Ten top business leaders share their secrets to productivity. Apply them to your workday today.
You finally found it: a way to achieve 25 hours in the day. Impossible?
Hardly. Just convert an hour of wasted time into productive time. It’s easier than you think.
For example, did you know that, in the US alone, over $37 billion dollars worth of time are wasted on meetings per year?
That’s enough cash to buy a brand new Prius for every man, woman, and child living in Hawaii. Or, did you know that we spend more time emailing than we do with our children?
If we’re wasting $37B on meetings and more time emailing than we spend with our children, something needs to change.
And we’re not alone.
Books such as Eat That Frog, Getting Things Done, and many others abound to try and solve the problem, but it persists.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re great, but rather than repeat their lessons, we polled a list of experts to find ten unique ways they get things done.
Related Article: Just Say No: 5 Mistakes That Are Shattering Your Productivity
Ruthlessly Prioritize. Should It Even Be Done?
“For many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.” - Vilfredo Pareto
A large part of getting things done is having the time to get things done effectively vs. efficiently.
Rather than efficiently completing tasks that won’t move the needle, and before adding anything to your to-do list, ask yourself these four questions to manage commitments like Mikaela Kiner's, CEO of uniquelyHR:
- Is this piece of work urgent, or can it wait (a week, a month, a quarter)?
- If I take it on, do I need to delay something else?
- Am I the best person to do the work, or can I delegate?
- If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?
Ideally, if you can ask them each time before adding a task to your to-do list, you’ll shrink your quantity of tasks while maintaining quality.
Once you’ve properly prioritized...
Use Sunday as a Meeting Double-Check
We’ve already discussed how much time is wasted on meetings, and Nathan Latka, CEO of Heyo and Host of #1 ranked business podcast by Inc, The Top, has an interesting solution:
“Eliminate as many meetings as you can. Use your Sunday evenings to review all scheduled meetings for the upcoming week and cancel as many as you can. Any meeting that is not a definite YES, you should delete.”
Now that we’re fully prioritized and have cut the meetings...
Use FRED to Help You Constantly Improve Production
Sarah Tourville, CEO of Media Frenzy Global, has an interesting framework she calls FRED:
- Focus. In the evening [the day before] list 5 key action items for the day. Get the first action completed first thing the next morning.
- Relax. Stress, anxiety and anger show in your body language and will negatively affect your team.
- Entirety. Only do things that help drive you towards the bigger, complete picture. (But we’ve already taken care of this in the earlier steps… right?)
- Double Check. Think about what you could have done differently and what you’ll improve tomorrow.
But getting things done isn’t just about prioritization, sometimes we need motivation and should...
Related Article: Fast Fixes for the Bad Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity
Follow Richard Branson's Top Productivity Tip: Exercise
During one of the most heralded tips of increasing productivity, it’s also one of the most overlooked.
For decades, we’ve been bombarded with people telling us we should work out for health. Recently, however, I’ve found that short, high-weight but low-intensity workouts increase productivity by 30-60 percent.
Just pick a few exercises you like, get 3 sets of 3 high-weight reps (about 95 percent of your maximum for one rep), with a 5 minute break in-between and you’ll be good to go - in under 20 minutes. You can find specific routines in the free eBook Brutally Productive.
I know I know, “But getting started is hard”. Perhaps you should…
Overcome the Start of a Working Session With a 5-Minute Promise
When it comes to getting things done, whether it’s writing a blog post (ironically, I had a hard time getting started on this one) or making 48 follow-up emails like Steli Efti of close.io, you need to gain some initial momentum.
That’s why I liked the next suggestion from Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands:
“Set your cell phone timer for five minutes. Then, commit to focusing exclusively on the topic at hand for that period of time. You will build up momentum and want to keep going after the timer goes off.
Focusing on a small, easy step for a short period of time will keep you focused, give you the feeling of progress, optimism, control, and gratitude, and cement your identity as someone who gets stuff done.”
It turns out that just a slight, 5-minute jolt can kick off a 3-hour hyper-productive cycle. Especially if you...
Learn to Induce Flow With Neuroscience-Based Music
You know when you get “in the zone,” when work just flows out of you and your productivity soars?
Unfortunately, "The average business person spends less than 5 percent of their day in the flow,” says Steven Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.
But inducing a state of flow is easier than you’d think and by far the most valuable trick I’ve learned.
Both Focus@Will and Brain FM are neuroscience-backed music that specifically helps you launch into flow. While I’ve only used, and loved, Focus@Will, Nick Niehaus, CEO of Case Coolie also suggested we check out Brain FM.
I’ll speak for Focus@Will - it really, really, works. Pair the music with “Do not Disturb” on both your phone and your computer (Mac) to eliminate distractions / notifications and you can get between 2-4 hours of hyper-productive time.
Just don’t do it right before lunch or you might forget to eat (no joke, it’s that powerful).
But perhaps you’re still stuck. Perhaps you should...
Scare Yourself Motivated With the Fast-Forward
Want to get really motivated? Picture yourself a year from now if you don’t get productive. At least, that’s what Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, suggests:
“I close my eyes and fast forward 1 year. I think about a year from today and things looking exactly as they do right now. The realization that in a year's time my team and I have made little to no progress causes me to take action and also alleviates my fear of risk.
I call it fast forwarding the story, and it always helped me have a bias towards action.”
This is very similar to a technique that Tony Robbins uses with his students.
It’s good stuff.
One of the most unique tips sent to us was to...
Gamify Work by Rewarding Positive Productivity
While the term gamification has become a bit trite in the last few years, the premise hasn’t. At its core, gamification is creating a system of rewards to hook people into a structured game.
So “why can't it also work for our minds?” Adam Greenbaum, CEO of Greenbaum Digital, asked.
He continued: “When I get into the office and have a long list of tasks to finish, I make it a game and often find myself finishing much faster than expected.”
One example he listed was if he did four things before 11:00 am he'd reward himself with a 90-minute lunch break.
I think I might try the same thing. I think I might get In-N-Out after writing this article.
But not before I...
Get an Accountability Coach Already
Ok, perhaps not a unique tip. It is, however, one that I waited 30 years to implement.
If you’ve never had an accountability coach, it’s amazing how much positive pressure they can impart to help drive success.
For instance, do you know how hard it is to get on a weekly call and say “I haven’t accomplished anything”?
Thankfully David Scarola, Vice President of The Alternative Board, reminded us of this tip and followed it up with some of The Alternative Board’s data:
“According to The Alternative Board's September 2015 Business Pulse Survey, the number one reason business owners turn to coaches is for accountability (above increasing revenue and voicing business concerns). A great way to get things done is by working with someone who regularly checks in on your goals.”
However, you might be really stuck at the start, perhaps...
If You Can't Come Up With a Good Idea, Brainstorm a Bad One
In a similar vein, you overcome a brainstorming block by brainstorming.
So put something down, even if it’s a bad idea. It's quite common that by trying to come up with a bad idea you’ll quickly come up with good ones.