The 7 Bad Habits of Insanely Productive People

image of the number 7

You’ve heard all the advice about how to be more productive. Stay focused, be motivated, get your exercise, floss twice a day and eat your veggies.

We’ve chimed in with our own thoughts on the habits of highly effective bloggers.

Twice, in fact.

And the truth is, I’ve gotten a lot out of productivity advice. If it weren’t for David Allen and Tony Schwartz, my life would consist of eating cupcakes and checking Netflix to see if there’s a new Phineas & Ferb out.

But as a business owner, when you start to see a certain level of success — and to meet other people who have attained some success — you sometimes find the reality of building a business doesn’t always match the pretty pictures painted in productivity manuals.

Today I’m going to talk about 7 “bad” habits that crop up a lot in successful people.

You may not want to actually adopt all of these habits and traits. But if you have one or two (or more) of them, you can probably stop using that as an excuse for not trying to create something epic.

And who knows, we just might convince you to be a little more distractible, greedy, or arrogant.

Let’s get to it.

Bad Habit #1: Being thin-skinned

When you first start a business, everyone and his know-it-all uncle tells you that “you have to develop a thick skin.”

What I’ve observed is that quite often, this advice comes from people who are praising themselves for being utterly oblivious.

Most of the successful people I know are sensitive and perceptive. And yes, when they get criticized, they feel like shit.

Do they let trolls and whiners stop them from doing something great? No.

But it’s not because they don’t feel the insults … it’s because their passion for what they do is stronger than the discomfort.

The more progress you make, the thicker your emotional skin will naturally get, because you’ll start to realize that you’re actually doing something that matters, and the peanut gallery isn’t.

But you don’t have to try to rush that process … and anyway, I’ve never known anyone who could. Sensitivity is an asset, don’t try to beat it out of yourself.

Bad Habit #2: Flakiness

We all know we shouldn’t let things slip through the cracks.

We should answer every email. Reply to every comment. Get back to all of those @ messages on Twitter. Wish our customers a happy birthday on Facebook. Get our taxes done before 11 PM on tax day.

If you can actually do all of this, that is awesome. Don’t stop.

But if you sometimes flake out — flake out on things that are important and worth your while — welcome to the club.

The truth is, if you’re building something epic, you’re going to be juggling a lot of pieces. They don’t always go together neatly. Sometimes they don’t go together at all.

When I was a 22-year-old administrative assistant, I never blew anything off. I was impeccable in how I handled all of my responsibilities. Because my responsibilities were essentially uncomplicated.

That’s exactly why I didn’t remain an administrative assistant.

In my life now, sometimes I miss stuff. And since everything I do revolves around connecting with people, it’s all important — because every human is important.

I don’t like dropping the ball and failing to email a friend back … or that scramble I had the night before last to get my tax checks mailed, for that matter.

Believe it or not, flakes can accomplish amazing things. And if you’ve never been a flake before, you may find this less-than-lovely trait comes out when things start to get really interesting.

If you’re stretching yourself, you’ll drop the ball sometimes. Try to figure out the circumstances in which you should never let yourself drop the ball, Make sure the “A” tasks get done.

Do your best, and say sorry when you screw up. But don’t stop just because things get messy.

Bad Habit #3: Selfishness

Rather closely aligned with Bad Habit #2, if you aren’t able to be at least somewhat selfish, you’re never going to survive this.

You’ve got to selfishly draw some lines — around how you’re going to take care of yourself, around how much time you’ll give to your project, around getting enough sleep and taking some time off.

The sad fact is, unless you’re under ten years old, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else is going to show up and do it for you.

It’s ridiculous to burn down your life to create a successful company. Ridiculous and unnecessary and antithetical to success. So don’t.

And if the “rules” of your industry say you have to destroy yourself to become successful, change industries or rewrite the rules.

Bad Habit #4: Greed

I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it.
~Dorothy Parker

This is going to freak some people out. I can see the anti-marketing haters rubbing their hands together even as I type this.

But that’s not helping you, so screw them.

Here’s the straight dope: If you think money is the root of all evil, you’re unlikely to ever get your hands on any.

I don’t know why this is, but money can tell when you’re allergic to it, and it stays away. (Proof positive that money is not a domestic house cat.)

Please note that by telling you to “be greedy” I do not mean “be an unfeeling, unethical ratbag.”

The best (and most fun) way to make money is by helping other people … a lot.

I’m also not saying that money will be mystically attracted to you if you change your mindset. “The secret” to financial success tends to involve plenty of work, not magical pseudo-laws.

But there are no accidental millionaires. The closest we have — lottery winners — rarely manage to keep hold of their wealth.

If you want to make money, value money. Not above integrity or your family or your soul’s great passion … but honor money for what it can do, for you and for others.

You can always give it away to someone who needs it more badly than you do. But you’ve got to earn it first.

Bad Habit #5: Distractibility

Creativity is the residue of time wasted.
~Albert Einstein

For reasons that will become obvious, I loved reading about some research results in the new book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.

A large sample of undergraduates was given a variety of difficult creative tests. It turned out that students who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were much better at solving creative problems than other students were.

And when the students were asked about creative accomplishments in the real world (say, winning a prize at a juried art show, or winning an honor at a science fair), the ADHD students had achieved significantly more.

Lehrer goes on to point out similar heightened creativity in people who may not have a particular diagnosis, but for one reason or another, they’re not as traditionally focused as their peers.

From Lehrer’s book:

Although we live in an age that worships attention — when we need to work, we force ourselves to concentrate — this approach can inhibit the imagination. Sometimes it helps to consider irrelevant information, to eavesdrop on all the stray associations unfolding in the far reaches of the brain. Occasionally, focus can backfire and make us fixated on the wrong answers.

