By Jon Youshaei
What do Tim Ferriss, Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg have in common? They’re productive powerhouses. They squeeze more into 24 hours than most of us. How can we get on their level of productivity? How can we do more in the same amount of time? I recently asked that question to my mentors, friends and followers on social media. I found their answers to be insightful, inspiring and surprising.
1. Be A “Day One” Person
People say life is a rat race. It’s not. It’s actually a horse race. Those who win usually wear blinders that keep them from being distracted. Same goes for your career. Prioritization makes you productive. You need to have ruthless focus. Just ask Goldie Chan, who runs a creative agency, yet finds the time to upload a video to LinkedIn every day. “It requires you to reconsider which activities are most important,” she explained. The same goes for Michelle McGrath, co-founder and CEO of DataTrue. “You have to learn which things truly matter most,” she says. “We analyze which activities have the biggest influence on our company’s KPIs. If you get caught up in less-important details, you’ll never accomplish your goals.” Be ruthless about your prioritization. Focus on the activities with the highest return and cut the rest.
2. Do A Dozen Pushups
Too many workaholics forget to work out. They don’t hit the gym or pump iron, not realizing that a short exercise break can do wonders for your productivity. Just ask Jeremy Miller, Director of Digital Media at SnapShyft. “Whenever I feel sluggish, I will either pump some iron, do a dozen pushups, or run a few miles,” He explains. “After each exercise, I am more confident. Endorphins are released in my brain, thus allowing me to be more productive.” Even a short exercise break gives you a much-needed boost and makes you feel tougher — both mentally and physically.
3. Carry A Picture Of Your Younger Self
Google Associate Product Marketing Manager Martin Aguinis has a unique solution that helps him maintain this focus. “When I face a tough decision, I look at a picture of myself as a toddler that I carry in my wallet. I ask myself, ‘Am I making this younger version of me proud?’” he says. “Looking back at this picture reminds me that I need to compete with myself to produce more.” Reflecting on whether your younger self would be proud of your efforts is a great way to stay motivated and do your best.
4. Go On Vacation (No, But Really)
It sounds counterintuitive, but taking breaks is a great productivity booster. Pushing through a heavy workload without stopping will burn you out. Instead, taking time for yourself helps you feel refreshed. Tiffany Chang from the University of Waterloo said it best: “During my last school term, I did little to no studying on the weekends, except around midterms and finals. I found myself feeling significantly less stressed because I got to recharge my batteries.” She explained. “This also kept me more focused during the school week.”
5. Turn Off Your Smartphone Notifications
The internet is ironic. On one hand, it helps streamline work and foster collaboration so you’re more productive. On the other hand, it’s a huge time waster. Entrepreneur Max Ginsberg was quick to note how easy it is to get distracted online. “I logged onto LinkedIn to message a connection but got distracted by the first post I saw. 15 minutes later, I couldn’t remember why I logged on in the first place!” It’s even more distracting when a notification pops up. Do yourself a favor and turn off notifications on your phone so they don’t derail your focus again. That way, you can leverage social media on your own terms. As Roman Daneghyan, Chief Marketing Officer at Renderforest, puts it: “We can either waste time on social media or use it to your advantage,” as he did in growing his page to 400,000 followers.
6. Let Others Do The Work For You
Whether you’re a manager or an entrepreneur, you have to know how to delegate. For Jason Bliss, angel investor in Boomr, it’s a top key to success. “My co-founders have different skill sets,” he says. “Delegation allows us to focus on our strengths so we can deliver higher quality.” You can’t do everything by yourself no matter how smart you are. Bring in trusted people with complementary skill sets and you’ll make life easier for everyone.
7. Help Others Up The Mountain
As a manager, you’re not only responsible for your own productivity — you need to lift others as well. Walmart Manager James Pelletier notes that empowering others can help everyone achieve more. During his first week, his store went through a series of disasters including safety violations, plumbing problems and even a fire. “This quickly taught me that if everyone relied on me for answers, then none of us would succeed. I empowered the team to solve problems before they became catastrophes and we went on to seven record breaking years in business together.”
8. Throw Away Your “To-Do” List
Many of us make to-do lists to increase productivity. Richard Moore, founder of EightStepStartup, takes a different approach. “Classic ‘to-do lists’ fall short because they lack a completion strategy,” he explains. “In a shockingly simple pivot, I use a ‘When to-do’ list which includes start times for each task so you stay on track.” Planning an itinerary of when you’ll get everything done will help you be realistic about when you’ll finish your work.
9. Focus On Impact, Not Influence
It’s easier to be productive when you’re passionate about your work. What motivates you? Why do you do what you do? Focusing on the why makes it easier to find the energy to keep going, even when you feel tired or stressed. Benjamin Loh experienced this first-hand when building his public speaking business. “In my line of work, it’s easy to get lost in the social media dazzle of lifestyle marketing,” he explained. “I ask myself, ‘What real impact have I created this time for my clients?’ This helps to ground me and put focus on what and whom matters.”
10. Don’t Be A Night Owl
There’s a reason why most successful people are early risers. Erica Nachamkin Adler, a Product Marketing Manager for YouTube, is a great example. “My most productive time is time I carve out for myself when no one else is around,” she says. “I’m up at 6 am, hit the gym, shower, eat breakfast, and get to my desk by 8:30, when most of my coworkers are in at 9 or later. I use this time to catch up on emails, collect my thoughts, or prepare for my meetings,” As the old adage goes: if you win the morning, you win the day.
11. Say “No” Without Being A Jerk
Say no to good opportunities to focus on the great ones. As serial entrepreneur Corina Toma explains, “Not saying ‘yes’ all the time is a great way to keep my motivation high and boost productivity. In the same year that I refused two major clients, I also had my biggest breakthroughs. Slower sometimes is faster.” Being willing to say “no” won’t just help you keep your sanity. It can also help you achieve better results.
12. Stop Overthinking. Just Start.
There’s only so much preparation you can do. Get out there, get started, and get your hands dirty. As Meade Lewis, co-founder of mIQroTech says: “You learn much faster through doing than through preparation alone. While you may fail in the short term, it’ll make you much more productive in the long term.”
13. Don’t Try To Pull Off A “25-Hour Workday”
Trying to get too much done at once is counter-productive. As business consultant Lisa Zhao explains, “We all need to be realistic about what we want to achieve. To be productive, we need to have that self-awareness to gauge what can and can’t be done. There’s no point trying to do 20 tasks in a day when you can only finish eight. ” Don’t push yourself too far past your limits. Understand how much you can get done each day and prioritize. Focus on what you can do right now so you can give everything your best effort.
14. Embrace Failure As A Learning Opportunity
Many of us let a fear of failure keep us from being as productive as possible. This was a lesson Nina Thomas of CAL Innovations learned firsthand. “I grew up striving for perfection. If it meant that I was not going to get the best outcome, I wouldn’t even try.” she explained. “It was only once I removed my ‘analysis paralysis’ that I became productive.” Don’t let perfectionism impede your productivity. Failure isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a stepping stone to success.
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This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine