13 Tech CEOs and Founders Reveal Their Productivity Secrets
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Becoming more productive is something that everyone wants to achieve.
It's a difficult task though, because thinking about becoming more productive and actually setting things in motion are two different things.
In an excellent post on Quora, a bunch of CEOs, tech entrepreneurs and startup pros share their favorite hacks for getting things done more efficiently.
There were a ton of great responses, and we sifted through some of the important ones to put together this collection of productivity hacks in hopes that they will help inspire and supercharge your own personal productivity.
Dustin Moskovitz, the co-founder and CEO of Asana and former co-founder of Facebook, holds No Meeting Wednesdays.
Moskovitz says that "No Meeting Wednesdays" is something he borrowed from Facebook. "With very few exceptions, everyone's calendar is completely clear at least one day out of the week whether you are a maker or manager." He goes on to explain, "this is an invaluable tool for ensuring you have some contiguous space to do project work. For me personally, it is often the one day each week I get to code."
He explains further in a internal document you can read the full post here.
Bharath Kumar, a co-founder at Pugmarks.me, suggests working on a Sunday late night.
Kumar believes that by the time Sunday has arrived your weekend is over, but during that free time a lot of thoughts have been collected.
Here's his full rationale for working on a Sunday night:
1. The family is asleep. They think the weekend is over. Monday morning is yet to come.
2. Work through Sunday night, or at least till 3AM. You get at least 4 hours of extremely productive, thoughtful, non-interrupted time with no expectations.
3. When you get work done on a Sunday night, your Monday is awesome. You meet colleagues with confidence, and can do meetings to plan the next week - all armed by a productive night.
Matt DeCelles, a serial entrepreneur and tech advisor, offers four tips he uses for hacking his productivity, starting with prioritization.
Paul A. Klipp, a lean software development specialist, explains his "un-original" time management solutions, which starts with "emptying his mind."
Klipp starts by emptying his mind and making sure that he captures everything he needs to do that he can think of.
After that, Klipp uses a "'mind map styled approach'. The first time I did it, I used paper. However, once I had it all sorted out like I liked it, I started using an online mind mapping tool, mindmeister.com, for this."
If something not on the list comes up during the week he places things into three categories:
- Things to do now (answer the phone) I just do.
- Things to do soon (get someone a receipt they need) I put into my board either in Today or This Week.
- And, things to do someday but not urgently I put in an inbox which I review while doing my weekly planning. Those things will either make it into next week's plan or will be added to the mind map.
Bryan Guido Hassin, a university professor and startup junkie, uses "Airplane days."
After noticing that he got some of his best work done on long intercontinential flights Guido established "Airplane Days" to help him get things done.
On "Airplane Days" Guido restricts his Internet access, removes distractions, and churns through his high priority to-do items.
At the beginning of each week, I carefully look at my schedule and declare one day (or two half days) to be Airplane Time. I block it out on my shared calendar and treat it as if I were in the air: working out of the office, disabling my phone, and shutting off network connections on my laptop. The rest of the days are for meetings, etc. but this blocked out time each week is my most productive by far.
Alok Bhardwaj, the founder of Hidden Reflex, a software and web application product startup, says he starts his day by doing the least desirable task first.
Bhardwai offers six tips for how he gets things done. It all starts with doing the thing you don't want to do first:
1. Do least desirable tasks first thing in the morning. Try to work 2-3 hours straight on getting stuff done first thing in thing in the morning, before email or anything else.
2. Do not read any news, anything similar while working.
3. Workspace is for work only.
4. Daily to-do list of 3-5 things you MUST get done.
5. Don't try to do too much, don't try to optimize too much, delegate, stay focused on the big picture.
6. Exercise, meditate everyday.
Gokil Nath Sridhar, an entrepreneur, says that you should never waste desk time.
Sridhar also shares three tips he uses to keep distractions to a minimum:
- Check emails on the go.
- Phone in silent mode and offline on Facebook/Skype while working.
- Use do-it-later services like Pocket, to reduce time wasted in visiting distracting but interesting websites.
Roman Grigorjev, the Chief Yeti at GuessMate.me, says you need to partially quit Facebook.
This suggestion is actually really innovative. Grigorjev says he partially quit Facebook by moving all his friends to acquaintances.