Insane focus is highly admirable. And we all know we’ve got to ship.

But some of the people you might envy for their laser focus have a hard time seeing the broader picture. They may be executing the hell out of their strategy today … but watch what they do in the long term.

The more widely you read, look, watch, listen, and think, the more genuinely remarkable ideas you’re going to come up with.

When it’s time to do, do. And when it’s time to daydream, go ahead and daydream.

Bad Habit #6: Self doubt

I know a local business owner who’s always got a story about his idiot business partners, his idiot employees, his idiot customers.

One of his businesses just fell apart. Spectacularly.

Again.

It’s a painful situation for him, and for all of his employees who just lost their jobs. I feel bad for him. But one thing I can be sure of — at no point will he ask himself this important question:

Is it me?

Yes, you need to be able to make decisions, but Jim Collins showed nicely in his book Great by Choice that one marker of a business leader who succeeds over time is what Collins calls “productive paranoia.”

Believing in yourself no matter what is often touted as critical to leadership. And it is effective in getting a leadership position. Blind faith in yourself (also known as narcissism) is a great trait if you want to climb the traditional corporate ladder.

Unfortunately, it’s often associated with leading your organization right off a cliff.

Which means that for an entrepreneur — without a golden parachute or pals on the right boards of directors — a big dose of healthy self-doubt is much more useful.

Question yourself. Question your assumptions. Take action, yes — but inform your action with a dose of productive paranoia.

Bad Habit #7: Arrogance

Sometimes we think good work speaks for itself.

Usually, we’re wrong.

I want you to be incredibly good at what you do. And I want you to get a little bit arrogant about that.

Toot your own horn. Admit that you’re kind of a big deal.

As Amber Naslund said in her post about misguided career beliefs,

The line between savvy and jackwad is indeed a fine one.

Obviously we try to keep off the jackwad side of the fence.

But for your project to become truly epic — to help an epic number of people — you’re going to have to get out there and talk it up. Which will make some people uncomfortable. And since you don’t have a thick skin (see #1), that’s going to kind of suck.

Fortunately, doing something epic takes the sting out.

So get out there and do it.

How about you?

Have any “bad” habits that come in handy when you’re doing the Amazing Thing You Do?

Let us know about it in the comments.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Learn all about Sonia’s bad habits when you follow her on twitter @soniasimone

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Comments

  1. Sonia, another really interesting and thought-provoking post, thank you!

    I love #3, and feel that we all should be a little more “selfish” with our time, guarding from those who might steal it away from us in exchange for only triviality.

    #6 and #7 should, IMO, be both tempered with a dash of humility. Not enough to become overly modest, introverted, or destructively self-critical, but enough to keep us on the right side of the ledge.

    A very motivating read today!

  2. I think that my bad habit is about productivity. When I work on my laptop I stay on it, concentrated on the screen, for houres in a row, and that sucks all the mental energy. I think that it would me more wise if I would take regular pauses in order to relax my eyes and my mind.

    • Cool – so you already fixed the problem Cristi :)

    • Cristi, this saved me. Pomodairo, “http://lifehacker.com/5682508/pomodairo-is-a-pomodoro+based-timer-and-task-tracking-tool” Google it if the link dos not come through. Breaks my sessions into neatly planned 20min blocks. I fl great even after a days worth and see all the progress made as well.

      • Andrew, you forgot three important points. First, Pomodairo is free. Second, it runs on any system that can run Adobe AIR. Third, you did say that this tool is built to support you in applying the Pomodoro technique to your work—heck, maybe even to your life, at least to some extent. But it helps to add that those of us who have no idea what the Pomodoro technique is will find a link on the Pomodairo page to a page that explains it fully.
        So, to everyone else, don’t do what I almost did, which was to not follow Andrew’s link because I assumed I couldn’t afford Pomodairo or I wouldn’t be able to run it in Mac OS or that Pomodoro was some golden-apple-worshiping cult that would seize my brain if I followed the link. :D
        Get Pomodairo and start using it. You’ll be happier and more productive.

  3. #1 – Thin Skinned and #6 Self Doubt seemed to be the universal ‘secret’ that everybody walks around with, no matter how successful. Somewhere we should realize that it’s actually a universal LIE – since before all the outside influence regarding who we we’re told we are/what we are like/good/bad – we were actually happy go lucky kids who knew we were the most fantastic person on earth! Right! Look at your everyday 2-year-old!

    “Found” you just a day ago. Really in enjoy your posts and your fast, ‘snappy’, entertaining way of writing!

  4. Hi Sonia,

    All awesome tips. Love the note about selfishness. Absolutely have to think inward at times, to be your best for everybody outside of you.

    As for #7 – I say, display supreme confidence. Outwardly arrogant people are merely people who lack confidence. I am big on the quote: “Tell the world what you are going to do, but first, do it.” I also note virtually every arrogant person gets knocked down and experiences some type of grave misfortune, more so than calm, confident assured folks. Happens with sports figures all the time. Karma’s a b*tch ;)

    Carry a supreme, calm, confidence, and nothing can rattle you. Even arrogant people :)

    Thanks for sharing Sonia!

    RB

  5. Martin Messier :

    What flavor of cupcake?

  6. Bad Habit # 8: Pushy

    I’ve observed that most successful people don’t take No for an answer that easily. The downside of perseverance is being considered rude and pushy. And you have to be a bit pushy to get through the clutter and be noticed.

  7. This is great, Sonia. The ‘bad’ is a real incentive to read the article. We all know we’re bad in some ways and want to be bad in others, so thanks for normalizing our naughty ways!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about arrogance, so I appreciate this and the comments about it. What’s the line between arrogance and confidence? Talking about this with a friend last night, we decided that arrogance is puffing yourself up because you don’t have the credibility or skills you’re pretending to.

