Productivity hacks are shortcuts, tricks, or strategies that help you get more done in the same amount of time. We all know some of the basic hacks, like drinking coffee in the morning to get a caffeine boost or planning your day the night before, but there are far more hacks and strategies worth exploring than any one person can imagine.
I always find it helpful to look to the entrepreneurs who have already found success; clearly, they have a strategy that works. That’s why I came up with this list of six entrepreneurs who came up with productivity hacks that I think are brilliant:
1. Elon Musk starts with critical emails. Elon Musk is the founder and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, all future-focused technology companies, and holds an overall CEO approval rating of 98 percent. How does he manage all those projects on a day to day basis? It all starts at 7 am, with a half-hour period of addressing “critical emails.” Musk focuses on signal over noise, filtering out any emails or communications that aren’t critical, and instead focuses on catching up only the most important items. That half-hour gives him a quick start to the day, and gives him an idea of his main priorities for the next several hours.
2. Jeff Bezos uses the two-pizza rule. Anyone with professional experience has been in a meeting that ended up being a waste of time. Meetings, despite being critical opportunities for communication and collaboration, often turn into chaotic ordeals, sapping time from everyone in the room because they were poorly organized, poorly planned, or poorly executed. One of the biggest reasons for this time loss is the sheer number of people involved — even 15 minutes of time wasted turns into 3 hours of time wasted when there’s 12 people in the room. That’s why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos uses the “two-pizza rule” — he never invites more people to a meeting than two pizzas could sufficiently feed. Depending on your employees’ appetites, that’s a maximum of 6–8 people.
3. Dustin Moskowitz keeps one day a week meeting-free. Dustin Moskowitz, CEO of Asana, tries to keep at least one day of the week completely free and open. Borrowing from an idea they got from Facebook, Asana hosted “no meeting Wednesdays,” which kept all Wednesdays completely free from calendar events. This eliminates the possibility for bad or time-wasting meetings on at least one day of the week, and ensures everyone in the company has at least one full workday a week to focus exclusively on heads-down projects. You may not be able to set aside a full day, depending on your position, but you can at least set aside a few hours a week to remain uninterrupted.
4. Richard Branson makes lists. Lists aren’t exactly an uncommon feature in the productivity world, but Richard Branson demonstrates how they can be used for just about anything. Branson is known for carrying a notebook everywhere he goes, and prefers handwritten lists to digital or mental ones, transforming everything from daily tasks to long-term project goals into digestible lists that can be crossed out, item by item. The lists keep everything written down — so they don’t get lost — and organized — so they’re easier to accomplish. You don’t have to start carrying a notebook around, but it pays to keep all your information as organized as possible, while never letting a good idea slip through the cracks.
5. Robert Kirkman sets ambitious goals. Robert Kirkman, the cofounder of Skybound Entertainment, the company responsible for “The Walking Dead” comic and TV series (as well as multiple other projects), keeps himself productive by setting overly ambitious goals for himself. If he wants to write 4 or 5 pages in a day, he sets a goal to write 12, and might end up writing 6 or 7. Since he didn’t hit that goal, he works harder the next day, and ends up achieving far more than if he’d set less ambitious goals in the first place.
6. Steve Jobs focused on only the best ideas. Steve Jobs was known for being somewhat brutal in his approach to management and leadership, intolerant of bad ideas and demanding of his employees — but he got results. One of his most important productivity hacks was filtering out everything that wasn’t a top-notch idea; on corporate retreats, Jobs was known to collect a list of 100 ideas from his top executives on how Apple could improve in the next year. He immediately crossed out anything he thought was dumb, then kept crossing things out until he had a “top 10” list. Out of those 10, he only kept 3, and used those as the focus for the company for the next year. Only 3 percent of ideas were worth spending time on.
If you find yourself chronically short on time and high on stress, try giving these six productivity hacks a try — or come up with a few experiments on your own. It may take some time to find the perfect formula, but the more you optimize your work schedule, the more productive and more satisfied you’re going to be.