What the World’s Top CEOs and Executives Can Teach You About Productivity

Your work is piling up. The stress is mounting. Your to-do list is now pages long. And there’s only so many hours in the day to get it all done. How on earth will you manage?

We’ve all been there. For some of us, almost every day. But here’s the thing: if the world’s top CEOs and executives can manage to get it all done, then so can the rest of us. The key is to implement little productivity habits into your everyday life.

Just what kinds of habits, you might ask? A good place to start is by following in the footsteps of the masters of productivity themselves. Here are some of the ways that they manage to stay productive…

1. Mark Cuban: Get Straight to the Point

Even in e-mail, Mark Cuban cuts to the chase. According to Cuban, “Everything is documented so the number of ‘let’s talk again or get together to clarify’ or ‘get on the same page’ are gone. People learn very quickly to document and get to the point without the ‘intonation’ of trying to sell me that occurs in meetings. I’m a Dragnet type of e-mail guy. Nothing but the facts. Leave the BS for other people.”

Lesson learned: Don’t leave messages open to interpretation. Be factual and to-the-point in your email delivery. This will result in less of the back-and-forth, which hampers communication—and productivity.

2. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet: O.H.I.O (Only Hold It Once)

Eric Schmidt has a policy that he refers to as O.H.I.O (Only Hold It Once). In other words, he immediately responds to emails with small tasks and then sets larger tasks or emails aside. If he is able to deal with it right away, he does. This way, he doesn’t have to keep coming back to the same email multiple times.

Lesson learned: Instead of letting everything pile up, at least take care of the little stuff as soon as possible. Then tackle the bigger stuff.

If you want to take it a step further, you could set a policy for yourself. For each email that is opened, you must take one of the following actions: respond to it, delete it or forward it.

3. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter: Create Themes for Each Day of Week

For Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, Monday is for management; Tuesday is for product; Wednesday is for marketing, communications and growth; Thursday is for developers and partnerships; Friday is for the company, culture and recruiting; Saturday is for relaxation; and Sunday is for reflection, strategy and prepping for week ahead.

Having a system like this in place not only helps keep Dorsey organized, but it helps provide structure for his entire team, as well. Members of each department know exactly when they will be working with Dorsey and what to expect from day to day. This also helps ensure that nothing ever gets forgotten.

At SUCCESS agency, we also have several themed days throughout the week. Every day is devoted to each department, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for sharing what we call Value Adds or individual presentations that teach the rest of the team something valuable. Thursdays are what we call Thirsty Thursdays, where we all share something that we learned that week from our hour of Intentional Learning (which is time spent devoted to learning something new). Finally, on “Small Win Fridays” we all mention a small (or big) accomplishment that we noted that week.

Lesson learned: Give some structure to your week. Themed days will make things flow easier and will help ensure that everything gets done that needs to.

4. Jamie Wong, CEO and Founder of Vayable: Schedule Activities Unrelated to Work

Wong’s secret productivity weapon? She schedules in three activities a week that are unrelated to work—one for Create, one for Love and one for Grow.

She swears by boxing (which falls under the Grow category): “Not only is it an amazing workout, but the mental and physical discipline it requires is a great exercise and metaphor for achieving anything outside of my comfort zone…I find that boxing, like many sports, is always a powerful metaphor for life and business, and I am able to draw on its power throughout the week.”

Lesson learned: In order to be productive, it’s crucial to spend some time away from work. If you have to, schedule those non-work activities into your week, like Wong does.

5. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook: Set Annual Goals

In 2010, Zuckerberg set the goal to learn Chinese…then in 2015, his goal was to read a book every two weeks.

Lesson learned: Set goals for yourself but also schedule time to achieve those goals. Even if they are personal goals, like Zuckerberg’s, they should be given as much importance as your career goals. Personal growth will, after all, facilitate career growth—the two go hand-in-hand.

6. Mark Zuckerberg; Keith Rabois, Paypal Executive; Steve Jobs, CEO and Founder of Apple: Have Only One Focus

Noah Kagan, the 30th employee to join Facebook, pitched an idea to Zuckerberg once: show skeptics that Facebook was capable of making money. In response, Zuckerberg wrote out the following word on the whiteboard: “GROWTH.” He then “proclaimed he would not entertain any idea unless it helped Facebook grow by total number of ‘users.’”

As Paypal executive, Keith Rabois, explains, if you give your employees multiple things to focus on, they will gravitate towards the easier tasks or ones with a clearer solution. Giving attention to multiple things will also bring about suboptimal results. Better to do one thing really well than multiple things only decently well.

It’s for that reason that Steve Jobs required an “action list” after each meeting he had at Apple. Next to each action item would be a “DRI” or Directly Responsible Individual who would be in charge of getting that task done. Jobs used delegation to allow team members to stay focused on just one thing.

Lesson learned: It’s okay to have multiple goals, but make sure that you and your team members only have one primary focus. And when completing your tasks, don’t try to juggle numerous things at once. Multitasking has been shown to decrease productivity by 40%. Focus on one thing at a time. Even if it seems like it takes longer, you will be much more pleased with the result in the end.

7. Katia Beauchamp, Co-Founder of Birchbox: Include Response Deadline in Emails

In an effort to facilitate the prioritization process, Beauchamp requires all of her employees to put response deadlines in each and every email they send her. In other words, they must mention when they need a response to the email by.

Lesson learned: Don’t be shy about requesting certain things from your team members that help you work more efficiently. For Katia Beauchamp, that’s enforcing a response deadline in all emails. For you, that might be something else.

8. Richard Branson, CEO and Founder of Virgin Group: Exercise

What’s Richard Branson’s number one productivity superpower? Working out. He even claims that it gives him another four hours of productive time each day.

Lesson learned: Exercise has been proven to improve alertness and cognitive function, making it easier to focus. While it can be easy and tempting to make excuses to skip exercise, don’t. Schedule it into your day or write post-it notes reminding yourself of the many benefits of exercise.

9. Arianna Huffington, CEO and founder of Huffington Post: Sleep

Arianna Huffington has a pretty simple productivity tip: sleep. She feels so strongly about the power of sleep that she even wrote a book on it: The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. In her words, Huffington states that, “My single most effective trick for getting things done is to stop doing what I’m doing and get some sleep.”

Lesson learned: It’s no secret that lack of sleep negatively impacts cognitive performance, from memory to attention span. If you really want to maximize your productivity, don’t skimp on sleep. If this is something that you are having trouble with, set an alarm on your phone to go off 30 minutes before your bedtime. And be sure that you are sleeping no less than seven to eight hours a night.

In Sum

Every person mentioned above became successful for one reason and one reason only: they were able to get things done.

Imitate these productivity habits—or create your own—and guess what? You will too.