Tips for getting more done and improving the your daily productivity.
The people who achieve the most in life don’t conduct themselves like everyone else. They’re disciplined, figure out which routines help them succeed and religiously stick to those daily habits. Here are a few you may have never considered.
1. Do your to-do list in the order of importance, not when it was written.
“I always have a to-do list of 20 things. However, more than 50 percent of the things on my list never get done. All the time more important things will pop up and my time is better spent dealing with that thing than anything else on the list. I felt guilty in the past that I wouldn’t finish things on my to-do list and instead was always adding new things to it. However, now I call my to-do list my ‘queue’ and I am always very strict of always allowing important things that pop up to be added to the top of my queue so that I get it done first. This means that a lot of things don’t get done, but what I have realized is that most of the time if something doesn’t become important enough to deal with now, it’s probably not worth doing anyways. Having a queue system like this sounds like chaos and prohibitive of getting everything done, but I’ve found that letting the unimportant tasks die to more important tasks that pop up is critical to a fast-growing startup and getting the right things done.”
—Brooks Powell, founder and CEO of Thrive+, a supplement designed to alleviate the negative effects of alcohol, most recently seen on the season finale of ABC’s Shark Tank
2. Put your body and soul first.
“I have a very strong boundary around my morning routine, and it has nothing directly to do with business. I wake up peacefully to soft music. I then go turn on my sauna and I have thirty minutes before it is hot. I spend this time doing a biblical devotion and watching motivational things like sermons, TED talks and YouTube motivational videos. I do not check emails or expose myself to any social media or news. In the sauna, I use my product and stretch to prepare myself for a workout. Then I train for 45 minutes and wrap up back in the sauna for blasting or meditation. I do this whether I have slept good or not, I have a hang over, I have a busy day, an early flight or whatever the day requires. I have found that if I don’t practice self-care of my body and my soul, I am not running my business from the proper energy or space. Having proper head space is the most important factor to being successful. I have found that if I don’t hold my self-accountable to a hard core boundary of doing this first, it becomes last.”
—Ashley Black, bestselling author of “The Cellulite Myth” and inventor of the FasciaBlaster
3. Communicate constantly.
“We’re all struggling with information overload these days. I find the best way to deal with it is to process information quickly and dispense with as much of it as you can. I read articles, digest the information, and then toss the magazine or close the screen. If I keep coming back to it, it muddies up other unrelated topics. Likewise, I Slack, text or email the second I’m thinking about something I need to communicate to someone else so I don’t risk that thought getting caught in the web of all of the other information I’m trying to process.”
—Sara Snow, CMO of Bambino, a membership babysitting app recently featured by Gwyneth Paltrow on her lifestyle website Goop, as well as an Emmy-award winning TV producer, news anchor and TV host, public speaker, and media contributor
4. Tune out distractions.
“Every day, I dedicate a period of about 30 to 60 minutes when I turn off all electronics, and most of the time this aligns with my daily exercise. This daily digital detox allows my mind to wander to what really matters, eliminating any distractions from others. I use this time to check in with myself, set personal priorities and focus on important issues for both myself and my business. I’ve found that these small breaks give me a sense of peace and help me better navigate everyday business decisions.”
—John H. Stevens, M.D., president and chief executive officer of HeartFlow, a medical technology company that recently secured over $240 million in Series E financing
5. Wake up and exercise.
“I make sure not to look at my phone or email before I start so my mind is completely clear. That gives me an uninterrupted hour when I can center myself and think about what I want to accomplish that day. I usually spend my exercise time focused on the things that I don’t always get to think about when I’m really busy at in the office. Working out for that hour gets my body and mind going. I feel like my brain works 40 percent faster and I’m so much more productive when I exercise in the morning. I’m energized and ready to conquer for the day ahead.”
—Jon Ziglar, CEO of Parkmobile, a parking app in the U.S. which recently partnered with BMW and lets users pay for parking, reserve parking and find real-time parking availability
6. Do the boring stuff uncommonly well.
“I am a firm believer of picking all of the low-hanging fruit first. If you can line up all of the mundane tasks in your day-to-day life, everything else just has to fall in place. Whether it is making your bed daily, or sending out a thank you note to a return customer, when you do the boring stuff uncommonly well you’ll be head and shoulders above your competition.”
—Jake Crandall, founder and owner of Oklahoma-based Okie CrossFit and Okie CrossFit Tahlequah who once weighed 300 pounds and has since helped 13 people lose more than 100 pounds and over 100 people lose more than 50 pounds
7. Empty your brain.
“Over the last two years, I’ve developed a habit where I spend an hour every Friday doing a brain dump. I get anything that’s on my mind out on paper. Work stuff, personal stuff, board stuff, book stuff, things I need to delegate or follow up on, things I’ve thought about but didn’t have time to get down yet–everything. Once it’s all on paper, I prioritize urgent tasks for first thing Monday morning (I don’t take meetings or calls on Mondays), and give myself deadlines for other tasks that are due throughout the following week, or even month. I’ve found that this allows me to go into the weekend with a clear head because, often, in my experience, the anxiety I feel doesn’t come from not getting something done, it comes from not knowing what I should be doing next. This process alleviates that unknowing and allows me to actually enjoy my weekend.”
