You know that guy in the office well. He gets up at 5 a.m. every morning. Meditation, gym, shower, coffee, clothing, desk. He’s like a machine. And when he gets to his workstation, he’s head down and kicking ass before your eyelids even de-droop. He’s the dictionary definition of productivity, and you secretly wish you could be like him.
Well, you can be, according to Fast Company. The magazine put together a list of 10 top performers in a number of industries and asked them how they remain so damned productive. (Read the full feature here.) RealClearLife has further curated this into a list of essential tenets to productivity for your professional life.
Be a Collaborator
Look, collaboration is good in every office environment. But what it really involves is sharing the giant plate of work on your desk with others. So you can focus on one task, rather than a million. Actor/comedian Kevin Hart dropped this bit of wisdom to Fast Company about collaboration: “I don’t walk into a meeting with a ‘me, me, me’ attitude. I walk in and say, ‘How do I become your partner?'” What’s the first thing he does in the morning? Goes to the gym. (We see you, imaginary office guy.)
Take a Lot of Breaks
There’s also that guy in the office who’s constantly getting up and wandering around the halls. Maybe he pokes his head in a colleague’s office or heads to the kitchen. Either way, you’re like, “Does that guy ever do anything?” Well, he may be onto something. Philanthropist Melinda Gates told FC: “I build in 15-minute breaks so that I can take some quiet time and close on one meeting before I go to the next. I’m a big believer in taking time to pause and reflect, particularly when you’re working on some of the big challenges in the world.”
We know what you’re thinking: “How can you conduct any business if you don’t say anything?” Well, we didn’t mean no talking at all, but according to Marco Bizzari, president and CEO of Gucci, putting a cap on what he says makes his day way more productive. “The conversations I have [during the day] last between one and five minutes, never more than that, so that everyone knows they can always get an answer from me,” he told Fast Company.
Be a Loner
Again, you’re thinking, “What did RealClearLife put in its real clear coffee this morning?” But hear us out: Every job requires you to be creative in some way. Even those truckers that spend all night on the road and take two pit stops. They’re being creative with the time they have available to them. And when creativity hits, you don’t want to let it go: You just want to continue until it runs out. Shonda Rhimes, showrunner and creator of hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, has this to say: “I need most of my time for creative work. A lot of that involves shutting off everybody else. I have a rule that you’re not allowed to come into my office unless you have a solution—not a problem.” When does she wake up? Around 5 a.m. (Another point for the imaginary office guy.)
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
We know this runs counter to the “Don’t Speak” advice, but this is more about meeting situations—or instances where you’re working on a collaborative project. When Fast Company interviewed Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, he was deep into a meeting with one of his teams, “peppering them with questions, opinions, and advice.” And that went on for 30 minutes. “Nothing makes me happier than a product review in which I can sit with the team and they’re showing me something they’re building,” said Pichai. “Being able to react to it and think through, ‘When users get this, what will their feedback be?’ I’m always on a quest to do that better and do more of it.”
Just Say ‘No’
We’re not talking about Nancy Reagan here. We’re talking about the ability to get beyond being a yes-man. Says food mogul Andrew Zimmern: “No is the most powerful word in the English language. Saying no to something means you’re able to say yes to something else that may be more important.”
Understand the Power of the Solution
If you suffer from anxiety, you’ll know that one of the most crushing things about it is the question that continues circulating throughout your mind when you’re busy: “How the [expletive] am I going to ever get all of this stuff done?” Whitney Wolfe, the founder and CEO of Bumble, has some sage words of advice for you: “I’ve [learned] that nothing really is the end of the world; it can all be solved at some point.” In other words, for every problem that’s hurled at you, there’s a solution.
If you’re a fan of meditation, you’ll know that “mindfulness” is a big keyword these days. Basically, it means concentrating on one thing at a time, and blocking out all other areas of thought. Here’s journalist and author Andrew Ross Sorkin: “When I was writing Too Big to Fail, I would spend three or four hours doing that, and then I’d switch gears to writing daily stories or columns [for The New York Times] related to the financial crisis, and I would have to force myself not to think about [the book].” Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, echoes this ideal: “If I looked at email and Twitter and texts [during the day], I don’t think I would ever give my full attention to anything. You cannot be insightful if you’re deluged with information.”
Get Lost in Some Rock and Roll
Some people have their earbuds plugged in all day. That’s just how they roll. Imaginary office guy—remember him?—doesn’t have time for music, because he’s too busy shuffling his papers. Well, sorry, imaginary office guy: Music is good for office productivity. Says Elizabeth O’Neill, Woodford Reserve’s master taster: “For creative work, it’s James Taylor, Tom Petty, George Strait. For a repetitive task, it’s something more energetic, like ’80s pop, Beyoncé.”
—Will Levith for RealClearLife