How to Get Things Done: Productivity for High Performers

Quick Note:

Before we dive into the topic of Productivity as it pertains to High Performance Habits, I want to clear something up. Productivity has gotten a “dirty” connotation over the past 18 months.

It was used incorrectly as a way to cram more into already crammed days, squeeze every ounce of work out of overstressed employees, and led to burnout and emotional distress alongside other physical and mental maladies.

Productivity isn’t about learning how to check emails in the bathroom or working through lunch to get more things done. This is NOT productivity.

I ask that you would keep an open mind in this section as I share with you what true productivity is. Productivity is about making progress in the activities that lead to your goals. In this newsletter, you will learn how you can be truly productive in the same way High Performers are.

Prolific Quality Output (PQO)

Brendon, in his book High Performance Habits, re-enforces that Productivity is NOT about doing more things, it is about focusing on the important. Your important activities are also called your PQO or Prolific Quality Output.

You perform your PQO tasks by putting out high quality output pertaining to an essential area of your work. For a software engineer, this might be the lines of code or programs written. For standards engineers, this might be the number of standards reviewed or drafted. Whatever your most essential task is in your position, discover what your PQO is and produce it consistently and as rapidly as you can without dropping your quality.

This principle echoes a quote by Andy Warhol which states, “Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Increasing the frequency at which you produce your PQO allows you to do more of the things that matter and give you the ability to rapidly improve because you have the opportunity to iterate more frequently.

If you can make each output better than the last and you are producing regularly, you will advance faster than someone who produces infrequently. Do more of your PQO to increase your true productivity.

Your Next 5 Moves

What do you need to accomplish your workplace or personal goals?

Do you know?

Can you break it down into five steps?

A practice that can keep you stuck at above average is acting before you think or create a plan. This habit may have helped you go from mediocre to above average but this will not help you transcend into High Performance. “To become a high performer requires thinking more before acting”, Brendon states.

A great framework for doing this is breaking down your goal into 5 targets that need to be accomplished. This process forces you to slow down, think about how to get from where you currently are in relation to your goal and formulate a plan, with checkpoints, to get there.

To do this, ask yourself, “If there were only 5 major moves to make that goal happen, what would they be?” Discover and list the 5 moves and break them down into smaller steps, if needed. Lastly, remember to add deadlines for each of your 5 steps (see Necessity Post).

Progressive Mastery

If you need a task to be done quickly, who would you rather give the task to if all other things are equal? The expert in that area or a novice? Most would pick the expert which shows us that our level of acumen in a subject matter can help us to be more productive in that arena. My question to you is, “When was the last time you intentionally studied to get better at your PQO? Who do you need to become in order to easily achieve your goals?”

This is a part of productivity as well. The more you develop your knowledge and skills, the faster you will be able to complete tasks that previously stumped you. But you must not approach your learning blindly or passively. You must be an active learner. Brendon suggests that you identify 5 key skills to develop over the next 3 years in order to help you become the person who achieves your current goals with ease. Then apply the progressive mastery framework to your 5 key skills so you can maximize your learning. The progressive mastery framework is:

  1. Determine a skill that you want to master

  2. It is easier to master a specific topic than a vague one.

  3. Set specific stretch goals on your path to developing that skill

  4. Goals give you a target and keep you accountable.

  5. Attach high levels of emotion and meaning to your journey and your results

  6. Attach a “Why” to your learning journey to keep you motivated.

  7. Identify the factors critical to success, and develop your strengths in those areas (and fix your weaknesses with equal fervor)

  8. Seek out your problem areas and mitigate them in advance.

  9. Develop visualizations that clearly imagine what success and failure look like.

  10. Mental reps are just as powerful as physical ones.

  11. Schedule challenging practices developed by experts or through careful thought

  12. Use practice plans that push you from credible sources.

  13. Measure your progress and get outside feedback

  14. Measure and record your progress to accelerate growth. Get outside feedback to avoid bias.

  15. Socialize your learning and efforts by practicing or competing with others

  16. Get around people who are learning as well. This will give you a support community that pushes you to succeed.

  17. Continue setting higher level goals so that you keep improving

  18. Keep stretching yourself to grow.

  19. Teach others what you are learning

  20. You only know something as well as you can teach it. Teach to solidify concepts in your mind.


  • Discover what your PQO is and spend at least 60 min daily working at it (the goal is to spend 60% of your week on it)

  • Break down a big goal you have into 5 steps

  • Determine what 5 skills you need to develop and how you can use the progressive mastery framework to achieve it

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