Click this link it will take you to a page where you can move everyone from "friends" to "acquaintances". You will still get updates, but instead of "check out what I ate for breakfast", you will only be shown the most important posts, i.e. 2-5 new posts max a day from hundreds of your friends. That would save you lots of time and make you 5-10x more productive.
Daniel Tan Kh, a web entrepreneur, uses a series of mental hacks to break free from distractions.
Mental Hack #1: Delegate. Trust them as the owners.
Delegation is the most important fuel for productivity. Having more staffs should double, triple, quadruple etc your time. Cultivate a sense of ownership in the company.
Mental Hack #2: Always think they are the owners.
Give them autonomy. Let them fly with their wings. You hired them, they are surely good. Otherwise why keep them. Since they are good, there is really no need to check on them all the time. Cultivate a sense of ownership and let them work like they are the boss. Things will go so well when everyone think they are the owners of the company and act in it's best interest.
Mental Hack #3: Systemizing and Automate
Everything I do, I make sure I find out how to automate the work. I always try to factor the job, document it's process and find ways to make it so dumb easy, so everyone can participate and just push button. Even with things that involves intelligence and creativity, setups can still be arranged to ensure quality productivity. I love automations and systems.
Mental Hack #4: Dual Control
Most of the important accesses can be safely delegated with Dual Control. A safe should have a key and a combination. One person to hold the key, another the combination. Both should present to open the safe. On server accesses, passwords are built in 2 parts. One to hold the initial say 5 characters and another to hold the last 5 characters. Many banks are using Dual (or 3) control to guard their billions. We should too. This frees you up from security worries.
Mental Hack #5: The customer is the Boss, not you.
We are all paid by our customers. They are the boss, not us. That means, they should tell us what to do. They should check on our work. They should show their satisfaction or dissatisfaction on our work. Let the customers tell your business what to do. Let your customer check on your staffs. Let the whole ecosystem work by itself, naturally. You, as the CEO...is sometimes extra...and I am happy about it.
Christian Sutardi, a co-founder at Lolabox, uses David Allen's famous "Two-Minute Rule."
For two months now I've been following David Allen's famous 'Two-Minute Rule'. It's very simple: When a new task comes in and I see that I can do it in less than two minutes, then I do it right away. This easy rule increased my productivity a lot. I love it, because it's not a groundbreaking rule, it's no fancy app or software, it doesn't even require learning or dedication and you can start doing it today.
Jason Kanigan, a sales trainer, says you need to figure out when your "golden hours" are.
Kanigan says that you have to protect your "golden hours" at all costs, here's a further explanation:
Figure out when your "golden hours" are, and protect them at all costs. Permit no distractions during those times. Then "Eat That Frog" -- pick the biggest, hairiest, most difficult goal that stands between you and the next giant step towards success...and Do It Now.
A small number of decisions makes up the majority of your life experience (the 80/20 rule strikes again!). Therefore, a small number of activity choices make up the large majority of your achievements...or lack thereof.
Ivan Staroversky, a counselor, psychotherapist, NLP trainer and Lifehacker, uses a more psychological approach to getting things done.
Staroversky says that he listens to his "Ultradian rhythms." The Ultradian rhythms are natural body cycles that occur through the day every 90-120 minutes.
Staroversky further explains:
Approximately every 90-120 minutes, the mind and body give us clues signaling the need for rest and change in physical and mental activity. Ignoring these signals may lead to fatigue, stress, and ultimately physical (psychosomatic) illness.
These rhythms suggest that its time to take a break and can help increase your productivity. Basically you have to:
- recognize the signals
- listen to yourself
- make time for rejuvenation and awakening
He explains further how to deal with productivity, multi-tasking, and burnout further on his blog.
Rob Rawson, the founder of Staff.com, has a simple Gmail hack that helps him keep email at bay.
Rawson's simple hack is a Gmail Lab feature:
My favourite hack is actually one I found quite recently which is a Gmail labs feature that helps me significantly with my productivity. It is called "Auto Advance" and basically it will automatically show the next email when you archive the current email. This helps you to keep to a zero inbox policy and prevents you from reading emails multiple times. It trains you to be much more productive with your emails (if you use Gmail of course!).