By Brad Hodgson
Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of productivity hacks—you can find them everywhere. But the problem is, so many of them are just random pieces of advice from average people with no proof that their advice actually works.
Wouldn’t it be better to follow the advice of already successful people and try to integrate their practices into your daily life? Here is some of the best real-world advice from successful entrepreneurs, which can help you make better decisions, increase your productivity, and keep you from procrastinating at work.
1. Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself
Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba
“I knew nothing about technology. I knew nothing about management. But the thing is, you don’t have to know a lot of things. You have to find people who are smarter than you. For many years, I’ve been finding people smarter than me and my job is to get these smart people to work together. And if smart people can work together, it’s easier.”—From a speech Jack Ma presented at the 2018 World Economic Forum.
2. Focus on what you love
Jay-Z, Hip-hop mogul
“It just got to a point where it was, like, ‘Make this decision, because this is something you really love and you love to do. It’s time to really focus on and then get serious about it, give it your all.’ And once I did that, it was no looking back from there.”—From an interview at the 2010 Forbes 400 Summit.
3. Cut down on your choices
Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook
“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. There’s actually a bunch of psychology theory that even making small decisions, around what you wear or what you eat for breakfast or things like that, they kind of make you tired and consume your energy…. I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”—From a Q&A interview where Mark Zuckerberg revealed why he wears a gray t-shirt every day.
4. Plan your day
Tim Ferriss, Entrepreneur and author of The 4-Hour Work Week
“Just a few minutes each morning can save you hours of wasting time or scattering your effort each day. Get centered on what truly matters each morning.”
“You can spend the whole of the day busy, but fail to tackle the most important items, which in many cases are the hardest things on your plate. So isolate the one or two most important things you need to accomplish today. One or two only.”
5. Wake up early and exercise daily
Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group
“No matter where I am, I rise early—usually around 5 a.m. I like to sleep with the curtains open, so the sunlight wakes me. I find natural light to be wonderfully motivating. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic about the day ahead with the sun streaming through the windows.
“If I am somewhere with a tennis court, I’ll generally play a hard couple of sets of tennis. If tennis isn’t an option, then I’ll go for a walk or a run, or jump on my bike. If I’m near the ocean, and there’s enough wind, I’ll go for a kitesurf. There’s no better way to start the day then with the wind in your hair, salt on your skin, and a smile on your face.”—From Richard Branson’s blog.
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6. Surround yourself with motivational reminders
Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS
“I surround myself with inspirational quotations. This easy-to-follow piece of advice has played a huge role in my being able to get past my own fears and insecurities throughout my entrepreneurial career.”
7. Make decisions quickly
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”—From a 2016 Amazon Letter to Shareholders
8. Hold less meetings
Elon Musk, Founder of Tesla
“Excessive meetings are the blight of companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”—From a 2018 email from Elon Musk to Tesla employees.
9. Don’t multitask
Oprah Winfrey, Entrepreneur and celebrity
“I have learned that your full-on attention for any activity you choose to experience comes with a level of intensity and truth. It’s about living a present life, moment to moment—not worrying about what’s going to happen at 3 o’clock and what’s going to happen at 7 o’clock…. That whole thing about multitasking? That’s a joke for me. When I try to do that, I don’t do anything well.”—From an interview with Fast Company.
10. Walk in solitude
Paulo Coelho, Brazilian author
“Walking is, for me, my way of thinking, my way of meditating. It is not that I’m thinking. But I’m in a kind of trance totally connected with the present moment.”—From an interview with The Tim Ferriss Show.
11. Treat people well
Larry Page, Founder of Google
“It’s important that the company be a family, that people feel that they’re part of the company, and that the company is like a family to them…. You treat people with respect, they tend to return the favor to the company.”—From an interview with Fortune.
12. Live in the moment
Adam Braun, Founder of Pencils of Promise
“I do my best to stay completely present for those that I’m in front of. This helps me reduce multitasking that might make me ineffective in addressing what I need to focus on in that moment.”—From an interview with SaneBox Blog.
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