not saying no to everything. Saying no to the wrong things simply allows you the time and energy to say yes to the right things. 

8. They take brain breaks every 30 minutes.

A great strategy to improve your productivity and motivation is to take "brain breaks" every 30 minutes. In this digital age, we spend our entire workdays staring at screens, so it’s vital for your physical and mental health to step away every so often. 

Set a timer for five to eight minutes to take a walk outside, get some fresh air and disconnect from your work for a brief moment. This is a great way to manage your stress and find your peace. You'll find yourself feeling more relaxed and inspired when you return to your work. 



“That break is going to replenish your brain’s capacity for attention, focus and creativity,” Mari Carmen Pizarro explained in a TikTok. 

9. They ask for help.

You are not a superhero and you are not a robot. You simply can't do it all, and that's okay! You're not supposed to.

Know when it's time to ask for help. During moments when you are easily irritable and overwhelmed, finding support and help from others — be it your partner, coworker, relative or friend — is invaluable and will relieve stress. Humans are social creatures who thrive in community. 

When you ask for help, you are building a community of people you can trust. These people can help you facilitate further development and maintain optimism when dealing with challenging situations. Asking for help also improves your resilience and allows you to overcome setbacks and grow. 

10. They clarify expectations before getting started on something.

Before you dig into your plans and projects, make sure you run them by your boss, colleagues or clients. That way, you settle onto agreeable terms and have a precise idea of what to generate.

Openly communicating plans is key to achieving optimal results. When you explain your ideas and clarify expectations, everyone stays on the same page. Clarifying expectations will also keep you focused, enhance accountability and prevent you from getting off track or wandering away from tasks. 

11. They use a 5-3-1 productivity strategy.

In a TikTok, Isis Breanna explained the 5-3-1 strategy that helped improve her productivity while also reducing her work hours. 



The 5 stands for setting five major tasks to complete each week, assigning one task per day. Restricting yourself from overworking by only focusing on five tasks per week can improve your productivity tremendously. 

The 3 in this strategy stands for three minor tasks per day. This means achieving simple tasks that can be done quickly and efficiently throughout each day. 

And finally, the 1 stands for "one major win." Breanna explained that once you complete all of your assigned tasks for the week, you get to celebrate this fulfilling win.

Not only is this a strategy that promotes better organization and productivity, but it can also lower your stress and overwhelm by preventing hyper fixation on everything that needs to be done at once. 

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12. They set shorter deadlines for tasks.

Procrastination is a real struggle, and tasks can be more difficult to complete when more time is given to complete them. This can lead to you cutting it close and waiting until the last minute, completing the task in a shorter amount of time.

This is called Parkinson’s law, a principle that states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” meaning tasks become more difficult to complete the more time you have to complete them. This is because the long build-up inevitably becomes intimidating and stressful. 



That’s why it can be beneficial to set a shorter deadline for yourself. Oddly enough, giving yourself less time to get work done can increase productivity and work efficiency.

13. They follow the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule — also referred to as the Pareto Principle — states that 20% of your efforts will bring 80% of your outcomes. The objective of this rule is to identify and complete the tasks that have the most impact. Using this method will allow you to prioritize your most important tasks, which will increase your productivity and bring you greater results. 

This also means that focusing too much on the smaller tasks will have the opposite effect.

14. They prioritize self-care.

Lastly, but certainly not least, self-care is a must in order to maintain a stable lifestyle and enhance your success. 

Practicing self-care doesn't just mean taking bubble baths and doing face masks. There are so many ways to take better care of yourself.

Simple and necessary ways you can practice self-care include eating healthy, staying active, getting adequate rest, drinking lots of water, practicing yoga or other mindfulness techniques, and spending time with loved ones. It’s important to acknowledge your life outside of your work.

Incorporating these habits into your routine will do wonders for your success in tandem with your well-being. It’s not the quantity of hours worked but the quality of work that truly defines achievement. Work smarter, not harder!

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Francesca Duarte is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team based in Orlando, FL. She covers lifestyle, human-interest, and spirituality topics.