7 Productivity Tips and Lessons from Successful People

Maximizing productivity is something that every organization – right down to every single individual working in that setup – aspires to do.

If you think about it, we often think about being more productive on a personal level in the different facets of our lives, and how we can be more productive throughout the day, the week, the year and our lives.

Being more productive doesn’t simply mean getting more work done – as you’re about to see, it’s much more than that.

My motto in life is to learn from the best, and that’s what I’ve done. Since being productive is one of the things so many organizations and individuals aspire to be, here are productivity tips from people who who have seen it all, done it all – the masters of productivity!

1. Work smarter, not harder – Scrooge McDuck (Carl Barks)

I know, a cartoon character! But still, Scrooge nails it on the head with this quote. Scrooge, as you may know, was the ‘world’s richest person’ in the Disney universe. And if you think about it, it’s actually very good advice. Don’t get me wrong, working hard is a great virtue, but working smart – which in itself involves a lot of things, such as prioritizing your time, being more effective in your communication, working with the right team, synergizing, and so on – is much better in so many ways, and especially for productivity, in the long run.

2. Focus on a few things – Steve Jobs

If you’ve read Steve Jobs’s autobiography, you might have read the bit about him not being a very big fan of multitasking. Indeed, Job did not believe in multitasking at all, and the biggest proof of this is Apple. When Jobs took over at Apple for the second time, one of the first things he did was reducing the number of products the company had on offer from dozens to just a few. This allowed Apple to focus all their efforts, energies and resources into perfecting those few products. And it applies to productivity too. Multitasking actually kills productivity, and I’d go as far as to say that it is one of the biggest productivity-killer. Because when you try to do a lot of things simultaneously at the same time, you simply cannot give proper attention to everything, which in turn adversely affects the quality of your work.

3. Develop a routine – Haruki Murakami

“People need routines. It’s like a theme in music. It structures your priorities” says famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami, who speaks about the importance of a rigorous routine – which for him comprises of waking up every single day at 5am and going to bed at 10pm – in his book called ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’. He speaks about how a rigorous routine, such as the one he has, is crucial to his impressive creative output. Indeed, without a routine, there’s no structure in life. Waking up at a certain time, and doing things at set points of time is very important for productivity. This is precisely why Sundays are usually so unproductive – people break their routines and get close to nothing done.

4. Get up early – Donald Trump

Along with having a proper and rigorous routine that I have followed to the ground for years, I am also a very big fan of getting up early, as it has a big bearing on how productive my day is, and my productivity levels throughout the day. This is actually something that a lot of the big guns out there not only recommend doing, but do themselves. Studies have shown that the human brain is at the peak of it’s productivity early in the day. And getting up super-early is the secret to success for a lot of productive and super-successful people out there. With one being none other than Donald Trump. Here’s what this self-made billionaire’s routine looks like: getting up at 5am every day, reading six different newspapers, watching the news, and looking through magazines and books – all before heading to the office at 8:30 am. Trump says that he needs at least three hours in the morning for thinking and reading to be able to start his day. Develop your own ‘getting up early’ regime like I did – go for a walk or a run, hit the gym, meditate, read, or play the guitar before you hit work. But the key is getting up early. In addition, tackle all hard tasks early in the morning when you’re fresh and your brain is working at peak efficiency.

5. Set goals and make an effort to meet them – Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the most popular and well-know authors out there, and perhaps one of the most famous people in the world. One of the thing King is a big fan of, and recommends is setting goals. In his book called ‘On Writing,’ King recommends to writing at least 1,000 words every single day – including weekends and holidays – and reading for 4-6 hours every day. King says he writes a minimum of 2000 words or 10 pages every day when he’s working on a novel, and makes sure he meets his goals every day. The man has 49 best-seller’s to him name, so it is obvious that this kind of goal setting is actually productive!

6. Avoid overworking on burning yourself out – Various

Working hard and working smart is great, but it should never come at the expense of mentally-draining or burning yourself out. Taking breaks actually does wonders for your productivity. A lot of the productivity and time-management gurus out there recommend splitting your hours in 50/10 or 45/15 chunks – work for 50 mins and then take a break for 10. Use these 10 minutes to walk around, have a glass of water, check Facebook or participate in some gossip. In addition, Winston Churchill was a big fan of taking a nap to boost productivity. And indeed, taking a midday nap (called a power-nap) is actually part of the work culture in corporate Japan, who are strong believers that this boost productivity for the rest of the day. In addition, Michel Foucault, a famous philosopher was a big believer in working for short number of hours – his work routine was 9 to 3 every day.

7. Learn to say no – Warren Buffet

Saying no will probably be your biggest weapon in the corporate world. I found this out the hard way. Billionaire, investor and one of the most richest people in the world Wareen Buffet puts it perfectly when he says: ‘You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.’  This is also one of the things that Bill Gates has learnt from Buffet, as when both met in 1991, Gates was surprised to Buffet’s date book, which was practically empty! Buffet says that in order to be creative, you need to learn to say no. People reading this, however, will attest to the fact that it is easier said than done! Buffet also says that ‘the ability to say “no” is a tremendous advantage for an investor,’ and ‘ it is more important to say “no” to an opportunity, than to say “yes”.’ Every human being has a limited amount of time in his or her lifetime, and Buffet is spot-on when he says that you simply cannot allow people to dictate your agenda. It kills creativity, and it kills productivity. Set your own agenda, and learn to say now when you have to. You will notice a dramatic change in your life and your productivity. Lifehacker.com did a couple of great articles on how to say no, linked here (link 1, link 2) that you might want to read.