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Productivity Lessons from the Giants: Zuckerberg, Gates, Nadella, and Buffett

Productivity Lessons from the Giants: Zuckerberg, Gates, Nadella, and Buffett

Being productive is more than just sitting at a desk and working. We’re at an age where everyone is more reachable than ever, but this comes with a risk of losing focus and concentrating on the wrong things at the wrong time.

There is a difference between effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, with the focus for most working individuals and companies, on the latter.[1]

This is no coincidence, some of the world’s most influential people got to where they are by developing, maintaining, and improving productivity. High achievers like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Satya Nadella and Warren Buffett master the following skills to always stay productive to get what they want.

1. Make Every Communication Count

Communication can be a block to productivity. Devoting energy in the wrong place leads to time being wasted.

Co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates for example, is an advocate of communicating by email. And being a self-proclaimed master of emails is also one way business magnate Elon Musk stays productive; in his own words claiming the reason for this is, I’m very good at email.[2]

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Minimizing communication by phone or through meetings frees up time to concentrate on more imperative issues. So until email is eliminated altogether, messages can be deferred and thus allow you take control of your own schedule.[3]

2. Optimize at Every Opportunity

Musk also advocates constantly questioning your productivity.[4] Ask yourself how you could do something more efficiently or better use your time daily for as many scheduled events, meetings, and projects as possible.

This idea of optimizing your time and work also runs true for Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, who likes to keep things simple. He eliminates the mundane, or in his own words, “silly or frivolous” decisions in life, which allows him to concentrate on his work and to be as productive as possible. One apparent example of this simplicity is his go-to grey t-shirt and jeans work outfit which he wears every day. Find out more about how keeping things simple leads to better decisions: Make Better Decisions by Knowing How Decision Fatigue Works

And he’s not the only one – the late Steve Jobs famously wore almost solely black turtlenecks, Albert Einstein was known for wearing the same grey suit and having unkempt hair, and you’ll only see Obama in either grey or black suits. Check out Why Highly Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

Finding the most simple and optimized way of completing tasks and projects means energy spent on something trivial, can be retargeted towards more important decision for your business.

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This is also applicable to getting the simple things done first. This way, smaller tasks and decisions aren’t a distraction from tackling the bigger ones. Here’s how to master your tasks in a productive way: How to Adjust the Task, Change Your Mood, and Boost Productivity

3. Bust Multi-tasking

Studies have shown that the brain doesn’t do things simultaneously, but rather switches between tasks. The implications for productivity means that rather than focusing on many things at a time, we are spending energy and brain-power on the action of switching from one task to another. If you still think that you can multi-task, read this: Why the Brain Can’t Do Two Things at the Same Time

Eliminating multi-tasking can therefore increase productivity. Being in the moment and concentrating on one specific task will allow you to complete it without agonizing about what’s going to happen later in the day, or in the next meeting.

One way of doing this is by delegating and collaborating with others. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella announced in 2014,[5] that the company will

“reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

With such a vast number of apps and services allowing for collaboration through video conferences, remote meetings, and even augmented and virtual reality, making use of these technologies (albeit almost exclusively those by Microsoft), helps the likes of Nadella stay productive.[6]

4. Stick to One Thing and Master It

Writing about Bill Gates, author Cal Newport recently argued that distractions minimize the impact of our work as well as our overall potential.[7] In a process, he refers to as deep working, the idea is that we can successfully maximize impact by spending a dedicated amount of time (even just an hour or two) working with urgency and eliminating all distractions.[8]

In fact, it is this ability to meticulously dedicate focus to one task at a time, that allowed Bill Gates to found a billion-dollar business in just a couple of months.

Another way of perfecting the art of focus comes from American business magnate Warren Buffett, who uses a 3-step productivity strategy (also known as the ‘two list’ strategy) to help his employees.

  • Step 1 – Make a list of twenty-five goals (these could be career goals, goals for a particular project, or even general goals for a specific week or month).
  • Step 2 – Review the list, highlighting the five most important goals, and then separating these on to a new, separate list. These are your ‘Top 5’.
  • Step 3 – Focus on achieving items from the ‘Top 5’ list first, disregarding the rest of the written goals until they are completed.

In this strategy, Buffett argues the focus should be on the ‘top 5’ list, treating the remaining twenty goals as a distraction.

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Focusing on a smaller number of important goals first allows for a more manageable and thereby achievable way of working. As a result, you can set your own schedule and take control of your time.

Learn how Buffett prioritizes his life goals here: Most People End up Being Average Because They Don’t Keep This List

It’s Easier Than Ever to Get Things Done Fast

We live in an age where we no longer need to initiate an action or conversation to get the information we need. AI is moving into our workplace, and various Apps and services are now integrating features that predict our next step and optimize, prioritize, and multitask for us, which ultimately leaves us more time and brain-space to be as productive as possible.

It’s essential for everyone of us to identify our own priority, stick to it and minimize all distractions to achieve what we want most.

Reference

More by this author

Eran Abramson

Marketing at Knowmail

Productivity Lessons from the Giants: Zuckerberg, Gates, Nadella, and Buffett The Power of Mind Map: Get More Things Done & Make Creativity Easy

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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