    Confidence is earned from seeing your work hit its mark.

    I like Ankesh’s #8 – pushy.

    Thanks again!

  8. I would add “Not Being Perfect.”

    A lot of times in business, we want to make sure that a product is absolutely perfect before we push it out the door, but the huge caveat in that is that you’re losing time and money rehashing little details.

    In college, we learn that the lesson that, “Perfect is great, but on time is better.” If you don’t turn in your term paper before the due date, you’re going to fail no matter how great it is. The same goes for business. If you spend so much time perfecting a product that it becomes less relevant, or worse – unprofitable, the all that hard work to make it “perfect” is wasted.

    Entrepreneurs need to let go of that perfectionism sometimes to be successful.

  9. I loved this article because I am a grad student taking three MBA level classes, working full time, involved on a board for an organization, and I have a toddler. My husband and I often talk about the unglamorous byproducts of being insanely busy, but I do think it all comes back to priorities. I disagree with the part flakiness because I loathe people who are flakey; I value the relationships in my life. Though I’ve surely missed a friend’s birthday, I try to make it a priority never to miss a good friend’s birthday, to be late for a meeting, cancel a lunch, or ignore an important message that demands my attention. Certainly things can and do slip through the cracks, but the funny thing is that this tends to happen even with people who aren’t busy. It’s a matter of where you place your priorities and how you define “busy.” Are you living in the quadrant of “urgent and important” or “not-urgent and not-important” activities? (Thank you, Stephen Covey.) As for being greedy, selfish, and distractable, I think that’s a matter of perception. I’m sure I have a certain friend who thinks I’m greedy and selfish for going to graduate school with a toddler at home (since she’s a full time mother), and God forbid I work! I’m also sure I have a relative or two who thinks I’m distractable because I might choose to spend 10 minutes on Twitter as opposed to picking up the phone and calling or dropping a hand-written letter in the mail. The point is that as long as you know who you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how that fits in with the larger picture then you can’t really worry too much about what everyone else thinks of you. But you shouldn’t make decisions at the expense of your relationships, which are at the basis of what enables you to grow.

  10. Great post!

    #5 is the reason why I can’t stick to a schedule. My coach tried to get me to identify how much time I’m spending on different tasks and I can’t do it. Sure, I can commit to spending only 45 minutes reading my RSS feeds but if there’s a day where I see a bunch of articles to forward to different people or a story that piques my interest–and I’m off chasing something bright and shiny–then that 45 minutes can easily turn into 90. I prefer to have a to-do list of tasks than journal out my day on Google calendar because you just never know where the day will take you!

    • Time management is a great challenge for all of us. I learned something from a very wise man, many years ago:
      1) Make sure you remember that The president, the CEO of Zappos and the Dalai Lama have all exactly the same time like you but they may decide to use it for something else.
      2) Only if you know what you really want to do in life – you can decide how you spend your time.
      3) If the master of the universe would stand behind you and watch what you do, wanting you to be super happy – would he be happy?
      :)

  11. I don’t know that it counts as a “bad habit” exactly but this article reminds me of advice I got from a grad school professor. She recounted that throughout her own graduate school experience she made great progress and did amazing work–and yet at every review meeting her committee told her she was too soft-hearted to make it. She needed to “sharpen her claws.” She told me the story because after years of struggling with that piece of advice, she decided to ignore it–and, as it turns out, you don’t have to be mean to succeed. It is absolutely possible to build your own career while also building up those around you. It’s possible to compete and do your own best work without ever needing to tear down the competition.

    • That’s awesome, Maureen, thanks. Yeah, I got that advice a lot as well. I also finally decided to ignore it, since I couldn’t figure out a way to actually implement it, plus I didn’t want to.

  12. Love this article because frankly, just the title says it all… productive people have bad habits…their making a difference even with them… be supportive, learn from them . . . tell them their doing a great job!

    • Yeah, the more genuinely successful people I meet (especially the ones that are doing something beyond the beyond — not just executing, but doing something at a higher level), the more I realize that the books telling us how to be successful are complete fiction. :)

      • I just cried a tear of joy! It’s nice to hear (read) someone else say it. And so eloquently. I usually just yell out colorful expletives while reading. Maybe I will try your word…. Fiction!….Fiction! Hmmm, kind of has the same ring to it. Great article too!

    • Jane – not “even” with them but “because” of those habits. Those habits are actually GOOD !!!! They are only described as bad so that people who don’t know what to do with their lives don’t get crazy :))

  13. This article really spoke to me. So much so that when I saw the title pop up in my e-mail I stopped updating my blog to read it (Distractability).

    People so rarely talk of greed, arrogance and selfishness as positive qualities. Maybe never. I like your spin, though. A lot.

    Those labels are the things others place on behavior when someone isn’t helping them or want to be paid for work or put their needs first. I also find that many people — i see this most in a couple of the parent groups of which I’m a part — want to really grind you down if they feel you think too much of yourself. But in this world, if you don’t put yourself first and see the positive in your own work, who will?

    Anyway, thanks for the article. Now I go back to redesign. Perfect food for thought as I return to work on my About page (no joke).

  14. Not leveraging resources early on. When I started my business I insisted that I had to do everything myself…afterall, when you want something done right you have to do it yourself right? Ugh. I would put in 12-15 hour days everyday including 8 hour days on weekends. I was completely burned out and had no choice but to start outsourcing and bringing on an internal team and life changed. I’m still guilty of it on occasion but nowhere near as bad as I used to be!

  15. Sonia… brilliant, insightful, smoothly readable and connected. Wow. I never have enough time to read all of the great content provided here but felt this was so on target I just needed to comment about how much I appreciate personally, your sharing your time and insights with us. Thank you.

