If you find yourself getting easily overwhelmed by emails, struggling to keep your eyes open at your desk, or constantly getting distracted by coworkers, chances are, your productivity level isn’t what it could be.
The secret to working more efficiently isn’t about working more or less, but smarter. Here, 12 successful people share how to do just that, compliments of their productivity hacks. Get ready to get focused:
“I always envision myself crushing it at my job, working with pristine integrity and keeping a gold standard. I have always envisioned myself being the go-to girl, the leader in my space, the golden girl in the Wellness space. Make an effort to pinpoint your success, and focus on YOU leading the pack. Clear the noise, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself, your work and keep the focus on doing your very best, nothing less.” —Candice Kumai, bestselling author of Clean Green Eats & Clean Green Drinks
“Break down an annual goal into daily activities. Then focus 100 percent of your energy on completing those activities.” —Kevin Conroy Smith, Levo 100 honoree and founder of the Number Project
“I can’t begin to stress how important it was to limit digital distractions during my workday. The best thing I’ve ever done to improve my productivity was to check my inbox only three times a day. This allows me to really concentrate on whatever task I have at hand. Before I started doing this, I would constantly get interrupted and it would take me a while to get back to really focusing on what I was working on, which was a killer for my productivity. Sometimes I’ll catch myself cheating by checking my iPhone inbox, but putting it on silent helps stop the temptation!” —Jude Al-Khalil, founder and CEO of BIKYNI
[Related: Why We’re Unplugging and You Should, Too]
4. Catch those ZZZs
“My #1 productivity hack is getting 7 hours of sleep each night. I turn off the TV and put away all my devices so I can clear my brain and sleep well! To have an energy-full day, I prioritize getting a good night’s sleep so I wake up rested and ready to go face the day’s challenges. I also really appreciate the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute’s principles that lead to being your personal best at work and at home: be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aware to achieve your mission.”—Janis Smith-Gomez, vice president, marketing for Ethicon, Inc.
5. Distance yourself
“Close the office door. I have an open door policy all the time. My office is open to every one of the 110 people who work for me. In fact, it’s unusual not to find at least one of my employees paying me a visit. However, when the rubber meets the road and I have to concentrate and get something done quickly, my office door gets closed. It has become a sign to everyone that when it’s closed, I am full steam on a project so I generally don’t get interrupted. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in an uninterrupted hour—or even a half hour.” —Linda Lightman, CEO and founder of Linda’s Stuff
6. Plan, organize, do
“I have a three-step mantra when it comes to being productive:
- Plan it. I plan each day the night before and add them as actual tasks in my calendar. This gives you the creative space to do the work you need to do in the time required and ensures that you are realistic about what can be achieved. I prioritize the most important tasks and always allow time for inspiration and play—being creative means you need time to be inspired, read an article, blog or just be on the pulse of what’s happening.
- Organize it. I try to keep to Inbox Zero. I rule the mail, it does not rule me. I check it only three times—morning, afternoon and at the end of the day. Being ruthless with emails means spending more time on the next step and less on organizing and sifting through endless emails. Honestly, if it’s really important, experience has taught me they either come and get you or pick up the phone.
- Do it. I get focused. I’m not distracted, I don’t check my email and I get in the zone to complete the tasks for the day. I often have post-it notes with each task on my desk and physically tick them off once a task is done. There is great satisfaction in actually completing something. Visually seeing these is also a great way to remain focused.” —Resh Sidhu, creative director of Framestore’s VR Studio
7. Check-In times
“Email is both a blessing and a curse—a curse in that it often becomes a seemingly endless task. Each day, I set a time to check my email and address as much as I can. But I always set an end time, and stick to it. Of course, email is a blessing in that it keeps me on track. And I sort my inbox by subject, to be as efficient as possible (though I try to keep this trick a secret!).” —Julie Lee, managing director, Maxus Chicago
8. Calendars and story time
“There are two actually…the one at work: my to-dos go right into my Outlook calendar, where I can’t hide from them or transfer them to another piece of paper; the reminders keep me honest and mindful, and the lack of scribbled, unreadable lists cluttering my desk is a nice plus one. The one at home: reading to my kids; it’s the blissful 30 to 45 minutes of my day that’s never shattered or shared with anyone else, and puts me in a right zen mood.” —Christine Stack, partner at Liberty Blue
9. Google Hangouts
“While this may seem counter-intuitive as a productivity hack, I’m in a creative business so talking through ideas needs the nuance of conversation and ideally seeing each other’s face. Hangouts helps our teams in our Minneapolis and San Francisco offices get together and have meaningful discussions rather than spinning in the nuance of how we phrased something in an email.” —Jane Delworth, managing director at mono
10. and 11. Meditation
“Headspace—20 minutes meditation a day every day makes all the difference to my productivity.” —Charlotte Smith, partner at Liberty Blue
“Even if it’s just 10 to 15 minutes a day. It centers me, keeps me focused on what matters right now, and helps me to stay calm under stress—which ultimately makes me more productive. Walking meditation is my favorite type of meditation.” —Justine Bloome, EVP, strategy and innovation at Carat USA
“My favorite podcast is Ted Radio Hour. I love the diversity of interviews and content matter, which always expands my thinking in new and surprising ways.” —Olivia Fay, CEO and creative director of Rallier
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