66 Personal Development Ideas For Smart People

Steve Pavlina’s book, Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth, offers one of the most comprehensive looks at self-improvement you’ll ever see.

Most books about personal development fall short because they try to give the reader direct, black-and-white solutions. The author ends up taking on the form of a guru trying to offer a magic potion to success.

Pavlina’s persona in this book is much more authentic as he plays more of the role of friend and mentor. He spent the greater portion of his adult life making mistakes, learning from them, and using those experiences to create a personal development framework that he could apply in every area of his life.

The result of Pavlina’s journey is a book that offers genuine, relatable, and practical life advice. These are the 66 habits he recommends for personal development.

  1. Daily goals. Set your targets for the day so you can make your day as efficient and effective as possible.
  2. Worst first. To overcome procrastination, get into the habit of doing your hardest tasks first, which is when you have the most willpower.
  3. Peak times. Identify the times of the day when you are most energetic, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on your less important tasks during your less energetic times.
  4. No-comm zones. Keep your work time as 100% work time with a rule of absolutely no interruptions. This will help you stay focused and get the job done fast and effectively.
  5. Mini-milestones. When you begin a task, set the target you must reach before you can be considered “done”. For example, when writing an article, you can set your target as 500 words before you take a break. This way you know for sure that you’re done with your objective target.
  6. Timeboxing. Give yourself a fixed time period, 60 minutes, for example, to finish your task. The time limit helps keep you motivated and pushes you to finish the job faster than you thought possible.
  7. Batching. Batch similar tasks together, especially the small ones like sending emails, making phone calls, etc. Knock them out in one go.
  8. Early bird. Get up earlier, like between 5 and 7 AM. You’ll get more done than most people do all day. It’s an amazing feeling.
  9. Pyramid. For pyramid strategy, you spend the first 15 to 30 minutes doing easy tasks to warm up. Then do your most difficult work for a few hours. Then finish off with another 15 to 30 minutes of easy tasks to cool down.
  10. Tempo. Deliberately practice moving faster on things. Do your groceries faster, read faster, type faster, write faster, finish your work faster, etc.
  11. Relaxify. Reduce your stress by creating a clean and clutter-free workspace.
  12. Agendas. Provide a clear agenda when you’re heading into a meeting to greatly improve focus and efficiency.
  13. Pareto. This is the 80–20 rule. Focus your energy on the 20% of the work that gets you most of the results and do your best to identify and set aside the less important 80%.
  14. Ready-fire-aim. Have a bias towards action so you can get results early and learn faster as a result.
  15. Minuteman. When making smaller non-critical decisions, set a one-minute time for yourself to decide. This will push you to decide and go right away, and not waste time by overthinking it.
  16. Deadline. Set a deadline for completing your task to stay on track.
  17. Promise. Make your commitments and goals public, tell other people so they can hold you accountable.
  18. Punctuality. Show up on time. It’s polite and helps you develop discipline.
  19. Gap reading. Use reading to fill in those gap times like when commuting to work, brewing coffee, or waiting for the dinner on the stove. Audiobooks are great for this too.
  20. Resonance. Visualize your goal as if you already accomplished it. Make your mind ready for it. Use the Law of Attraction.
  21. Glittering prizes. Regularly rewards yourself for accomplishments, no matter how small. A sweet treat, a night out, your favourite movie, anything. It helps keep you motivated, and most importantly makes for a more happy life.
  22. Priority. Decide on what the truly important tasks are and then dump the rest. Your time is precious and limited, so only use it on the top priority things.
  23. Continuum. At the end of your workday, write down the first task you’ll work on the next day. It helps keep your flow for tomorrow since the ideas of what to work on are fresh in your head right now.
  24. Slice and dice. Otherwise known as divide and conquer. Break big and complex projects into a series of smaller tasks. It makes it easier to understand and handle.
  25. Single-handling. Once you begin a task, stick with it until it’s 100% complete. Multitasking is the death of productivity.
  26. Randomize. If you’re stuck on figuring out what to do next, just pick a totally random task and do it. Taking any kind of action is more productive than doing nothing.
  27. Insanely bad. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Start your project or launch your business before you’re ready and just learn along the way. “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — Reid Hoffman
  28. Delegate. And outsource. Get someone else to do the work for you (especially the less critical parts).
  29. Cross-pollination. Get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Learn a new language, go to a new event, show up at a random party. New environments spark new ideas.
  30. Intuition. Go with your gut instinct. It’s usually right when you’re on the fence.
  31. Optimization. Look at your days and find ways to make them more efficient. Time is money.