    Biggest problem? Letting go of control… finding and trusting qualified others to help build our visions. I believe that we’re always looking for others like us, the problem is, those people are doing what we do, not looking to work with us on our projects. We’re so busy, have so many ideas we want to implement, build or create – but can only paint so fast.

    Unfortunately, for many successful entrepreneurs building their businesses and bringing them to life is like painting a work of fine art – it’s really hard to hand that brush over to anyone else sometimes.

    Again, great share – much appreciated.

  16. Great article!

    I’ve seen myself fall prey to a couple of these habits. It’s good to be reminded to look for these things to avoid falling into the same patterns.

  17. Sonia,

    I’ve long relied on the unconventional to broaden the construct of my approach to business as a real estate broker in Brooklyn NYC and have watched how utilizing content marketing have treated my clients to phenomenal results.

    Admittedly, I’m in the minority opinion among my peers and colleagues in an industry as old as mine is.

    But I’m comforted by the fact that in the course of committing all these bad habits, your post has made me at least know I might be on to the something.

    (and it’s good to know #6 is a healthy feeling to experience … Especially when it comes to challenging long standing conventions and practices)

    Would it be fair to say that the “Creatives” in society do advance the ball closer the goal post of effectiveness when it comes to problem solving and better outcomes for the greater good?

  18. Sonia, I predict this article will go down as a classic in the Copyblogger annals of history (no thanks to your bad habits). As you rightfully point out, some of these so-called bad habits actually turn out to be assets to success. I can’t help having a thin skin or being easily distracted. I need to work on the flaky and selfish.

  19. This is the best piece of advice on successful entrepreneurship I’ve read in ages. Thank you Sonia

  20. Ms. Simone you are like Mr. Shaw.

    Mr. Shaw taught English at my High School. He had baggy corduroy trousers and a floppy fringe that gave him a sort of Hugh Grant cachet way back in 1989. We had shabby classrooms, tatty books and yet when he taught us we found ourselves half way up a dark and gloomy river in the Heart of Darkness or on a wild moorland with Seamus Heaney. You do all that – but for business – which to my mind is even cooler.

    You take away ‘The horror, the horror!’ and show us that we are all human and we can slip up but that the important thing is to believe in ourselves and to keep at it.

    You rock.
    Thank you.
    *makes note to complete auto responder sequence that is stuck at number three*

    • What Katherine Wildman said. I love Copyblogger, and this column makes me feel as cleansed as if I were just stepping out of Confession.

      My problem? My hair’s on fire and I can’t put it out. Every time my hand inches toward the fire extinguisher, my heart says no. I’m anxious and scared and overcommitted. I’m also capable and hardworking. And so flippin’ curious about everything. Totally screwed but lovin’ the life.
      Best wishes.
      Sparky

    • Wow, that is so cool, thank you Katherine. I am smiling now.

  21. Failing and screwing up a lot and sometimes in spectacular ways.

    My most freeing insight currently is how the more successful someone is the more they’ve failed. And that there is no way to avoid failure other than simply doing nothing which is the kiss of death if you are trying to grow and improve.

    I’m currently reading “Adapt” and the theme is trail and error is the key to flourishing. You try stuff and see if it works. If it doesn’t you learn from your mistake, tweak, and do it again. You can mitigate risk to a degree but there’s really no shortcut. Play it safe and you end up being a dinosaur.

    So I’m looking more at failure as a sign that I’m on the path to success rather than a sign that I’m a loser. If it’s the right thing to do and I’m scared and uncomfortable so much the better.

    If you’re not regularly screwing up and learning, you’re not growing.

  22. Resistance! The Stephen Pressfield type Resistance with a capital “R” to give it deity status.
    I coach on the issue with clients; yet, I battle it every day like AA’s “one day at a time” philosophy.
    It is a remarkably powerful force opposing forward momentum and productivity for us mere mortals.

  23. Well said, er written!

  24. Hi Sonia
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your perspective. The simplicity in the language and the directness of the communication help immensely. Personally, I am a big fan of what I call “vulnerability” – you called it flaky, self doubt, thin skinned. I also believe that you have to be self aware, genuine and generous – genuinely interested in people and the problems, generous in making them part of the solution & success. I have still to work harder on habits 4 and 7 :-)

  25. Somebody must have snitched on me and told you all my faults! Seriously, I recognized myself here, and whew, what a relief to find out my “flaws” can be strengths. I especially loved the the line, “if you’re building something epic, you’re going to be juggling a lot of pieces.’ I’m an erotic romance author, and within my field, I am trying to build a something epic, and some things I’ve tried haven’t worked. But I’m starting to see results. This blog was something I really needed to hear today. Thank you.

  26. If you think money is the root of all evil, you’re unlikely to ever get your hands on any.

    That’s one of the best things I ever heard! Many people give advice to forget about money and help others. How in the world will that automatically make money?

    Great post, thanks for sharing! :)

    • I had to learn this one first-hand, so I thought it might be helpful to other people. :)

    • Hmmm – not sure you really inhaled that part. Yes, completely forget about money. Bill Gates never worked to make money. I never did anything because of money and when I did – it went south.
      If you forget about money and instead help others – is the only way to ever get successful – except you become a criminal, which I think we can exclude from the discussion :) So forget about the cash and do NOTHING but help others and you will be more successful than you can imagine today – 100% guaranteed!

