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10 Habits of The World’s Most Productive People

10 Habits of The World’s Most Productive People

Everyone has had the experience of not having enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to. Given the busy lives that we all lead, staying organized and staying productive can be a challenge. It is easy to get caught up on the wrong path and waste valuable time you need to get things done. Take some advice from ten of the world’s most productive people about staying on task and staying productive.

1. No Email in the Morning

Author of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss has a brilliant strategy for handling the ubiquitous time-sink that is email. He spends the first few hours of the day ignoring it. According to Ferriss:

“You might need to get into your email to finish 100% of your most important to-dos. But can you get 80 or 90% done before you go into Gmail and have your rat brain explode with freak-out, dopamine excitement and cortisol panic? Yes.”

2. Create a System for Certain Tasks

When you have something you work on everyday it is best to create a system to handle it efficiently and without getting overwhelmed. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com has come up with a strategy for staying on top of emails that he calls “Yesterbox.” Each morning when he boots up his computer he only answers emails he received the day before. As he explains on yesterbox.com:

“The great thing about this is when you get up in the morning, you know exactly how many emails you have to get through, there’s a sense of progress as you process each email from yesterday and remove it from your inbox, and there’s actually a point when you have zero emails left to process from yesterday.”

3. Limit Decision Fatigue

Each time you have to make a decision you use up a little bit of your limited supply of mental energy. To make the most of your cognitive reserves eliminate unnecessary decisions and simplify others. Take an example from productivity gurus like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Albert Einstein and wear the same outfit every day. By not spending time and energy on picking out clothes, you have more time and energy to devote to more worth-while things.

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4. Handle Things Once

When swift action or decision-making is required, use Harvard Business Professor Robert Pozen’s OHIO strategy and Only Handle It Once. If you get an important email that requires your attention, reply immediately and move on to the next task. Keep your day moving and keep easily finished tasks off your to-do list.

5. Prioritize Tasks

Sometimes the best strategies for staying productive are the most obvious. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stresses the importance of getting easy tasks out of the way in rapid-fire succession:

“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of  progress.”

6. Take Vacations

In a world where everyone is always fighting to get ahead it might seem counter-intuitive to go on vacation, but more and more companies are adopting policies that make time away from the office mandatory. Taking some time to clear your head and relax can do wonders for your productivity when you return. Follow Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s philosophy:

“I pace myself by taking a weeklong vacation every four months.”

7. Sleep

Similar to taking regular vacations, getting a good night’s sleep will recharge your brain and improve your ability to stay on task. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington swears by the strategy of stepping away from a perpetually busy schedule to get the necessary amount of rest (at least 7 hours a night). Not only are you more able to make decisions when you’re rested, those decisions tend to be of better quality and you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by them.

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8. Stay Fit

Take a page from Virgin CEO Richard Branson’s playbook and treat working out like it is part of your job. Many productive people (and scientists alike) find that engaging in at least 20 minutes of moderate intense exercise each day keeps their brains working at a high level and their energy levels high to match.

9. Start Early

You may not love the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn but a surprising number of the world’s most productive people love to get a head start on their day by starting early. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz takes advantage of working at a company built on foundations of caffeine:

“I get up around 4:30, and naturally the first thing I do is make some coffee.”

10. Keep a Routine

Let’s end with a tip from one of the busiest and most powerful men in the world, US president Barack Obama. The secret that keeps him from getting overwhelmed when the going gets tough is to keep to a strict schedule. In addition to only ever wearing blue or gray suits, the leader of the free world insists on his morning workout, dinner with his daughters, and having a late night block of time devoted to reading and preparing for the next day’s work. By limiting uncertainty, he is able to stay maximally productive.

Featured photo credit: Joe Crimmings via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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