You live on a diet of espresso shots and foods you can eat with one hand while typing, having a teleconference and knitting a scarf with your toes – slowly turning into a zombie. Although you may be a warm one. There aren’t enough hours in the day, right?
That is, until Mr CEO struts in like Thor in a L’Oreal ad, with his smooth hair and his breezy, ever-so-prepared demeanour. Is he a bird? Is he a plane? Is he Superman? Nope. He’s productive – like a boss. You can be too… and not by eating his brain, you zombie-person.
Put down the caffeine and try these 5 top tips from the top bosses themselves.
1. Manage distractions
Research shows that not only do interruptions make it more difficult to assimilate back into your work, but they also make you dumber. Like you didn’t have enough on your plate – now it’s making you stupid. Luckily, distractions like social media, colleague interruptions and meetings can be managed.
Take Pocket, for instance. It’s a cross-platform application that can be used to save links and online articles to an offline “pocket” that you can read from later. This allows you to save your online distractions for your relaxation time.
But what about people distractions? Dustin Moskovitz, CEO of Asana and co-founder of Facebook, holds "No-Meeting Wednesdays”, while Bryan Guido Hassin, a university professor, takes "aeroplane days”, where he disconnects from devices that could interrupt him, using Airplane Mode. These strategies allow them to block out a day each week to disconnect from the outside world and concentrate on their tasks, distraction-free.
2. Control your emails
Emails pop up throughout the day… oh look, more work! Don’t get swamped. Rather schedule specific times to check your email. You can even create an auto-response email that informs recipients of your routine and the value it adds to your productivity. This way, should there be an emergency, they’ll know to call you or text message you instead.
David Allen, time management consultant and best-selling author, recommends using the “two-minute rule” with your emails: if you can get it done in two minutes or less, do it. By getting small tasks done immediately, you keep time/brain-power open for the bigger things.
3. Prioritise and delegate
Prioritise your work by selecting your top three tasks for the day. By doing this and reviewing them again at the end of the day, CEO of Vontoo, Bob Compton, says he keeps his eye on moving forward. If any of the three are not done by the end of the day, he stays in the office until he’s made progress on them.
Matt DeCelles, a serial entrepreneur and tech advisor, recommends delegating some of your tasks to others – especially the ones you don’t enjoy. This opens time to focus on the things you’re good at. Daniel Tan Kh, a web entrepreneur, insists that you trust your delegates as the owners of these tasks to inspire dedication and ownership of the work.
4. Shrink mental deadlines
Getting more out of the time you have – this is time management. Krissi Barr, founder of Barr Corporate Success, suggests “shrinking” your mental deadlines – giving yourself less time to complete your tasks and training yourself to work faster and with higher focus.
Bharath Kumar, a co-founder of Pugmarks.me, suggests working late on a Sunday night when the family is asleep. By doing this, you can get a lot done without your workday distractions and you’ll be ready to tackle the week before it even starts.
Ivan Staroversky, a counsellor, psychotherapist and NLP trainer, uses ultradian rhythms to stay focused. After a 90-minute period of concentration, Ivan takes a short break to refresh his mind before the next session. Others follow this strategy every hour by working for 50 minutes and breaking for 10. Search for info on the Pomodoro technique for another method.
5. Look after yourself
A common trait of many successful CEOs is dedication to their health – after all, how can you be productive if you are not feeling your best?
Mike Cassidy, CEO of travel and tour site Ruba, says, “Fitting a workout into the work day reduces stress, keeps you healthy, and is great for getting alone time to work out business and personal problems. When someone asks for a non work-related meeting, see if they are up for doing the meeting while running or biking together.” This is BIG overseas right now.
Frequent meditation and gratitude also come highly recommended, with CEO of Soma, Mike Del Ponte, keeping a gratitude journal. Try this yourself – every morning, write out at least five things you’re thankful for and in times of stress, pause and reflect on 10 of these things.
“Concentrate on concentrating” seems to be the general consensus – a trick that can be learned and perfected with practice. Just do it. Productivity is not limited to superheroes.