7 Productivity Hacks from Top CEOs

As the leader of a growing company, you’re being pulled in numerous different directions every day. Seven CEOs share their tips for cutting down on distractions and focusing on few things that really matter.

It’s Monday morning and you’re feeling energized and excited about the week ahead. As you head to the office, you begin to think about the two or three things you really need to tackle this week and begin to visualize how you’ll structure your workday to address key corporate objectives. Then you walk through your company’s front door and those plans go out the window.

You’ve got a thousand emails to go through, 10 voicemails to answer, and a half dozen meeting requests from managers, board members, and fellow management team members. Your day has barely begun, and already you’ve lost any real chance you had of being truly productive.

Ah, the life of an expansion-stage CEO — a job that very often feels more like refereeing than leading.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be that way. By embracing the productivity hacks used by the seven CEOs below, you can limit the noise that often keeps you from doing your job and free up more time to focus on the strategic activities and corporate objectives that truly move your company forward.

7 CEO Productivity Hacks

1. Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith: Ensure that Everyone Is On the Same Page

When all of your employees are rowing in the same direction and collaborating to achieve mutual goals, the company’s day-to-day operations virtually run themselves — and that inevitably frees up time for you to focus on higher-level strategic decisions and objectives.

How can you make this happen? As Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith tells the Wall Street Journal, it’s all about consistently communicating the company’s goals and objectives, and providing staff with the relevant data they need to think for themselves, make the right decisions, and perform their jobs at the highest level possible.

2. MetaLab CEO Andrew Wilkinson: Don’t Waste Time Putting Out Other People’s Fires

Like Smith, MetaLab CEO Andrew Wilkinson believes the key to CEO productivity is to hire smart people and loosen the reins.

What does that mean? As Wilkinson articulates in this post, CEOs can’t be afraid to let their people put out their own fires. If something goes wrong, Wilkinson says CEOs should allow their employees to figure out a solution on their own and learn from the experience. Saving the day every time something goes wrong won’t just make your employees totally dependent on you, Wilkinson says. It will also make it impossible for you to focus on the strategic objectives that really matter.

3. 37Signals CEO Jason Fried: Avoid M&Ms Like the Plague

No, not those M&Ms. To improve productivity, 37Signals Jason Fried tells Inc.com that he does his best to avoid meetings and managers unless his involvement is absolutely necessary.

Yes, managers are a critical piece of your organizational structure, and meetings are a necessary part of your daily routine. But Fried says that being too hands-on and involved with meetings and managers generally does more harm than good. And since managers are often the people who call meetings, Fried says their very presence (and yours, for that matter) leads to less productive workdays.

4. Imagine Schools CEO Dennis Bakke: Make Just One Big Decision Each Year

One of the biggest productivity mistakes CEOs make is trying to do too much with the limited time they have. To avoid that error, Imagine Schools co-founder and Chancellor Dennis Bakke tells Xconomy that he aims to make just one big decision each year.

That might seem like an overly hands-off approach to corporate management, but Bakke says it actually promotes organization-wide productivity and efficiency. By avoiding top-down decision-making, Bakke says CEOs can empower the people with the most knowledge on a subject to make decisions for them. That not only lightens your load as CEO, Bakke says, it also ensures that each of your employees remains invested and fully engaged in their work.   

5. Intellect Resources CEO Tiffany Crenshaw: Huddle Up Every Morning

Instead of waiting for managers to come to you with questions or problems, Intellect Resources CEO Tiffany Crenshaw recommends a more proactive approach to tackling daily snafus.

By starting the day with quick, 15-minute huddles (first with C-level executives and then with managers or other company leaders), Crenshaw tells Inc.com that CEOs can provide a forum for the management hierarchy below them to quickly run through the obstacles they’re facing. Furthermore, because managers and executives are huddling up together, Crenshaw says the team can leverage the collective brainpower of the group to more effectively address those issues.

6. AtTask CEO Eric Morgan: Know When to Say “No”

Invariably, expansion-stage CEOs are inundated every day with meeting requests, invites, and other opportunities that are not necessarily aligned with their strategic objectives.

But in order to stay productive (rather than just busy), AtTask CEO Eric Morgan tells PCMag that chief executives need to understand when to say “no” to those requests. Whether it’s to customers, investors, management team members, or whoever may ask you to do something that isn’t vital to the success of your business, Morgan says doing that will allow you to better prioritize and organize your day around the things that matter most.

Along those lines, Morgan also recommends using something other than email as a main source of managing work. Doing so only perpetuates work silos, Morgan says, and it also creates opportunities to become distracted by irrelevant issues.

7. VersionOne CEO Robert Holler: Empower Your Teams to Collaborate

All too often, CEOs view themselves as the funnel every major decision involving the company has to flow through. But that’s an old school way of thinking that needs to be changed, VersionOne CEO Robert Holler says in this podcast.

Holler says that a more powerful — and productive — way to lead is to empower teams to work together toward solutions. By transitioning to a “servant leadership model” that empowers collaborative decision-making, Holler says CEOs will not only make their lives easier, they’ll also improve the quality and performance of every team in their organization.

Have any productivity tips of your own that have improved the way you manage your team and your daily schedule? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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Photo by: Guy Sie

Josh Zywien
Josh Zywien
Content Marketer

Josh is a Content Marketer at Ambassador which gives marketers the tools they need to grow customer relationships and drive revenue through word-of-mouth, referrals, and recommendations. Previously, he was an Account Executive at CBS, Inc.
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