  27. Currently recovering from a healthy bout of Flakiness (Bad Habit #2), I am relieved. How nice to accept my time-out and be able to trade it for some serious productivity today! (Acceptance made easier by your perfectly-timed, impeccably insightful thoughts!) Of course, while I was off being flaky about business, the void filled easily with family, home, health, friend, and relationship matters on a to-do list that feels like trying to dig a hole in a bucket of water.
    The secret is pulling the vision back into focus fast and hard, learning as I go how to better integrate my lives and to switch more effectively between them.
    It’s just really nice to know that there are so many other jugglers out there. And that my juggling skills seem to be able to get me where I want to go. Thanks for sharing!

    • I like to balance out flakiness with a little OCD. :) Everything gets a compartment, so there’s a time when I’m unbelievably lazy, and then time when I knuckle down and get s**t done.

  28. Very insightfully written. I love #5 Distractibility. It’s a constant struggle. Where is the balance? I seem to err on one side or the other all the time! Gotta go… somebody is pinging me on messenger :-)

  29. Great points. I think for me, I could add procrastination. I am a huge procrastinator but it always ends up working in my favor. I thrive on meeting deadlines and do my best work when the clock is ticking. So, I have started to stop seeing procrastination as a weakness and instead welcome it with open arms because my experience has shown that I do my best work when I put stuff off for a few hours and instead do random stuff.

  30. Great post! I’m defiantly guilty on some of these.
    You quote the Bible above in the “…root of all evil” and I think it’s odd that almost every time this is misquoted. I bet every reader knows that it comes from the Bible, but what every reader doesn’t know is that they will find that passage reads “money is the root of all sorts of evil.”
    Money is not a bad thing and not something that a successful person should be afraid of. They should be afraid of the power of it.
    Didn’t mean to launch into a theological discussion, it just just ruffles my feathers a little when things are taken out of context and/or completely misquoted.
    But I really did connect with this article, great job!

  31. Hi Sonia,

    1. I’m not so sure thick skin is developed over time or some people are just a lot better at hiding their hurt feelings. I’m attracted to sensitive people, because well, they often Listen and have great ideas.

    2. Life is chaotic and so is any route to success. I get tripped up every day and it’s usually by an idea and I get sidetracked, which is, um, good :)

    3. To me, this is more about learning to say “No.” It took me forever to practice this.
    When I said yes to everything I no time left at the end of the day.

    4. I think some out there – even if they are treating blogging like a business – are indirectly asking permission to blog for business. It just feels that way. You don’t need to ask permission to make a living :)

    5. I listened to a Jonah Lehrer interview about five times over the past few days and will be writing a post tied to his thinking. I do need to get that book!

    I love how he described Bob Dylan’s spark in the interview:
    Well, this is how I recall it … Basically, in 1965 Dylan had just ended a tour. Frustrated, exhausted and ready to quit the music biz. But when he retreated to a secluded cabin, he stated he was visited by “the ghost” and entered a magical state of creative inspiration. He described this as an “uncontrollable rush of vomit.” Nice, huh? But said vomit was responsible for his seminal single, “Like A Rolling Stone.” You might have heard of it ;)

    6. Always :)

    7. To be successful at blogging you have to do this.

    That was fun … Thanks, I needed to read this today :)

  32. Great points!
    I’m consistently battling with #5 and staying focused.
    Thank you for sharing, Sonia!

  33. Some of the best advice anyone in business can take to heart is in this post. Many of us forget these too often. Well done!

  34. Oh man, can I relate to #5. I’m bouncing off the walls all day and always have about 100 ideas on the back burner. I read about 6 books at once (not including audio books, podcasts, etc.). Focus is NOT something I’m known for.

    But I LOVE the conclusions from Lehrer’s book (by the way, I need to read that book!). Perhaps us unfocused, slightly-flaky dreamers are better off, after all.

    Great article! Made me smile. And cringe.

  35. Oh my, this was helpful. I retweeted. I love the comment about being thin-skinned and doing it anyway. I have shared what I think are some very helpful videos on psychological personalities on my Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheLucilleZ?feature=mhee
    For some reason I get the MEANEST comments on them. I don’t know why because what I have to teach is straight out of the DSM-IV. I ignore them and if they are too cruel I delete them. I say, “What is this person telling me about himself?” instead of attaching it to me.

  36. Another awesome post. This is why I never delete a CopyBlogger email.

    I think most of us struggle with all of these components, which makes us #6, and then we read these post and they make us #7.

    Thank you for doing what you do.

  37. First all, glad to hear you are a fellow former Administrative Assistant.

    I have battled with Bad Habit #5: Distractibility all my life. I try to focus on one thing at a time, but my mind constantly wonders. However, I often come up with my best ideas when I am working on other projects.

  38. great post…one of the best i have seen in many years..the spiirt of a ‘true entrepreneur” is an elusive one at best!!!

  39. I’m going to be rich. I have most of these.

  40. I would add “Doesn’t focus on process or procedures” – I look at results. If there is an easier way to get the same results (and it is legal and ethical) then I am not married to the process or procedure. I have seen too many folks get bogged down in their process while opportunities sail past. I know it infuriates some of the folks I have worked with because they equate my occasional disregard of processes as a judgment on them personally, and it isn’t that at all. My brain jumps around (perhaps I am ADHD) and I see connections and make leaps that are not always easily explainable, but demonstrate good results. And yes, sometimes they flop too, and I learn way more in that way, than if I had followed the step-by-step.

  41. When you think there is only rule to follow, it’s when we get lost . I loved the article. Thanks for sharing.

  42. Actually, of course, the original quote was not that money is the root of all evil but that the love of money is.
    On the other hand, I had to look up “jackwad.” Thank God for the Urban Dictionary to keep those of us past (mumbles age) informed.

  43. The one thing that I would love to add is I feel many people devalue their own success. From time to time I get frustrated with how things are and why results aren’t pouring in like how I would want them to, but at the same time it’s wise to understand that we shouldn’t be focusing on the praise of our work; praise is extraneous. Sure it’s good, but by no means should we wait or expect it.

