Three Habits of High Performers

I believe I can fly......

I believe I can fly……

Please enjoy this post from staff writer, Mitchell Pauly.

High performers are enigmas to many.  Their lives are incredibly structured, rigid contraptions that operate at high efficiency.  In a sense, if our lives could be compared to cars, high performers would be the sport class, while the majority of people would be economy class.  Life affords opportunities that are more diverse than simply task-goal-task.  But, in order to be a high performing individual, the more fluid aspects of life must be delegated to specific times.  This probably sounds rather droll, and in a sense it is, but lifestyles are individual choices.  We all have the same 24-hours each day, and we all have the freedom to spend them however we wish.  High performers simply spend them in a manner geared towards personal goals that externally are viewed as positive, while under achievers spend them in a manner less favorable in the current pop-cultural environment[1].  Here are three ways to help render you a high performer in the current social landscape:

Set Weekly Goals

Everyone has their goals, and most people probably like to think they work towards them every day.  While this may be true for some, true high performers break their overall goals down into micro-goals and then parcel them out on a weekly basis.  They hold themselves accountable to meeting them as well.  Do you write out a personal to-do list every day?  High performers do.

Get Up Early

The average CEO rises between five and six in the morning, no snooze and no one hour wake up period. They rise and work, like Amish people with luxury cars.  If the idea of waking up early is as appealing to you as taking an enema in a building with broken plumbing, then you will have trouble being a high performing individual.  This might sound ridiculous, and pending on your current life-situation, it may be.  If you are single and live alone, then your evenings are yours to do with as you please; wake up fifteen minutes before work and go until 10pm.  However, once a spouse, errands, kids and so on are introduced to your life, you will find that the morning is really the only time you will have that is 100% yours.  Use it or lose it.

Just Do It

High performers don’t negotiate with themselves.  They don’t work in half steps.  And, although they are incredibly critical thinkers, they don’t overdo it; once they decide something is in their best interest they plan and execute immediately.  If the plan requires an earlier wakeup call, they do it. If it requires an investment, they make it. And, if it requires an education, they get it.  They don’t make excuses, they don’t consider what others will think, and they don’t doubt themselves.  They execute against the goal to the fullest degree of their capability, and ask themselves constantly if they are.  They just do it.

The above three habits of high performing individuals might seem obvious; you may have read about these same habits on another site.  Here is my unique angle: high performance is not for society to define, but for the individual.  Set your goals and step back for a minute and remember: they are unique to you, as your life is.  If there aren’t any high arching, difficult to achieve goals in your life, don’t feel that you need to add any…unless you want to.  While those who meet the pop-cultural definition of high performing certainly do achieve a tremendous amount in a day, whose to say a mother who does nothing more than care for her children has achieved anything less worthy?

[1] For example, smoking pot and watching cartoons are a legitimate life goal should someone make it so, but society doesn’t hold this goal as valuable.  However, the fact remains that this person would be living their life in manner consistent with their life-goals, and so by that definition would be successful.  Don’t let society dictate what success is in your life; you define your life.

Do you know anyone who is a high performer?  Or, are you?  What do you think sets high performers apart from the rest of society?

About Mitchell Pauly

Mitchell Pauly is the main writer at Snarkfinance and a staff writer for Club Thrifty. He is a successful professional investor and financial analyst for Fortune 500 companies and enjoys nothing more than a cringe worthy joke. You can follow him on Twitter @snarkfinance.


  1. I can completely agree with waking up early and just doing it. A lot of my best work comes from getting up before everyone else in the house and working on a few assignments, whether it be for my blog or for work. No one can really force you do actually do something, especially if its only going to benefit you. You have to be the one who is cheering yourself on to go for it and not just talk about it.

  2. “They don’t make excuses, they don’t consider what others will think, and they don’t doubt themselves.”

    No wonder I am not excelling in life. I do all of these things. Is tomorrow’s post going to be entitled How To Stop Under-performing In Life And Change The Way You Have Been Doing Just About Everything Your Entire Life? I could use some advice on how to break my bad behaviour patterns.

    • Focus in on something you do well, and focus in on it hard. I don’t have a hugely broad skill set, and if I spent my time focusing on all the things I am not good at I would seriously consider giving all my goals up. I don’t do that. For areas that fall out of my skill set, I make connections to plug those holes (similar to mast… well, never mind).

  3. I would say I “try” to be a high performer, and I think most of it is making efficient use of your time. I like your explanation of “just do it” and it makes sense; people who perform at a lower level take forever to decide something and then take forever to actually do it. High performers make decisions as quickly as possible (without sacrificing the quality of the decision) and then get it done!

  4. Indeed they do. Easier said than done, though.

  5. Great things to start doing–especially the weekly goal!

  6. When I began my running program several years ago, waking up early to run before work became a top priority. No way I could run after work with all the family responsibilities that come after after school, through dinner and into the evening. I never used to be a morning person but after several months my body made the adjustment. Now I often find myself up at 4:00 am either running or blogging.