  32. Super Slow. Baby steps work too. Read one page of a book per day. Clean one room in the house per day. Write 100 words per day. Small progress is better than no progress.
  33. Dailies. Schedule a specific time each day for working on a particular habit. The schedule makes your habit stick. After a year, that once a day work adds up big.
  34. Add-ons. To make learning new habits easier, attach them to one of your existing habits. Read ten pages of your book on your commute. Drink a glass of water after every meal.
  35. Plug-ins. Inject tasks into the middle of others to become more efficient. Audiobook while commuting. Emails while lunch is cooking. Pushups while waiting for the coffee to brew.
  36. Gratitude. Say thank you when someone does something for you. Those simple two words go a very long way in building strong relationships.
  37. Training. Train up your basic skills to become more productive. Practice typing faster, cooking faster, getting your work at your day job done faster.
  38. Denial. Straight up say no to anything that’s not a “hell yes” for you.
  39. Recapture. Reclaim your time when something else has you stuck. Think about your goals during boring speeches or meetings. Take the opportunity to network with new people if forced to go to a random party or event.
  40. Mastermind. Talk to other people about your problems, goals, and projects. Get their advice, insight, and fresh perspective.
  41. Twenty. On a piece of paper, write down 20 creative ideas for improving your effectiveness.
  42. Challenger. Deliberately make tasks harder since challenging things are more engaging than boring ones. Do chores with your left hand. Go for a run in the cold rather than the warm weather.
  43. Asylum. To keep things fun and interesting, complete tedious tasks in new and wild ways. Do chores while singing. Make a YouTube video while cooking.
  44. Music. Experiment with how music can boost your effectiveness. Try rock or top 40 for easy work and a more relaxing Jazz for harder things.
  45. Scotty. Estimate how long a task will take to complete. Then start a timer, and push yourself to complete it in half that time.
  46. Pay it forward. When someone gives you an undesirable task, delegate it to someone else. Keep your precious time as free as possible.
  47. Bouncer. When someone gives you a pointless task, bounce it back and challenge them to justify why it’s necessary at all, and why you have to do it.
  48. Opt-out. Quit clubs, projects, and subscriptions that take up more time than they’re worth. If they don’t add value, drop them.
  49. Decaffeinate. Have less coffee and caffeinated tea. It’s a lot healthier to get enough sleep and be able to function without the artificial boost.
  50. Conscious procrastination. If you see a task as non-critical, a good way to forget about it is to delay it for as long as you can. Many such tasks will die out if you delay them.
  51. TV-free. Turn off the TV, especially the news. They’re usually just toxic and your time is better spent elsewhere in the real world.
  52. Timer. Time all your tasks for an entire day. Then you can see where you’re spending most of your time and how to be more efficient.
  53. Valor. Pick a task or action that straight-up scares you. Cold message or call a role model. Ask out 10 people on a date.
  54. Nonconformist. Shop at unpopular times like immediately after opening to avoid crowds. Schedule appointments when there is less traffic on the road. Do things off the beat and you’ll save loads of time.
  55. Agoraphobia. Shop online whenever possible. Clothes, groceries, all of it. Save your precious time and let someone else take care of the manual work.
  56. Reminder. Add birthday, holiday, and other important event reminders to your calendar. It reminds you to send best wishes and gifts to people. It goes a long way in maintaining good relationships when you always remember.
  57. Do it now! Recite this phrase over and over again until you convince yourself to get to work.
  58. Coach. Even top athletes and CEOs have coaches. Hire one to keep a close watch on your progress and suggest new ways for improvement. Or just ask an honest friend.
  59. Inspiration. Read, watch, and listen to content that inspires you. Books, TED Talks, Podcasts. The energy it gives you is amazing.
  60. Gym rat. Exercise daily to make it a part of your life. Eat healthy too. Make it your lifestyle, not a fad.
  61. Troll hunt. Drop negative people from your life and spend more time with positive people. Mindsets are contagious.
  62. Anakin. Don’t be afraid to show your teeth and be aggressive when needed. If something or someone is blocking your way to success, show them that you’re not afraid to fight back.
  63. Politician. Throw money at your problems to solve them. Can you justify the cost of hiring a virtual assistant, editor, or a cleaning service? If there’s solid return-on-investment, do it. Your time is worth it.
  64. Modelling. Find people who are already getting the results you want and practice copying their methods and tactics. See if they work.
  65. Proactivity. Seek out opportunities yourself. Cast your net and see what happens. Get courageous and downright reckless. You make your own luck and opportunities.
  66. Real life. Unplug from the digital every now and then. Go out to the mall, take a walk in the park, or throw a party. Live in the real world.

Personal development doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. The simplest things can have a huge impact if they’re done right. All you have to do be smart about it. That’s a wrap for our 66 Personal Development Ideas For Smart People.

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