    One of my friends stopped me when I was blatantly complaining and said, “Woah, woah. Look at how far you’ve come. Look at where you started and look at where you’re at now. You’re doing what you can, with what you have, to the best of your ability.”

    I think a lot of us devalue our own success from time to time and get caught up in the frustrations. In short, that feeling of frustration is just simply a distraction.

    Needless to say: keep your chin up and keep working.

    Great post Sonia, as always.

    • Totally, Paul — my business coach has this conversation with me about 4 times a year. :)

    • Paul – I think you speak about the essence of success. Here is my interpretation of what you say, which I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of times. Why people devalue their success?
      Because what they achieved is not success to them but to those who pushed them to do what they did: parents, friends, bosses, colleagues…. I’ve seen people that looked like successful i.e. family, house, car, financially independent. Yet their were just NOT SUCCESSFUL AT ALL – because they had different dreams, maybe never shared them with anybody…worst never actually let them come to the surface of their own mind.

      Success is when you wanted something more than anything else and even achieved more than you thought was possible. And if that is not a match with the big home, the sports car etc. indeed that person is actually really UNSUCCESSFUL.

  44. Awesome post! I can see some parts of these anti-productive habits in myself, and other entrepreneurs I know. Love how you keep business real in this! Keep doing what you’re doing. Thanks!

  45. My favorite bad habit is ignoring the doubters that are not me. If I have ample evidence that an idea will work, even if some of those closest to me aren’t sure, I have to regard their opinions in the proper light and move on.

  46. …and it’s with #6 that makes everything else worthwhile. Like you quoted with Dorothy Parker (as well as the rest of her knights of the Algonquin Roundtable), it’s that little voice in the back of people’s heads that keeps them from trying great things- scared they might succeed.

    P.S. There’s nothing wrong with working AND checking out the latest episodes of Phineas & Ferb. I’m pretty sure that’s in the third chapter of GTD, but I’ve got to look that one up again.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  47. oops. I meant me likey #4

  48. Great read. My favorite line: “Sensitivity is an asset, don’t try to beat it out of yourself.”

  49. I love this post…thank you for valuing some of my, um, weaknesses, and for encouraging me to develop new ones. And thank you for reminding me that things never go well when I am trying to be “good.’ There is always an element of disruption in creativity. As a poet, I have always known this, but as a copywriter for businessses, I am having to relearn…

  50. I’m too busy to try to write something other than this, which I just posted with the share on FB:

    This is easily one of the best articles I’ve ever read on productivity. That’s because it’s not the same old dreary bullshit–in fact, it takes aim at the bullshit in a very sensible way. Amen.

    Thank you. I think striking the balance between healthy self-doubt and arrogance is super key for me but it’s all good.

    Will now re-read. I think that’s one of my “bad habits” that’s actually good. I really read stuff. And when it’s good, I come back to it, spend some time on it, and see how I can apply it to my own situation. This is worth the time spent.

  51. This post really spoke to me. I have twin toddlers, am in a demanding post-graduate college program, run two blogs and am on track to release my second novel at the end of the year. I so hope I’m not being flaky with anyone. But it’s definitely difficult not to be. =)

  52. Great Post! I also wonder if my procras is not being organized enough. On that note how does affiliate
    marketers keep track of everything? Is there software im not aware of? Some help would be so appreciated for this procrastinator!

  53. Definitely relate. My bad habit–creating a killer “to do” list that doesn’t actually include anything to grow my business. I can crush a plan or presentation, but it’s hard for me to get out there and network, get to know people, and promote our services. These days, I look at my “to do” list every day and ask, “Which items on this list are actually going to help me grow my business today?” Those become the top priority.

    • Kay – maybe your overarching to do list should have one item and describe a dream that you dream picturing yourself in 10 years from now based on an angel that came with a magic wand and told you you can be in 10 years what you envision today. Then match your daily todo list with that one item dream list every single day of your life for the next 3,650 days. You cannot imagine today what this is doing to you in 100 days, 500 days, 1,000 days… You just cannot :)

  54. Hi Sonia,

    This post was amazing. I love how the points make you re-consider different business axioms that are widely considered true, but may not necessarily be true. Example: In order to be productive, it’s important to know what to flake on and what to be selfish about. You can’t help everyone with every project, so it’s critical to figure out what the level “A” priorities are, as you point out. I’m also digging the creativity point. Sometimes I’m hard on myself for being easily distracted, but it comes in handy when it’s time to be creative. Not sure how to handle this since focus is key, but it’s good to know that being easily distracted isn’t only an achilles heel. :)

    • I find a timer works wonders when I actually do have to focus on something. :) Just work in short bursts, don’t try setting that timer for 2 hours cause it ain’t gonna happen!

  55. Hi Sonia,

    This post was so liberating! Now I can confidently drop a few balls, while selfishly getting to work with my ADD thin-skinned self…. Ahhh, what a relief. Thanks :)

  56. Anne M. Beggs :

    Yes, another great post. A ‘bad habit’ it took me years to learn was to own the mistakes, not bury them with kitty litter. If I forgot something (“flaky”), better late than never to make that call, email, send the check; If I didn’t achieve what I expected, reassess and if it was worth doing, start over. The mess I tried to bury was really the fertilizer I needed to grow stronger.

  57. Great post! I enjoy your writing style a lot.

    My bad habit is ignoring advice from experts and just doing and learning from feedback. I don’t like it when people tell me that I can’t do something and that it should be done this way or that way. I find that even though I can understand someone intellectually, if I don’t connect with what they are saying emotionally, it’s hard for me to take their advice no matter how much expertise they have. I always think to myself, if they came up with their own method, shouldn’t I be able to come up with my own as well. At the same time, I constantly try to learn from everyone I come into contact with. Either the good things to emulate or the bad habits to avoid.