  7. I think for the most part I’m a high performer but sometimes I slip off track. I make weekly and monthly goals and try to plan my week around those goals. I get up early if I have extra work to do but other than that I enjoy my sleep. I often wonder if I should force myself to be a morning person? Is is it possible that I am most creative and focused at night or do I just tell myself this so that I don’t have to get up early in the morning? I don’t know.

  8. I think I want to be a high performer so much that I try doing lots of things and fail or don’t see them through. I do have a lot of self doubt which is no good! I am an early riser so I tend to get some things done in that window first thing before my daughter wakes up. Then I spend most of the day thinking about what I want to achieve and not actually doing it!

    • I am in the same boat… I overload my plate and get so busy nothing gets done. I have been trying to focus on specific things long enough to see things to “success” or “fail”, then move on to the next project.

  9. I’ve really been embracing the early wake up. It’s such a peaceful time of day, and you’re spot on that especially once kids enter the picture that’s really the only time you have left. One thing I have been working on getting better at, and still have a ways to go, is the weekly to-do list. I often find that my daily to-do list often gets in the way, meaning the urgent is superceding the important. I need to get better at flipping that around.

    • I think one thing you could try is to set more reasonable, achievable goals (if you aren’t already doing that). That way the random to-do’s won’t sidetrack you as much.

  10. I think getting up early and just doing it is best. Sleeping in might cost you money. I prefer to adjust my schedule to when I know that my clients are up and will need me, which is usually early in the morning.

  11. I have a lot of trouble keeping focused. Setting goals, long, medium, and short term are essential for me to stay on task. I’m still a work in progress, but moving in the right direction.

  12. I’d like to think I’m a high performer but in reality I am probably not :) I do rise early though – around 5:30 AM on average. I also set weekly goals, though they aren’t always in writing or SMART goals. I need to refine that process.

  13. I don’t make lists, but do get up early and carry through with decisions quickly. Maybe I’m a partial high performer?

  14. Another great post, Mitchell. “They don’t make excuses, they don’t consider what others will think, and they don’t doubt themselves.” This is the key, in my opinion. When I look at people who have a self-proclaimed “horrible” life, these three factors weigh in heavily for them. Just shut up and do what needs to be done.

  15. I like to think that I am a high performer, at least I do many of these things. :) I think breaking down those goals into something that forces you to act is key. I find that it helps keep me accountable to continue working when/if I want to give up and find that it often pays off. We wake up early as well, usually by 5:00 am and find that I get so much more accomplished and actually want to get done than compared to when we slept later.

  16. I think it all comes down to just doing it. Most people will think about it too long and then it doesn’t get done. Just doing it is how you get ahead!

  17. I need to focus more on the “just do it” aspect. I’m great with that in certain areas of my life, like exercise, but when it comes to work, I’m always second guessing myself. I don’t know anyone personally though who has it all figured out though and knows exactly what they are doing. And I have very successful friends. It seems there is always one area of life that someone struggles with. Great post!

  18. I’m WAY more productive when I set weekly goals. I use Steven Covey’s method of setting weekly goals and then putting them on days of the week, going through all my major roles (employee, manager, father, husband, homeowner, friend, church member, etc.) It’s amazing how many things come to mind when you prompt yourself each week, and how tasks keep moving forward. Good stuff!

  19. I’m far from perfect, and I do need to be better about staying organized and setting goals to keep myself on track. But overall I’d day I’m a lot more productive than most people. I agree that morning is the best time to get things done. I can’t imagine sleeping in and letting half the day go by.

  20. I consider myself to be a high performer, although doubt still an occasional factor. :) I find a lot of people fill their days with busy work. It may be necessary work but it is not necessarily the important work that drives results or achieves goals. I’ve learned you have to build a good team and delegate the busy work, so you can focus on the big picture.

  21. I HATE getting up early, but it works damnit.

  22. I totally agree that once kids come into your life, the only time that’s yours is in the early morning; it’s the only time I can get anything done on my website.

    This sentence, “once they decide something is in their best interest they plan and execute immediately” struck me as profound. People get bogged down in indecision and too many options and they wind up doing nothing. Make a decision, stick with it and move forward!

  23. I need to get better at waking up early. So many people mention how much more productive they are if they get up early, but I’ve never been an early riser. I’m pretty good at setting and achieving goals, but I know I could get better.

  24. I hope it is too arrogant of me to say it is me! I have daily tasks/objectives to achieve goals.

  25. I’m an early riser, so I have that to check off my list. 5:00 AM every morning! it helps me be productive.

  26. High performers are often visionary. They don’t get bogged down on the little details and look at the big picture.

  27. Nicely done Mitchell!!

    I especially like this line: “…they don’t consider what others will think, and they don’t doubt themselves…” This is me to a T!! Although truly, I don’t consider myself to be a high performer, I just do what I need to do for me.

    Your example of the pot smoking cartoon watcher is one who is definitely a HIGH performer :)

    Take care and all the best.



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