It’s no surprise managers rate top performers as their most valuable employees. What might not be as obvious is the massive impact a top performer has on an organization. A recent study revealed employees rated by their managers as “nines” and “tens” on a 10-point performance scale are three times more valuable to the organization than the average employee.

Not only are nines and tens more valuable, but they complete more work. In fact, managers said these top performers are responsible for 61 percent of the total work done in their departments. Even more surprising is that while tens do more work, it’s not at the expense of their sanity or work/life balance. In fact, 83 percent of managers and 77 percent of peers say a ten’s work habits reduce his or her stress.

Overall, the study confirmed that the most valuable and productive employees work smarter, not necessarily harder. Imagine how effective your team and organization would be if all employees were nines and tens.

What exactly are the stress-reducing, performance-enhancing habits of highly productive – and highly valuable – employees? Here are five productivity practices top performers do consistently. The good news is these habits can be adopted by anyone to improve individual and team performance as well as reduce stress:

  1. Collect everything that requires attention. Capture all commitments, tasks, ideas and projects rather than keeping them in your head. Use just a few “capture tools” you keep with you all the time, such as lists, apps or email.
  2. Decide what your tasks means to you. Clarify if the items you’ve captured have an action or not. If they do, be very clear about what the very next action is and who should take it.
  3. Use the two-minute rule. If an action can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Don’t defer. The time you’ll waste letting these simple actions occupy your attention and to-do list is not worth it. Make two minutes your efficiency cutoff.
  4. Do more of the right things by reflecting in the right moments. Rather than diving into your messy inbox first thing, take two minutes to review your calendar and your action lists. This reflection ensures you make the best decisions about how to use your time.
  5. Review weekly. Keep a sacred, non-negotiable meeting with yourself every week to re-sync, get current, and align your daily work and projects with your higher-level priorities.

The message in this research is that a small number of self-management practices literally change a person’s life, are beneficial to the organization and dramatically improve performance while also reducing stress. In fact, when you compare people who consistently demonstrate key productivity skills with those who don’t, productive people are:

  • 55 times less likely to start projects that are never finished
  • 21 times less likely to experience tasks and responsibilities falling through the cracks
  • Never likely to miss deadlines or assignments
  • 18 times less likely to feel overwhelmed

Managers looking to increase the performance of their team need to take note. Productivity is more than just being busy. Employees who learn to manage their workload quickly and efficiently don’t just get more done; they get more of the right things done. They stop carrying the weight and anxiety of work and free up their time and mental capacity for new and better ideas. It’s a win-win for both the individual and the business.