    By the way Simone, how did you learn to write the way you do?

  58. Contradicting mainstream thought is what makes success possible. Average is dumb.

  59. I wouldn’t say it’s “Distractibility” – but instead, the ability to get a constant “stream” of ideas from the subconscious mind. You’d see that Win Wenger advocates the “Image Streaming” method for people to develop such an ability – and yet it keeps an extremely high level of focus. Most of his test students have developed an uncanny level of IQ and huge bursts in imagination.

    -wittyblogger

  60. As an insanely creative being who toggles between painting, dancing and writing every day (and a variety of sub-variations on those passions), I love your post. Creative liberation is what keeps you out of the “life cage” of the status quo – that place where expectations, obligations, limitations and regulations keep you from creating a radically happy life. Sure, the old “formula” for happiness involving goals and accomplishments has value – but you can’t accomplish your way to happiness (by doing something), you have to create your way to happiness (by being something). But beware, once you figure that out you just might wake up one day in some tiny village in a foreign country wondering what the Hell happened and where all your stuff went. Good thing I like to travel light! Habla Espanol, anyone?

  61. Whoa, most of these — no, wait — ALL of these somehow apply to me and my mates. We work for a small company that’s just starting out, and we just can’t afford not to be productive in this phase. This post really hits hard — in an inspiring way. And it’s funny because the points on arrogance and self-doubt seemed contradictory at first, but as I continued reading, I was like “Hey, these are actually me.”

    By the way, would it be fair if I blame Copyblogger for contributing to my flakiness? I could spend hours here reading one post after another. :D

  62. Focusing on what we do is important. Many things will deviate our mind, but have to work with consistency. Everything cannot be done in a single day, so keep on working and soon things will favor you. All the best.

  63. Thanks for the post anyways,and for remembering me that I got all these bad habits. And you forget to add one bad habit -tension,only bad habit refusing to stuck with me but love to date others a lot!

  64. This is the best and most accurate description of success. Awesome!!

  65. Good points. I especially love #2 Flakiness, a trait I despise more than any other when I fall prey to being that Flake. Thanks for a little permission.

  66. Wow. This was exactly what I needed to hear this week. Feeling particularly flaky and distracted, I wrote a post titled “How to Be Less Creative.” Because so many times it seems like the world in general does not value creativity. Thanks for showing how being creative doesn’t have to equal being a failure.

  67. I really liked this article! Especially the one about “flakey people” .
    That makes me feel better about continuing to love my flakey friends because they do have redeeming qualities.
    My bad habit is eating power bars for lunch because I just don’t want to take the time to go sit down and eat.
    I am also good at ignoring dust bunnies in my office, since my cleaning pixies quit on me:~(.
    Thank you for being an on-going source of inspiration and delight to me!

  68. It’s not a bad habit, but I think sometimes it’s the accidents that can help get us somewhere. If you can recognize the good in an accident. If you can make some good out of a bad experience, then you’re always moving forward.

    richard
    http://wordfruit.com/blog/

  69. I don’t have any other solid ideas, but I love this article. Very well written and your points make a lot of sense. The startup scene is crazy right now, especially in the Internet & technology sector. Unfortunately there just isn’t a lot of money to go around… the 2008 crash and subsequent bank bailouts have been the worst turning point for the worldwide economy.

    Not to mention the trillion(s) of USD in derivatives just floating around the markets. This is a huge bubble waiting to burst, and it will affect every market. But afterwards we can experience a flourishing economy – and there’s no question that small businesses will be the one’s earning the greatest amount.

  70. This post had some unique tips.
    I felt Bad Habit #3: Selfishness is really cool.
    “Change industries or rewrite the rules” is awesome.
    Bad habit # 3 can be Unrealistic also.
    Once you become so busy you tend to miss the ground realities.
    You live in a different world.
    And ultimately will have less connection with real situations and it affects their behavior and actions.

  71. Great article! Definitely advice I can use! Thank you!

  72. I like what you say. Successful people sometimes are the opposite of what is “correct.” You make some very good and valid points.

  73. What a great read … spot on! It’s so important to remain true to what we want even when the methods to get there seem unconventional.

  74. Why don’t you publish dates for your blog posts?

    • Because nearly everything we write is evergreen — it’s advice that’s going to work in 5 years as well as it does now On a lot of our popular posts you’ll see comments coming in over years.

      • OK….. but I’d still like to know when each post was written, so what’s it you? If it’s evergreen, it’s evergreen.

  75. Really reassuring and entertaining read. Especially love the section on Flakiness…

  76. Sonia, this is a brilliant piece. And timely. Thank you and keep being remarkable.

  77. I have seen people who are just greed against their competitors but greed always is not an important quality to posses instead I suggest people to get inspired and work in their way to taste success… greed creates jealousy and nothing else..

  78. I came across two blogs in last two months – one of Amy Lynn at Blooging with Amy, and then this one – copyblogger. It took me two short days to realise that I wanted to be a blogger.

    Will I be a great one? I don’t know. But I know I am good at it. 20 days into blogging, and 1000 hits later, I know I am onto something. And this article comes bang at the right time!

    Again, an amazing, insightful article. And it’s already helping me to separate wheat from the chaff. Thanks so much! I love coming here.

  79. Guilty of distractability, arrogance and doubt.

    A bit flaky. This was a fantastic article. Too bad i cant read every comment as i am on the run but wanted to say the article is spot on.

