Most of us have had those days when we’ve come in to work, been confronted by a massive to-do list, and had no idea how to get it all accomplished.
For people running large organisations, that can be the case nearly every day. Many manage the chaos with a variety of techniques and hacks that increase their effectiveness and reduce their workloads.
LinkedIn asked more than 60 of its influencers to share the best productivity hack they’ve developed. We’ve broken out a few of our favourites.
Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson: Take care of your eyes.
“One of the things that helped improve my productivity more than anything was right in front of my eyes all along: it was my glasses.
“… While some people have 20/20 vision, and many people will have differing eyesight that can be helped in different ways, concentrating on your eyesight can help you be far more productive.
“As so many of us spend hours glued to our mobile, laptop or tablet screens, if you aren’t careful you can damage your creativity as well as your eyes. By resting your eyes from the screen you can also relax your mind and create the space to come up with new ideas.”
Warby Parker CEO Neal Blumenthal: Skillful delegation is the most powerful productivity hack.
“Being productive is not about the sheer quantity of stuff you get done — it’s about maximizing your effectiveness. That’s why the ultimate productivity boost is delegation. Delegation is about creating high-functioning teams by dividing and conquering — but in order to conquer, it’s critical to divide thoughtfully.”
GE CMO Beth Comstock: Create a Venn diagram for how you use your time.
“Almost everyone remembers Venn diagrams, those circles with the shaded areas where they overlap. For me, they’re more than a throwback to high school; they’re the key to how I can make the best use of my time. When I think of my schedule, I picture three interlocking circles: what I love to do, what I have to do and what I hate to do. My creative challenge is finding the intersection between what I have to do and what I love to do. And turning the hate to do into something more tolerable (especially when it can’t be outsourced).
“… A few years ago, my boss, GE CEO Jeff Immelt, told me that he controls his calendar very strategically, so I thought I would do well to follow. I call it my weekly workout with my calendar. It’s how I align to the Venn.”
Kabam CEO Kevin Chou: Hold stand-up meetings every day.
“The productivity hack I’d like to discuss is not one that increases my personal productivity, but my team’s productivity. As a CEO, my focus is on ensuring a much broader set of people beyond me can make the most productive use of time. I think this holds true for anyone that manages or influences other people, and I hope this advice will be helpful to you. My best productivity hack is this: I hold daily stand-ups for my direct team every morning at 9:15 a.m. that lasts for about 10 minutes.
“Our daily stand-ups are like a football huddle, in which the team quickly discusses execution and roadblocks. It’s not meant to be the in-depth Monday after game discussion that is deep in strategy or a business review. The goal is to simply make sure everyone is making the best use of their time for the next 24 hours.”
Bloomberg News editor-at-large Tom Keene: Read more by reading less.
“There are things to read cover to cover. I read Meghnad Desai’s “Marx’s Revenge” cover-to-cover. I am reading every word of The McKinsey Global Institute’s QE and Ultra-low Interest Rates: Distributional Effects and Risks.
“But for most reading the great hack is to cut the paragraphs by two-thirds. Call it a planned and highly practiced skim. It can be as simple as take in the top, pound through a part of the next several paragraphs then, and this takes nothing but a practiced eye, find the author’s key idea. Longer pieces may have more than a few key ideas…a 20-page report may take about 7 pages of reading. And, always search for the single chart that floats your Euclidian boat. With opinion pieces, always read the top then the last two paragraphs in search of the author’s main point.”
Former Bank of America executive Sallie Krawcheck: You get the most work done when everyone else is sleeping.
“When I was in corporate America, I tried for a while to schedule no meetings on a couple of Fridays every month, thereby giving myself the luxury of blocks of time to think. It worked … sort of. But I had one significant problem: email. Some people can ignore email, but I have never formed the discipline of not checking email repeatedly and obsessively during the course of the day.
“So now I work when others sleep.
“I am never more productive than at 4 a.m. I brew a cup of coffee, I keep the lights pretty low, I sometimes light a fire in the fireplace, and I let my daughter’s cat sleep next to my computer. My mind is clear, not yet caught up in the multiple internal conversations that we all conduct with ourselves once we gear up for our first meeting of the day.”
New York Magazine writer Kevin Roose: Turn your computer into a typewriter when you need to get real work done.
“A few years ago, I bought a vintage typewriter at a flea market, hoping that it would make me more productive. I was halfway through my latest book, and I was sick of getting distracted by emails, Facebook messages, and Twitter notifications while slogging through a particularly tough part of the manuscript.
“A day later, I’d given up. I liked the old-timey feel of the typewriter’s keys, and I was more focused without the diversions my iMac offered. But typewriters are slow, and I was spending far too much time typing over errors, aligning sheets of paper, and hitting the carriage return. I missed my computer’s speed, its automated spell-check, and the ability to manipulate and move around large chunks of text with ease.”
Roose instead uses Freedom, an app which lets you shut off internet connectivity for a set period of time, and full screen view in Microsoft Word to effectively turn his computer into a typewriter.
BP Capital Management Chairman T. Boone Pickens: Actually talk to the people at your company.
“Want to work smarter in 2014? Try talking to people. Not tweeting them or texting them but good, old-fashioned conversation.
“Talking generates ideas, and it makes companies — and individuals — grow. Our public affairs director, Jay Rosser, tells me I would have been a good reporter. I work a beat constantly. I like to walk into people’s offices and hear what they’ve got to say. I want to know what my people are hearing, reading, and thinking. If they aren’t talking to me, I’ll reach out and ask them. And they know that I listen.”
Asana CEO Justin Rosenberg: Figure out the reason you’re procrastinating.
“I procrastinate. But it’s not because I’m lazy. I procrastinate because something about my highest-priority task makes me subtly (or not-so-subtly) uncomfortable. Fortunately, I’ve found an indispensable three-step process for reliably moving from procrastination to action: (1) face whatever I’m putting off, (2) be honest with myself or a friend about why it’s uncomfortable, and (3) identify one easeful next step.”
Bloomberg anchor and editor-at-large Trish Regan: Always get the airline app.
“Travel apps make a serious difference — I’d estimate that they save me, on average, at least 40 minutes per trip — and, perhaps most importantly, a lot of stress. You can check in while still in the car, you don’t need to print a boarding pass, and perhaps most importantly, the app saves you from getting frustrated with those ticket machines at the airport that always promise to read your credit card but never actually can.
“I was recently on a return trip home from London and as I surveyed the masses of people at Heathrow airport and counted the number of people waiting in line to print their boarding passes, I thought, thank god for technology. So, why aren’t more people embracing it? Why is anyone with a phone waiting in line to print a boarding pass?”
Venture Capitalist Brad Feld: Eliminate business travel.
“For the past 20 years I’ve traveled 75% of the time during the week. The companies I’ve invested in are distributed around the U.S., in Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Kansas City, and a few other places.
“Last June I quit. Cold turkey. No more travel. I simply cancelled all of my upcoming trips and declared myself a no-fly zone through the end of 2013.
“… For seven months I got up and went to sleep in my own bed, next to my wife Amy with our dog Brooks at the foot of our bed. I didn’t experience the stale smell of an aeroplane a single time. I didn’t have any delayed or missed flights. A TSA person didn’t feel me in any inappropriate places. I didn’t have grab an imitation candy bar, disguised as an energy bar, a single time.”
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