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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

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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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