  80. Thanks Sonia, a very refreshing take on useful habits! I agree with your points but have a slightly different ‘VirtueScience’ perspective on the subject. I feel that each good quality ie virtue has a partner/opposite virtue which it works together with. For example bravery and caution are partner virtues. Now if someone is repressing their caution then they would fall into the error of recklessness and if on the other hand they were repressing their bravery then they would fall into the error of cowardice. In other words if we have an internal bias against one of a pair of virtues then irrational tendencies and unhelpful extremes arise in our behaviour.

    So looking at your list above I would still say that any good and useful effects are still caused by actual virtues. The problem that many people make is actually favouring one quality over it’s partner and so the neglected partner becomes labeled as bad. For example arrogance (as an actual fault) is caused by a lack of humbleness and the kind of healthy self doubt that you mention above. Yet what many people wrongly call call arrogance is actually a healthy self respect, majesty, ambition and openness to sharing the positve strengths in ones’self etc. As above: what people may call self-doubt is actually a healthy caution, humbleness and modesty which is useful as you describe.

    I would say that if we look at it this way and identify pairs of opposite virtues and pairs of opposite vices then all that is good and useful is actually some kind of virtue. What seems to be useful in a bad habit, weakness or vice is actually derived from some kind of virtue hidden within it. What do you think?

  81. Fantastic post Sonia, i think #5 (getting distracted) has to be by far the most common one and an extremely bad habit of mine. But bad habits are usually caused by the surrounding enviroment, for example because i work from home it’s extremely easy for me to switch the TV on or play music so loud i can’t here myself think.

  82. Awesome article! All the ‘bad habits’ make a lot of sense!

  83. Procrastination. Of course, we’re all supposed to plan ahead, deliver ahead of time, and not allow a deadline to cause stress by working right up against it. But the truth is, I get way more work done in that four hours right before the deadline than at any other time. I let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter, I don’t allow myself to get distracted, and I really focus on what needs to be done… when the deadline is looming. So, I accept it. I embrace it. I clear my obligations so I’m only meeting one deadline at a time, and then I hunker down and PRODUCE. It works for me. It buys me all kinds of time to just relax and enjoy a slow pace. So, I don’t hurry myself up or beat myself down for procrastinating anymore. Only took thirty-some years to learn this one.

  84. Yep, doing something epic takes the sting out. It’s true. To be wildly productive, you have to do a lot of what isn’t traditional, or cultural. Gotta be countercultural, and non compliant. Aggressive and selfish a bit. Determined but conscious of the questions you have to ask yourself about your performance, and so on. Loved it. Real raw.

  85. Kammaleathahh Livingstone :

    I just found out about you and blog from Laura Roeder. I’m so glad I did. You are hilarious, insightful, and I loved reading this article. Thanks!

  86. Spot on Sonia! Well written!

    I especially like #7 – arrogance.

    This is essential when you are the prime ‘promoter’ of your business/initiative or a small business owner or a blog owner (such as myself). Here, I am not referring to arrogance in the traditional sense with its negative connotations. I’m referring to a deep appreciation of your worth, ‘expertise’ or your essence.

    What I have come to realise – when I took the sudden leap of faith and started my own blog in March, (after spending months mulling over the topic of communications, for which I had developed a passion) – is that YOU have to be YOUR greatest fan and YOUR best ally.

    With all their best intentions and genuine concern, family, friends, your networks etc. cannot and should not be the prime driver of your business. In you are not convinced in your genius, or do not toot your horn (regularly), then how do you expect others to know about you and realise how valuable you are? Besides I have often read that the more you tell yourself you are great, the more likely you are going to believe that you are great, and the more likely people would be convinced of your ‘greatness’.

    But you have to start the process. And you have to keep improving yourself, upgrading your skills and being you greatest cheerleader.

    And hopefully, everything else would follow. Well this is what I am hoping by pressing on and striving to produce engaging, insightful contents on my “Rethinking Business Communications Blog”!

  87. I think my bad habit is being arrogant person every time i reach a comfortable area in my business. I feel like i’m much better than anyone around me (especially who used to not support me for chasing my dreams). And now i realized that was really really wrong. Now i’m not in the comfortable area anymore since Google punished my website few months ago. I don’t think i want to be that “guy” anymore. Trust me.

  88. I believe I got flakiness and self doubt down pat. I’m never quite sure what I want to do or when. I go back and forth and think of reasons something won’t work. I changed my mind at the drop of a hat but some how I go on to accomplish just about everything I set my mind to except online business. I will master online marketing this year.

  89. Our habits are part of who we are as people, just like being an entrepreneur is part of who we are. Changing who we are is unlikely to result in us being wildly successful.
    I definitely have habit one honed to a fine art, but I have noticed that as time goes by, it’s getting in my way less and less.

    Sonia, I loved your statement that money knows when people are allergic to it and stays away.

  90. Excellent blog, I especially like Bad Habit #5: Distractibility. Because many times when I am distracted, I am also creating something fresh and new.

  91. “The best (and most fun) way to make money is by helping other people … a lot.”
    This is something I seem to run into a lot these days. And for a good reason, it seems.
    Great article. Thanks.

  92. You’ve made really good points on all seven issues, especially the one about selfishness. It’s quite easy to give in to people who want to waste our time on trivial matters, when that time could be spent doing something truly useful for our career or a business we’re trying to build. Most people underestimate the amount of time that one has invest in other to create something worthwhile, something that you can be proud of.

  93. Sonia –

    Great article. I really like how it shows traits to be conventionally held as negative by society to actually be helpful when used right. I have some of the above habits, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that if I doubt myself or don’t develop a thick skin or don’t have laser focus that nothing will happen – as if those are the cornerstone of success. I love how this article isn’t only about blogging/business tips, but really about seeing certain “flaws” in a new way that is actually positive and constructive! So thank you for that boost in self-empowerment! :)