Some of the world’s most successful people make getting more done in less time look so easy.
But as many of us common folk know all too well, the path to productivity often feels like a never-ending journey.
Thankfully, LinkedIn recently asked the top minds in business to reflect on their tricks for getting it all done as part of its #ProductivityHacks series.
Here’s what Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and five other super-successful people had to say.
'If you want to be more productive, then start at the start: get there on time,' the Virgin Group founder writes on LinkedIn.
Branson says being punctual is both a sign of respect to others and has helped prevent him from falling hopelessly behind on the rest of his day for more than five decades.
'Being punctual doesn't mean rushing around the whole time,' he explains. 'I always find the time to exercise -- kitesurfing, tennis, or cycling -- and to spend time with my loved ones. It simply means organising your time effectively.'
Of course, things like traffic can't be helped, but even then, Branson says he'll do whatever it takes to get where he's going on time.
He recalls being stuck in Manhattan traffic a few years ago on his way to a live Fox News interview: 'As I peered out of the car window into the immobile queues, I jumped out of the front seat and sprinted down Sixth Avenue. I spotted the Fox sign, hopped across the lobby, and began banging on the window. I made it with a minute to spare.'
Being on time doesn't mean your schedule needs to be rigid, he says. 'It means being an effective delegator, organiser, and communicator,' he writes.
'The biggest problem with to-do lists is that focusing only on what you need to get done does not guarantee that you’re actually making any real progress,' the author and motivational speaker writes.
'To-do lists can keep you busy, of course, and there is a certain sense of satisfaction you get from checking off a series of tasks. But have you ever crossed off everything on your list and still felt like you had not really accomplished anything?'
Instead, Robbins suggests shifting your thinking by focusing on the key results that are most important in your life rather than an activity or to-do list.
'You have to get crystal clear about what it is that you want,' Robbins writes. 'The clearer you are about what it is you want, the easier it is to achieve it, because then you can design all of your activity around making progress toward achieving it.'
Next, Robbins says you need to figure out the reason you want to achieve this result. 'If you’ve got a strong enough reason and a strong enough purpose, you will find a way to pull it off,' he writes.
With these in place, Robbins says you can now develop your Massive Action Plan, or MAP. 'Your MAP is simply the specific steps, or actions, you need to take in order to achieve your result.' And if one set of actions doesn't work, then another will, he says.
'Given that meetings dominate the modern office schedule -- particularly among executives -- my No. 1 productivity hack is all about making meetings as purposeful, efficient, and productive as possible. For everyone involved,' writes the Warby Parker cofounder and co-CEO.
Blumenthal says he averages about 15 meetings per 11-hour day, logging miles racing from one conference room to the next.
He says that last year, he and cofounder Dave Gilboa noticed Warby Parker's meetings weren't the most efficient, and so the two organised a month-long company-wide overhaul of meeting protocol.
'We adopted a mascot -- the Meeting Meerkat -- and drew a picture of this furry creature on the whiteboard of every conference room as a reminder of the new rules. (We chose the meerkat for three reasons: meerkats function in groups, they communicate constantly, and they are cute),' he writes.
Warby Parker's new meeting rules are simple:
1. No more update meetings -- only decision meetings.
2. Relevant information must be shared with meeting attendees in advance.
3. Everyone must do their homework before entering the conference room.
4. No devices.
'Anyone caught checking Instagram on their phone will be sentenced to six hours cleaning the office microwave with a Q-tip,' Blumenthal jokes.
'We've found that all of the above practices ensure that team members (including me!) spend meeting time actually engaging our brains rather than 'getting on the same page' -- which, after all, should be a prerequisite of any meeting, and not a result,' he writes.
'At BP Capital, my team and I are deluged with more reports than you can ever imagine, everything from pricing data to rig counts, weather forecasts, and more,' writes Pickens, the founder, chairman, and CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management. 'There's no way I can digest all that and get anything done during a normal business day.'
His solution is to always have on hand his trusty hard-plastic briefcase-like folder closed by a black elastic band.
Pickens says you might find any number of documents in his folder, including insight on OPEC's latest announcement, analysis of a new energy technology, a personal note from a family friend, or a thank-you note from the proud parents of an Oklahoma State student.
'My black-rope folders help me turn downtime into gold,' he writes. 'I'm better informed on essential matters. My team can share key documents with me. And there's always a surprise or two that brightens my day.'
'I expect the best from everybody, but I invest in methods upfront to ensure we can achieve everything we set out to do,' writes Yahoo's chairman. Building trusted relationships saves him exponential time, he says.
Webb builds trust with a few key steps:
1. Make sure people know what they are doing and by when.
2. Check in regularly.
3. Encourage people to share concerns.
4. Be available for anything urgent, but set time boundaries to address any other issues.
5. Ask questions instead of telling someone what to do.
'I've found that every trusted person accomplishes at least three times as much what the average person does, which results in me saving all that time, increased by every trusted person in my ecosystem,' Webb writes.
'If you want to be more effective, don't be a victim of your calendar,' the Angie's List founder and CMO writes.
'I've learned to limit how many hours I allow myself to be scheduled in a day,' she says. 'If I didn't, my work life would be a haze of nonstop meetings, with no time to reflect, prepare, strategize, respond to crises, or help a team member.'
To do this, you have to know what matters most, Hicks says, and this pertains to many different areas of work and life.
Hicks suggests figuring out what matters most for your work style, for your role, to your company and superiors, and what matters most today.
'I've learned to rely on productivity hacks that make me far more efficient,' writes the 'Emotional Intelligence 2.0' coauthor and frequent Business Insider contributor. 'I try to squeeze every drop out of every hour without expending any extra effort.'
He accomplishes this by acting on things as soon as they come to his attention, rather than putting them on hold until later.
'Don't save an email or a phone call to deal with later,' he writes. 'As soon as something gets your attention you should act on it, delegate it, or delete it.'
To do this, you need to master a few key tricks:
1. Do the hardest things first and save the more exciting tasks until later.
2. Don't be fooled by 'urgent' tasks. Delete or delegate the things that hinder real forward momentum.
3. Say no when you need to.
4. Check email on a schedule.
5. Don't multitask.
'Never touching things twice means only touching one thing at a time,' Bradberry writes.
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