We all wish we had more hours in the day. We may feel unmoored by not being able to finish everything on our plates, but it’s important to remember that everyone experiences this, even the most successful entrepreneurs.
We caught up with 30 founders who told us their secrets to a productive work day, from exercise to taking copious notes to shutting off email and phones.
The interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.
1. Take notes about everything.
With email I respond either instantly or never. If I’m sitting there I can respond right away, but if I walk away, I get buried by a hundred more emails that come in. I wouldn’t be able to function without it.
2. Trust your employees to do their best work.
Name: Amber Venz
Productivity tip: Delegate. It has been something that has been so helpful to me. One of our investors actually told me that if there’s something that someone can do even 80 percent better than you can, let them do that thing, and you go focus on the thing that only you can do at 100 percent.
3. Make things easily shareable among your team.
Name: Julia Hartz
Productivity tip: For staying organized, Asana is great. You can build out projects and connect other users to task lists to contribute and collaborate. There’s also a Google integration, so that as tasks come in via email, you can add them to Asana with a few clicks. It’s all about having a central place to keep track of short-term and long-term goals. It is shareable with your team, so it encourages collaboration, which is key.
4. Cut email out of the equation.
Name: Tim Chen .
Productivity tip: I don’t generally check my email. I know it’s a bit socially offensive at times, but I try to do it in batches every two to three days. I might be just terrible at multitasking, but if you’re coding, it takes 10, 20 minutes to get reoriented after a distraction.
5. Be active every day.
Name: Bastian Lehmann
Productivity tip: I go to the gym every morning. Channeling my energy into sports leaves just the right amount of energy and passion for work.
6. Early to bed, early to rise.
Name: David Bladow
Productivity tip: Go to bed and get up early. Don’t let people interrupt you when you’re in your zone. Just say no more often and get comfortable saying no. If you can do those three things you’ll stay on a solid, productive path.
7. Switch off your devices.
Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Productivity tip: Turn off your phone. That’s really important. I historically have been somebody who fell victim to always having my phone with me, always checking it, and often, it’s easy to do that to your own detriment. Folks know that after a certain hour I’m not going to respond to emails. It’s important that we are efficient earlier in the day, so we can all allow ourselves those moments to check out.
8. Work without interruptions.
Name: Oliver Kharraz
Productivity tip: To work uninterrupted, block time on your calender, focus on doing one thing at a time and do it deliberately. Then move onto the next. And as a neurologist married to a medicine sleep doctor, I’d say get a good night sleep.
9. Turn your to do list into a game.
Name: Jack Groetzinger
Productivity tip: I keep a do-list of everything I want to do. In addition to sort of listing everything out, I also rank everything by importance and put next to it an estimated number of minutes that I think it will take to complete. I have a start and end time associated with each of those as well, so it sort of gamifies the process of working through your to-do list.
10. Don’t put off what you can do right now.
Name: Melissa Ben-Ishay
Company: Baked By Melissa
Productivity tip: Just get it done. If something presents itself and I have a minute to do it, I’m going to do it. Then I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
I think we underestimate the challenges we have in self motivation, especially if you’re not passionate about what it is you have to get done. You don’t have to love everything about your job or every task, but you should care about the overall goal and purpose for what it is you’re doing.
Writer: Nina Zipkin