Believe it or not, productivity among U.S. workers grew a whopping 80% between 1973 and 2011, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Thanks to technology, new tools and smart time management techniques, we are more productive than ever. But that doesn’t mean that successful CEOs are satisfied with the status quo.
If you are looking to start your days out on the right foot in terms of productivity and focus, here are a few hints from some superstars at the top:
Reduce, but don’t reuse or recycle.
Billionaire Warren Buffett is the most successful investor of the 20th century and a huge advocate of being productive with time. He espouses the process of elimination: Focus on your top five goals and let the rest go until you have completed them. Don’t get distracted by down-the-road goals or tasks – figure out what you need to do to achieve your most important priorities and let that guide your days. What top five can you start your day with?
Rise and shine.
Many successful execs swear by their 'early to rise' routines. Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi and Jeff Immelt of General Electric all encourage an early and fresh start to the day. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp on sleep or dive into work immediately upon waking – take some time to enjoy the coffee, go for a run or read the paper to establish a healthy morning routine – but remember that the early bird catches the worm.
Hi to O.H.I.O.
The executive chairman and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, believes in O.H.I.O. or Only Hold It Once. Respond directly to emails, calls or texts that will require less than two minutes of your time – then you don’t have to deal with them again. Save longer tasks for later in the day while getting the quick items off your to-do list. This process can simplify your morning so you can start the day running.
Breathe in, breathe out.
CEOs and company founders across the globe swear by the benefits of a few minutes of meditation first thing in the morning. Simply focusing on your breath can clear your conscience and create a more focused mind.
While multitasking has its benefits, Oprah Winfrey, CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network, champions monotasking instead – focusing on one thing at a time and then following through on it.
Keep it simple.
Along those same lines, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of refinement – the same gray t-shirt and the signature hoodie, for example – as a means of keeping it simple. He also espouses focusing on one key personal goal annually – learning Mandarin, reading a new book every two weeks, meeting someone in every state –with the intention that the personal will influence the professional. If you can start your day with less on your mind, rather than racing thoughts, you will be more focused for the day to come.
Find your sweet spots.
If you don’t feel effective or focused until you’ve had at least two cups of coffee, a full breakfast and time to get organized, then maybe first thing in the morning isn’t the best time for you to be making big decisions. Determine when you are most productive – morning, noon, night? – and then focus your workday around that time period.
Exercise conscious email behavior.
If starting your day with 30 minutes of email reading and response makes you feel organized and productive, that is fine, but avoid being a slave to your email all day – and all night. Founder of ThinkUp Gina Trapani recommends checking email at specific times during the day so you can stay on track and on task.
Amazon founder and CEO and owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos is renowned for his innovation and ability to tackle many things at once. He prefers to work backwards – starting with a goal and then working backwards with that in mind. Reverse engineering involves careful planning which can help you effectively organize your day.
When you consciously craft a morning routine that works for you, you can start the day out on a productive and focused note. Whether you like a leisurely hour of breakfast and meditation or an action-packed morning of meetings and to-dos, you set the tone for the rest of the day with your first few steps, decisions and choices.