What secrets do the world’s top businesspeople use to be hyper-productive? How do they seem to fit so much into each day, week and year to get more accomplished than the average worker? The answer is in the small tasks they do to stay focused on their goals, priorities and the outcomes that will consistently progress them to the next level.
Here are 21 of the greatest tips that elite entrepreneurs and business pros do that have put them on top.
1. Get more accomplished with an ultimate to-do list
Create a master to-do list, not a variety of different lists in multiple formats and locations. Stick to one, preferably online that syncs across all devices and that is available when you’re offline — so even when you don’t have Wi-Fi you can keep adjusting your task list.
2. Prep every night
Start the night before by answering three questions for the next day: 1) What will you work on first thing tomorrow? 2) What do you hope to accomplish during the day? 3) What must get completed tomorrow, in priority? The answers should feed into your to-do list.
3. Your routine is key
Establish a daily ritual. For example, you may start your day by pouring a coffee, putting on instrumental music and reading your favorite newspaper online. Then move straight into your most critical task of the day. By mid-day, you may decide to always take lunch and a 15-minute walk, and on the way home you catch the latest podcast on your list.
4. Learn on the go
Speaking of podcasts, listening to them on your commute to or from work is a great way to research and learn. Don’t waste that time on Google or Candy Crush though, when you can be getting in some professional development time or improving an important skill. Listening to podcasts like HBR Ideacast and Outside In will get you thinking a step ahead of your competition.
5. Power hour
Schedule a “power hour” for the first 60 minutes of every morning — where you work diligently and uninterrupted on the most important task on your list. Avoid checking email and doing the little tasks that can veer you off course all day long.
6. Satisfy the stomach
Never ignore a rumbling stomach. This doesn’t mean you should satisfy every snack craving, but make sure you’re staying fuelled up during meal times throughout the day. Working straight through your day without a meal can be the ultimate crush to productivity. So scheduling those meals into your calendar can also be a nice reminder.
7. Get away to recharge
Get in a couple mini-breaks throughout the day, whether that’s just to step away from the computer for 10 minutes, or a walk around the block. Establish a “break habit” by scheduling them into your calendar or using an app to keep track of your time — and potentially to signal when a break is needed.
8. Emails can be your worst enemy
Enforce a personal email strategy, where you set certain times on your calendar to check email — and don’t spend any more time than allocated. Process the emails according to priority and pick up the phone for emergencies, rather than resorting to typed messages.
9. Time to tidy
Organize your workspace. It doesn’t have to look as clean as an office showroom, but your space should be tidy and uncluttered, which helps you focus on the tasks at hand. Nothing is more stressful than searching tirelessly for your office supplies, working files or phone when you need to get things done in a hurry.
10. Zero distractions
When you’re in true work mode, close down any distracting Internet browsers, email programs or other software. At the very least, minimize them from your computer screen so you won’t get the urge to click elsewhere.
11. A “social” reward
Treat social media like a reward. It’s easy to get distracted by eye-catching headlines and notifications on your phone, so shut those off and save the fun stuff for when you accomplish a task. Then, when you complete each major task, you can reward yourself with your favorite distraction — like a quick one-minute video of a cat being cute. Just make sure you shut it down after the reward to stay productive.
12. One task at a time
Stop trying to multitask. Studies show it actually can make you pay less attention and have troubles recalling information. You may feel like you’re getting more done, but in reality it could slow your performance down.
13. Just say ‘no’
Contrary to what you may have been taught, it’s not impolite to say ‘no’ to tasks that derail your productivity. You may want to help others out with their requests, but sometimes you need to decline their request in order to get your work done. By saying ‘no’ you can free up future time for something you really want to say ‘yes’ to — and that will be more fulfilling in the long run.
14. Like Costco for your calendar
Schedule time slots to work on things in bulk. Like many people, you may have had days where you jump so quickly from task to task that you never have a chance to sink into any of it. Instead, schedule multiple working time slots in one to two-hour segments throughout the day where you can have uninterrupted work.
15. Cut your low-value tasks
High productivity people follow the Pareto principle — 80% of your results can be driven by 20% of your effort. The key is figuring out what the other 80% of your effort is spent on, and then systematically delegating, deleting or diminishing those from your schedule so your day becomes more valuable.
16. High-impact times of day
Discover your productivity rhythm — that is, the time of day that you are most impactful. People can be classified into three categories: the morning crush-it, the high noon heavy hitter, or the night owl ninja. Find out which one you are and schedule your tasks accordingly.
17. Always be goal oriented
Never lose track of your long-term goals. Too often, we move from one thing to the next just trying to get through the day. But by integrating your yearly objectives into all your meetings and activities, you’ll be more prepared to cut unnecessary activities and keep your teams (and yourself) focused on the right priorities.
18. Positively priority proficient
As new tasks arrive, reprioritize with speed and ease. The trick is giving every task an A, B or C rating (or 1, 2, 3 if you prefer). The As will get ultimate priority as your most important tasks — so if a new B task comes in and you’re working on an A, that new B task can wait. But conversely, if an A task arrives, you better hop on it.
19. Make meetings count
Make sure your meetings are efficient and worth every minute — otherwise, they won’t be worth your time and you should cut them from your schedule. Every meeting must include an agenda with clear objectives, and schedule less important meetings into the second half of your day so you have more time in the morning to complete key responsibilities.
20. High gear afternoons
An hour and a half before the end of your workday, you have a perfect window of opportunity to kick your productivity into high gear. Get your affairs in order by checking your email and drafts folder, finishing those last messages and then completely closing your Inbox. Then, your last hour of work can be spent entirely undistracted.
21. Final 10 before freedom
The last 10 minutes of your day can set you up for a more productive tomorrow. Make sure your to-do list is finalized, clean-up your workspace, sign out of every app and program (including on your phone), and then do a brain dump — where you jot down anything left on your mind so you can go home with lighter shoulders and enjoy your night.