Since the early 1970s, productivity—the amount of output per hour worked—has been steadily rising in America. Between 1973 and 2011, the productivity of the American worker has grown an astonishing 80 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Since 2000 alone, the productivity of average Americans has risen 23 percent. How are we achieving this extraordinary rise in productivity? In large part, it’s because we’re finding new tools and techniques to increase our focus and efficiency.
Below, some of the most productive people—from successful investors to “always-on” executives—share their secrets on how to be your most productive self, despite the overflowing in-boxes, the constant buzz of the phone and the never-ending ping of meeting alerts.
Clear Your Mind, Define Your Focus
“I send an email to my team each Monday morning with the top five things I will be focused on for the week. This really keeps me on track and gives me the focus I need.”
- Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction, principal at The Chatham Group, investor, advisor, mentor.
Cut Back On Meetings
Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), said he keeps productive by being diligent about meetings—sticking to the allotted time and only scheduling in-person meetings when it’s absolutely necessary.
All About Evernote
Dylan Tweney, the executive editor at VentureBeat, said Evernote, the popular note-taking and archiving service, is his go-to productivity tool. “I use Evernote to collect everything I might possibly need to save for later, with the exception of emails—Gmail is fine for that. I store all of my important documents—from notes to interviews—in Evernote.
I also use Evernote tags as a kind of to-do list: I have a set of tags that I can use to prioritize things that need to happen immediately or that I’m waiting for someone else to finish: (“1-next,” “2-soon,” “3-later,” “4-someday,” and “5-waiting”).”
Get Tunnel Vision
“Most people tend to focus on the 100 things they should do, which can be overwhelming and result in the failure to actually accomplishing anything of importance. I try to focus on the three to five things I absolutely have to do. I don’t get distracted by those ninety-seven other unimportant things that don’t ultimately contribute to my success or the success of my company.”
- Kevin O’Connor, the serial entrepreneur who founded both DoubleClick and more recentlyFindTheBest.
“I love to run in the morning before I get into work. Running clears my mind, gets the blood flowing and ultimately makes me much more focused and productive. During my morning runs, I try to come up with solutions to any unresolved problems at work, brainstorm new ideas, and really prioritize my work in terms of the top things I want to accomplish that day. By the time I get into work, I already have a set of focused priorities, and I also have the energy to make them happen.”
- Patrick Dolan, the EVP and COO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
Police Your Own Internet Habits: Notifications Are Evil
“I also have a tendency to begin earnestly researching something online with the very best of intentions and then get lost viewing irrelevant content and wasting way too much time. To limit this, I turn on a browser extension to Chrome called StayFocusd where I maintain a list of sites I can get lost on for hours—the New York Times and Facebook are my top two. StayFocusd alerts me after ten minutes have passed and then blocks the offending sites to help me resist temptation and stay focused on the task at hand.”
- Fred Bateman, the CEO and Founder of Bateman Group.
Put Email In Its Place
“More generally, email puts you in response mode, where you are doing what other people want you to do, rather than send mode, where you are deciding what you want to do and taking action.”
- Anne-Marie Slaugher, an author and professor of politics and international relations at Princeton University.
What are your productivity tips? How will you be more productive today?
[Image: Flickr user Massimo Regonati]