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6 Productivity Tips from Top Business Leaders

How the C-Suite optimizes their productivity.

Whether you are trying out several apps or looking at inspirational quotes, everyone is searching for productivity tips to be more successful in their professional life. Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

Those who are able to find ways to overcome their productivity challenges and optimize their workload are the ones who ultimately go on to become industry leaders. These C-Suite professionals have done just that, overcoming the struggles that many people face on a day-to-day basis in their careers. With their productivity tips, you’ll be able to take your work to the next level.

#1 Focus on high-value tasks each day

How many days have ended with you looking back and going, “Man, I’m not even sure what I accomplished today.” Obviously, every person has to spend time doing some degree of menial or repetitive labor, but each day you spend working should somehow be contributing to your future success.

“Know what significant goals you want to work towards every day. I list a small number of high-value tasks or goals for the day.”

Rachel Haurwitz, CEO of Caribou Biosciences, says that she sits down each morning with a blank sheet of paper and asks herself, “How will I build my company today?”

Doing the same will help you identify the most important tasks that you can complete throughout the day ahead, and saving your list allows you to track your progress as you check things off.

Sometimes, using a list like this will help keep you on track and motivated since you’ll be able to take the day one thing at a time, rather than being overwhelmed with a bunch of unsorted ideas or running from one thing to another trying to figure out how to spend your time.

#2 Tackle the hardest task first

You have your to-do list for the day, but the hardest question is where do you start? John Furneaux, CEO of Hive, says when you come in the morning, you should tackle your least pleasant task first.

One productivity tip I’ve always loved is “eat the frog” — which means tackling the most challenging, or least favorite task, first thing in the day.

Early in the day, you generally have the highest energy and the least distractions, making it easier to focus on difficult tasks. It also sets a positive tone for the day having tackled your hardest task first.

One way to stick to this routine is to shut off all distractions. This means avoid checking your email, phone, or social media until the hardest task of the day is complete.

#3 Review your week every Friday

Some people go to bed at night with a whirlwind of thoughts rushing through their mind. They hardly have any time to process what they have just done simply because they are so stressed out about what’s directly ahead.

“Review your diary at the end of each week. Literally, print it out and review it. It will transform how you spend your time.”

Scott Farquhar, co-CEO at Atlassian, says he sets aside a block of time each week to sit down and go over the previous week so he can answer three crucial questions:

1. Did I achieve what I wanted to achieve?
2. Did I personally need to be there for everything I attended?
3. Could I have achieved the same in a shorter timeframe?

This is a powerful tactic for determining whether you are really managing and spending your time wisely.

#4 Give preference to productivity

Everyone has a particular time of day when they tend to get an extra burst of focus and creativity. For some people, that time comes in the morning. For others, it might come after lunch or even during the evening.

“Understand how your brain works and when you are most productive. For me, I’ve gotten rid of lunch meetings to keep my productive time going as long as I can.”

Ryan Smith, CEO, and co-founder of Qualtrics, says that his most productive time is in the morning and lasts through the early afternoon. That means he has gotten into the habit of scheduling any meetings later in the day, so they don’t interrupt his most productive time.

He often works through lunch, with no lunch meetings, and that allows him to get the most done. He also prioritizes and schedules so that the tasks requiring the most attention and creativity are placed near the start of his day when he has the biggest capacity to work on and complete them.

#5 Remember starting is the hardest part

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity, but we’ve all been guilty of it at some point in time.

Sometimes later is better, but most of the time, you’ll find that going ahead and getting little things out of the way will actually increase your productivity because you’re not allowing dishes to pile up in the sink. You’re instantly washing your hands of them.

“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”

Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder of Instagram, says that he beats procrastination by committing himself to doing five minutes of whatever he is putting off. By the end of the five minutes, he ends up sitting doing and finishing the entire thing.

This is a perfect example of the fact that starting is the hardest part, and taking action is the most important thing.

#6 Rid your life of distraction

Have you ever been laser-focused on a project and then, buzz buzz, Facebook friends started messaging you or emails started syncing to your phone? These distractions typically don’t require your attention right away, but when they occur in a moment of intense focus, they can seriously disrupt it.

“Turn off everything—email, phone, stock tickers, news, etc.—as often as possible and focus on a single task without interruption.”

Dianne McKeever, Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer at Ides Capital, said that she puts everything on mute whenever she needs to spend a few minutes (or a few hours) working on a project. She has no chance of being distracted by emails or social media when she isn’t receiving notifications about them.

This is a tactic that you could likely implement with extreme success, especially considering the number of distractions that we face on a daily basis. Your email likely doesn’t require your immediate attention, and neither does anything else that wasn’t planned for the next 1-2 hours.

Productivity Tips – Key Takeaways

From working on your typing speed to learning to ignore emails, here are the key takeaways from this round-up that will help you optimize your work day:

  • Plan ahead. Every morning, sit down and identify some high-value tasks that you are going to work on for the day to make sure that this is a productive one.
  • Tackle the hardest task first. Start your day off right by “eating the frog.” Complete your hardest task first thing in the morning and you’ll set the tone for a productive day.
  • Look back. Learn from every week by looking back and reviewing what you have accomplished. It will help you learn better time management skills for the future and identify the things that simply aren’t worth your attention any longer.
  • Schedule smart. If you are very productive in the morning, don’t let anything interrupt that productivity. Figure out what time is ideal for you to work on things and be creative. Shape your schedule around that.
  • Stop procrastinating. Don’t allow work to pile up for “later”. Identify what needs to be done now and what might need to wait, but always be working on something that is worthy of your time.
  • End distractions. When you need to be highly focused, make sure that nothing stands in your way. Simply swiping up to turn on night mode may be all it takes to stop a phone call, email, or app notification from ruining your train of thought.

With these productivity tips, you’ll be able to achieve so much more in the same amount of time, feeling less stressed and more accomplished.

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