—Nathan Ryan, cofounder and CEO of Blue Sky Partners, a consultancy that helps companies put systems in place so they can scale, and former CEO of an international digital agency which helped startups become acquired by major corporations such as Verizon and Red Bull
“When I walk into the office every morning, I ask myself, ‘Are we doing enough? What more can we do to create the best employee experience possible and empower people to build technology they’re passionate about?’ Early on I listened to Jacob Morgan, who said, ‘If you were to bottle up your employee experience into a pill form, would you take it? If the answer is no, how can you expect your employees to?’ Culture is a side effect you feel because of the place you work. To attract and keep the best talent means giving them a good experience. I strongly agree with something Steve Jobs once said–to hire people to tell us what to do, not the other way around. When we started Arity, it was important to me that we solicit feedback from our employees and implement ideas they have that can make our products, our teams, our company, ourselves better. Every day I look for opportunities to engage with the team to build trust amongst and support our people to accomplish our mission together.”
—Gary Hallgren, president of Arity, a mobility insights and solutions company born from Allstate which collects driving data at a rate of nearly a billion miles per month to make transportation more efficient
9. Give your eyes a rest.
“If you can’t see well, you can’t work well. Stay productive by giving your eyes a break throughout the day so they aren’t strained from focusing on your computer screen all day.
—Drew Smith, director of North America channels for Transitions Optical, manufacturer of photochromic transitions lenses worn by over 70 million people worldwide
10. Get out of the office.
“Talking to customers face to face, meeting with industry experts and learning from folks outside of your immediate sphere are all great ways to expand your perspective and increase your knowledge base. And, these activities are only possible by getting out of the office. You can’t learn everything sitting at your desk. But you can definitely learn more by leaving it from time to time.”
—Alex Maleki, VP of business development at tech incubator Idealab which has created more than 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs and acquisitions
11. Feed your mind.
“A most important habit of success is the monitoring of daily nutrition. But by that, I am not talking about what successful people eat or drink. I am talking about what they feed themselves through what they, read, what they listen to, who they talk to and what they watch. In every day, the truly great ones I have had the chance to work with use a piece of that day to feed themselves something that will give them an inspirational advantage over those they’re competing against. Whether it is looking for inspirational quotes, watching videos of people offering lessons on excellence, or reading a chapter in a book that will help them in their journey, there is a piece of every day that is committed to growth.”
—Don Yaeger, award-winning motivational speaker and an 11-time New York Times Bestselling Author who has written extensively on what makes great teams great and coaches top businesses on improving team culture
12. Own your schedule.
“When it comes to planning your day, most people react to what others ask of them which results in a loss of control. I’ve adopted a set schedule that allows for important activities to occur yet prevents interference of my priorities. My schedule includes activities which are important to me placed throughout the day. As an example, I perform my morning routine daily without interruption. This routine includes time for meditation, exercise, reading, naming three things that I’m thankful for and determining the day’s big win. There are a million competing priorities when you have your own company, so it’s important to specify which one you’ll focus on achieving daily and prioritize accordingly. Finding a way to have a win each day is a great way to keep your spirits high during the inevitable struggle that is startup life.”
—Matthew Tillman, founder and CEO of Haven, Inc., a software company that builds technology to streamline global trade which is processing more than 100,000 containers annually in ten months after launching its latest product
13. Save your focus work for earlier (or later).
“If I really need to focus in on a task, I typically don’t try to get it done during business hours. My time in the office is used to meet with my team, share feedback and gather insight from them to help me do my job better. I usually tackle the deeper tasks in the quiet of my home office either at night or early in the morning when I’m mentally fresh, uninterrupted, and undistracted, or on our company-wide work from home day, which is Friday.”
—Adam Fingerman, cofounder and chief experience officer for ArcTouch, a San Francisco-based mobile app development company that has designed more than 400 custom apps for more than 150 clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to influential startups
14. Take care of yourself.
“It comes down to taking care of yourself–your body, mind and spirit. I have a regular exercise regimen. I start every day with a 40- to 50-minute workout: a combination of cardio, core strength and resistance training. During the day, you need to eat great food that fuels you without robbing energy, drink lots of water and stay hydrated. It’s amazing how much water your body needs during the day.”
—Hunter Muller, president and CEO of HMG Strategy, LLC, an international network of more than 300,000 technology leaders, search executives, and technology partners which has hosted more than 70 live events in the U.S., Canada and Europe
15. Understand the power of no.
“Every day I meet or have conference calls with prospects of mine who ask if I am capable of certain tasks which will enable them to meet their sales goals. I’ve heard the expression ‘Say yes and figure it out later,’ but personally, I believe in setting expectations right from the start. If I know I can’t do something or if I know I’ll need additional resources, I convey that immediately. It may not be the answer my prospect is looking for, however, I have found that when I do this, I earn much more respect for being honest and caring about our relationship vs.
solely focusing on my bottom line. The same thing goes for when I’m in a negotiation process. No matter what business you are in, your goal of course is to make money. However, when I look at each of my opportunities, I ask myself one very important question. ‘Does this have the possibility of generating enough financial gain based on the time commitments it will require?’ If I say yes to everything, I risk spending all of my time on projects that will not allow my company to grow.
If the answer is no, I am not afraid to push back with my reasoning. I keep calm and professional of course, but everyone deserves to have their voice and concerns heard no matter what side of the fence you are on. Sometimes it’s hard for business owners to be honest with themselves about this, but you must value your time. Not every opportunity will work, and that’s OK. There is always the next one.”
All Rights Reserved for Christina DesMarais