11 Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day
Have you ever wondered what sets the go-getters of this world apart from the rest of us mere mortals? What drives them? What gives them their spark? What powers them to accomplish more in a day than many of us manage in a week? To find some answers, we looked at the daily routines of some of the world’s most productive and successful people. What we discovered may surprise you. Here are 12 things that highly productive people do every day.
1. They wake up early
Many highly productive people are early risers. When asked about his morning routine during an event last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained: “I go to bed early, I get up early.” Other highly productive people who rise before the sun include Apple CEO Tim Cook (3:45 a.m.), and Moon Express Chairman Naveen Jain, (4:30 a.m.), besides many others.
2. They schedule their time effectively
Almost every entrepreneur, CEO, and billionaire find ways of effectively scheduling their time. According to Entrepreneur contributor Hayden Field, Elon Musk uses a five-minute blocking system that divides his day into 5-minute chunks of time. Field actually tested this system for a day and found it helpful for avoiding wasting time on short tasks such as checking emails.
3. They work long hours
There’s no sugar-coating the truth; what unites all productive people is their propensity for hard work and long hours. No, you don’t need to go to the extreme of sleeping at your workplace like Elon Musk, but you do need to put in the work. Musk’s infamous 100+ hour working weeks were, even by his own admission, extreme and unsustainable. But when you look at the schedules of productive people, you’ll notice that none of them are just doing the standard 9-to-5.
4. They do their most important work first
Most highly productive people instinctively understand that not all of their work is equal: some work requires intense concentration while other tasks aren’t as demanding. Therefore, many highly productive people start their day with the most complex tasks and reserve the less important ones for later on. For example, Jeff Bezos schedules his important meetings for the morning. “I like to do my high IQ meetings before lunch,” he said.
Similarly, Bill Gates only responds to emails during the evenings or at weekends so that they don’t get in the way of his work during the day. In a recent interview, Gates explained that “At night, after the kids have gone to bed, I’m on email. I get messages during the day, so that’s my chance to give long responses. And then over the weekend, I send a lot of mail as well.”
5. They aim for inbox zero
Many extremely productive people work hard to achieve ‘inbox zero’ – a completely clear email inbox with no distracting emails. Bill Gates’ habit of checking his emails at night is a good example of the lengths some CEOs go to achieve this goal! But for many people, inbox zero remains an impossible dream. That’s why venture capitalist and bitcoin bull Tim Draper decided to back BitBounce, a free service that lets anyone get paid to receive marketing emails, while blocking spam.
Frustrated by the number of unsolicited emails he was receiving, Draper saw the potential of BitBounce’s unique approach. When you sign up for BitBounce, your contacts are automatically whitelisted and can carry on emailing you as usual. But if a person or company you don’t know wants to contact you, they’ll be asked to pay a small fee to compensate you for your time and attention. These emails go into a special folder giving you the choice about whether to respond or not. BitBounce makes achieving inbox zero a breeze.
6. They minimize ‘decision fatigue’
As explained by The New York Times, ‘decision fatigue’ is the phenomenon whereby your ability to make decisions actually decreases over time. When you are mentally depleted, the quality of your decisions will be substantially lower than when you’re at your best. What unites almost all productive people is their ability to avoid falling into this trap.
One common approach among productive people is to wear similar clothes every day (like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) or eat and drink similar things. This limits the number of decisions they need to make so that they can reserve their brainpower for their most important decisions.
7. They make time for learning
We don’t all have the luxury of being able to take a so-called ‘Think Week’ like Bill Gates where he gets to do nothing except “solidly try to think about the future” for seven straight days. But almost every productive person takes some time out of their schedule for learning. According to Inc.com, most CEOs read 4-5 books per month in addition to their daily work.
Sounds like a lot?
According to speed-reading coach, Jim Kwik, reading one book per week isn’t as difficult as it seems. Assuming you read at an average speed of 200 words per minute, an average length book will take you just 320 minutes to read from cover to cover, or around 45 minutes every day. Don’t have time? Kwik suggests multitasking and reading while exercising or while on a break.
8. They ruthlessly guard their time
Productive people are really good at guarding their own time. When Elon Musk wanted to ramp up production of his Tesla Model 3 electric car, he emailed his employees a list of his own productivity tips. His email left the recipients in no doubt as to how Musk manages to accomplish so much: by being ruthless.
His tips included:
- Canceling big meetings
- Using plain language instead of jargon
- Walking out of meetings if you aren’t contributing
- Communicating directly, instead of via chain of command
These down-and-dirty time management tips are surprisingly common and well-used among almost all highly productive people. Jeff Besoz, Mark Cuban and Ray Dalio have all publicly stated that they avoid long or excessive meetings whenever possible.
9. They overextend themselves
Maintaining a constant state of productiveness, day in, day out, requires a certain mindset. Highly productive people are extremely good at overextending themselves. Their reach almost always extends their grasp, forcing them to maintain a manic pace that leaves others in their wake.
According to former employees of the late Steve Jobs, he created a reality distortion field by setting impossible deadlines for projects and tasks, thus forcing everyone to work harder. Elon Musk took a similar tact in his infamous productivity memo (see above) when he informed staff that a 24/7 production schedule was needed to meet his impossibly lofty production quotas of 5,000 Tesla Model 3 cars per month. “We are burning the midnight oil to burn the midnight oil,” he wrote. And it paid off.
10. They eliminate or automate monotonous tasks
As any highly productive person will tell you, one of the biggest productivity killers is performing boring, monotonous tasks. Productive people excel at finding ways to eliminate or automate these types of tasks both for themselves and their employees. There are literally thousands of tools and services that can help you do just that.
During a recent interview with CIO, Insight CEO Mike Guggemos spoke highly of the facilities tool Robin, a room scheduling and analytics tool that helps coordinate people, spaces and things. Robin makes your office work for you and is one example of the many tools and apps out there that can help eliminate or automate monotonous tasks. Highly productive people are great at finding the solution in every problem and developing workarounds!
11. They experiment with productivity tools
Highly productive people actively experiment with tools that help them accomplish more in less time. While many productivity tools such as Dropbox, BetterCloud, and Trello are widely known, there are plenty of lesser-known services that are on the rise. Productive people always keep their ears to the ground and try out the latest innovative services that come along.
For example, with relatively little fanfare, Amsterdam-based file sharing service WeTransfer has rapidly expanded to more than 43 million monthly users by completely reimagining the way people save, organize, and share media in the mobile space. WeTransfer acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ for creativity tools that makes sending any type of file a cinch and is one of the hottest productivity tools for anyone who wants to accomplish more during their daily lives.
You don’t need to be trying to colonize other planets or creating superhumans like Elon Musk to apply these productivity tips to your own life. Copying some of the daily habits of highly productive people can help you become more efficient and happier. What do you think of our list? Let us know by leaving a comment below!