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5 Productivity Tips From Famously Productive People

Topics: Career Advice
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Image Credit: Veri Ivanova/Unsplash

Highly successful entrepreneurs and business moguls might seem like they have more hours in the day than you do, but often, they’re just better at using the time they have. OK, they also generally have a staff, but that came after they scaled the corporate ladder. To achieve your own goals, look to their productivity tips for inspiration.

1. Understand what laziness is … and what it isn’t.

Does it seem like everyone you know is busier than ever before? It’s not in your head. American working culture in particular is focused on the important of busy-ness. The problem, of course, is that doing a lot isn’t the same thing as achieving great things. True productivity is less about working all the time and more about working effectively.

Tim Ferriss, the author of the productivity bible The 4-Hour Workweek, stresses the need to minimize busywork.

“Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater importance, is NOT laziness,” Ferriss writes. “This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.”

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2. Set limits.

If being busy isn’t the same thing as being productive, neither is saying “yes” all the time the same as being a good teammate. Why? Because no one can do everything that’s asked of them, all the time, without needing to push back.

In her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg explains:

“Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately—to set limits and stick to them.”

3. Beat procrastination by picturing the worst-case scenario.

In an interview with Fast Company, Oprah Winfrey revealed her strategy for dealing with procrastination:

“I procrastinate with confrontational things and uncomfortable conversations. I’ll give myself a deadline. And then I’ll change that deadline when that deadline shows up [laughs],” she says. “‘Okay, by 3, I’m going to make that call.’ Four o’clock comes around—‘Okay okay, by 5 today. Oh, everybody’s left New York! Can’t make that call!’ So now I sit and ask myself, ‘What’s the worst that’s going to happen here, and why do I fear the confrontation?’”

4. Give each day a theme.

Jack Dorsey is currently CEO of two companies: mobile payments company Square and Twitter, which he also co-founded. So he’s pretty busy. One of his secrets to keeping everything organized? Giving each day a theme.

“Sadly, none of his suggestions included ‘dress like a pirate’ day,” writes Aaron Orendorff at Mashable. “Instead, each day was batched by interrelated tasks: Monday for administration and management, Tuesday for products, marketing on Wednesdays, etc. This approach dramatically reduces ‘task switching costs,’ the cognitive strain that occurs when we move between different types of work. More themes. More results.”

5. Be punctual.

Last but not least, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson reminds us that successful entrepreneurs value time — their own and everyone else’s.

“I’ve always disliked being late,” he writes in a blog post on Virgin’s site. “Not only does it put my plans out, but I also find it to be incredibly disrespectful. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or a carpenter, a politician or a painter, a model or a musician, we all only have 24 hours in a day, and no one’s time is more important than anybody else’s.”

Branson says that he’s so committed to punctuality that he’s “developed a habit of (safely) jumping out of cars while in traffic, and running to [his] next appointment.” You can probably leave out the part about dodging traffic and just set your watch earlier … and push harder when it looks like that meeting is running into your next one.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your favorite productivity tips? We want to hear from you. Talk to us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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