American writer Mark Twain famously said that the secret to getting ahead is getting started. Productivity is simply that. It’s not just about getting work done, but the efficiency and consistency that’s involved.
Productive leaders understand that the best work can only be done when people are healthy and happy. They cultivate culture that normalizes taking regular breaks, knowing when to say ‘no,’ and prioritizing health.
After leaving Facebook as a cofounder, Moskovitz started Asana, a team-based work management platform. He believes people do their best work when they’re not distracted. To ensure his teams have time for planning and execution, Moskovitz implemented the “No Meeting Wednesdays” rule. As the name suggests, there are no meetings on Wednesdays at Asana with the exception of interviews and hiring. While it may seem impossible to make it through a day without a meeting, Moskovitz’s teams more productive from having a big chunk of time dedicated to focus on doing deep, impactful work.
As the CEO of The Muse, a career development platform, Minshew has made a practice of saving her most productive hours of the day for the most difficult tasks. She has made observations about herself, that she’s better able to focus in the morning or afternoon, and then she reserves those time slots for jobs that require extra special attention, or the things she wants to do the least.
A woman who needs no introduction, Oprah shares the secret to her success: radical focus. “I have learned that your full-on attention for any activity you choose to experience comes with a level of intensity and truth. That whole thing about multitasking? That’s a joke for me. When I try to do that, I don’t do anything well.” For Oprah, depth is more important than breadth.
A productive leader knows the impact of quick sprints and long rests. While there may be a deadline that requires a certain amount of extension, a more constant, reliable workflow is essential to getting things done without burning out.
Productivity isn’t about just doing things faster; it’s about doing things better, too. What good is there in building a product if it’s just going to fall apart later? Productivity is about quantity and quality.
Teams who prioritize work life balance, regular breaks, and sleep are simply happier and better performers. Quality output is tied to quality input. You’ll only be able to perform at your best when you feel your best.
When you’re looking to be more productive, you must differentiate between doing things efficiently and taking shortcuts. Cutting corners will only backfire in the long run.
There’s no miracle cure to productivity. No magic elixir. Productivity requires effort, patience, and dedication. It takes discipline and hard work to remain consistently productive.
Pounding energy drinks and pulling all-nighters isn’t the way to work. Overworking can cause burnout and health issues. A productive leader is always productive, not just in sprints.
Being proactive means controlling situations by causing things to happen rather than waiting to respond after things happen. Proactive leaders are constantly moving forward, looking to the future, and making things happen. They’re actively engaged, not passively observing. Being proactive is a way of thinking and acting.
Sleep is work. Don’t get enough sleep, and your productivity suffers. You’ll have less energy and react slower. You’ll feel less creative and focused, and have difficulty making decisions and solving problems. These are the effects of sleep deprivation, and you can see them play out among sleep-deprived individuals in your workplace.
Corporate America loves scheduling meetings. The average person spends over 30 hours each month in unproductive meetings. Before booking your next meeting, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same goals via an asynchronous communication channel like email. And if you are attending a meeting that’s not feeling productive call it out.
While we usually think of stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can actually be helpful in terms of giving us focus and helping us meet our goals. For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline, and then stick to it.
Stretch goals inspire us to think big and remind us to focus on the big picture. A stretch goal is a goal that might be just out of our reach. It is realistic at first glance but a little beyond what we may normally strive for and readily know that we can achieve. Stretch goals are important in bringing out the best in all of us.
Using work time to exercise can help improve productivity. Schedule set times during the week for taking a walk or going to the gym. Getting your blood pumping could be just what’s needed to clear your head and get your focus back.
It sounds counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Research has shown that taking short breaks during long tasks helps you to maintain a constant level of performance; while working at a task without breaks leads to a steady decline in performance.
No one can be expected to resist the allure of an email, voicemail, or text notification. During work hours, turn off your notifications, and instead, build in time to check emails and messages. This is all part of being proactive rather than reactive.