From CEOs to best-selling authors, some of the most successful people on the planet seem to achieve a never-ending list of accomplishments. Exactly how do these seemingly super-humans manage to get everything done during the day? Keep reading to steal some of their unusual (and useful!) habits that increase productivity. (Cover Image: parade.com)
A single day is filled with endless decisions, especially if you’re the leader of a flourishing tech company. Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg chooses to make one of those daily choices simple by wearing the same outfit (a gray T-shirt and hoodie) every day. He says this allows him to focus on only the most important decisions that come up while running his billion-dollar business.
Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, argues that sleep is the “ultimate performance-enhancing drug” when it comes to productivity. After collapsing from exhaustion in 2007, Huffington reignited her love affair with having a healthy amount of sleep and turned her bedroom into a climate-controlled dreamer’s paradise. Being well-rested allows her to be fully energized when making tough decisions.
The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, uses three computer monitors to conquer his onslaught of incoming emails. Gates’ game plan: one monitor for incoming emails, a second screen for the specific email he’s answering, and a third for his regular desktop. Concentrating on solving one issue at a time lets Gates give each request thorough attention and helps get his inbox down to zero.
While sitting on a train, the idea of a young boy who suddenly finds out that he is a wizard popped into the head of a then-unknown writer named J.K. Rowling. Too shy to ask for a pen, Rowling let her mind wander into a daydream about the world of Harry Potter and the rest is history. Rowling had unknowingly participated in an important stage of the creative process known as “incubation.” When looking for a solution, take a cue from one of the most beloved writers on the planet and allow unstructured time to brainstorm new ideas.
How does inventor and entrepreneur Jack Dorsey successfully lead two companies, Twitter and Square, at the same time? He themes his days, of course. Dorsey gives each day’s focus a different theme: Mondays are for management, Tuesdays for product, Wednesdays for growth, Thursdays for partnerships, and Fridays for company culture. This allows his team to focus on a single goal for each day and to get the most out of his work week.
Mindy Kaling, creator and star of the TV show The Mindy Project, banishes her doubts and holds true to the idea that if you believe in yourself, others will too. When asked about how she stays focused under the threat of cancellation, Kaling told The Hollywood Reporter, “I refuse to create under the assumption of failure. I don’t think you can be productive that way…If I’m the creator, and I’m not thinking that we’re going to keep going…then who else is going to think that?” Her kick-ass self-confidence ensures she’s producing her best work without fear, resulting in some of the most hilarious (and moving) moments on TV.
Russell Simmons isn’t quiet about how his mindfulness practice has changed his life. The music mogul and entrepreneur meditates twice a day, and believes his routine inspires stillness of the mind, sharpens focus, and increases productivity.
Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank investor and founder of the Corcoran Group, has developed a visual system to focus on the businesses that she’s invested in through Shark Tank. Corcoran explains, “After I sign a deal, I have everybody send in a photo of themselves. I frame it and I put it on my wall. After that four-month period, the minute I realize they’re not a great entrepreneur, I flip the frame over…It’s my symbol: Don’t spend any time on this. I put my focus on my good ones.” Creating a visual system, like Corcoran’s, helps go-getters eliminate distractions and narrow down the most important goals.
Robert Kirkman, creator of the hit comic book turned TV series The Walking Dead, has an unusual habit to trick himself into a productive writing day. “I’ll be like, ‘I want to write 12 pages today,’ but I really only need to write like four or five. But if I try to write 12, I might write six or seven. What that does though, is it gives me a crushing sense of failure at the end of every day… The next day I work harder because I have to make up for that unrealistic deadline I didn’t make,” Kirkman says, laughing. Kirkman’s quirky system creates a false sense of urgency that gets his creative juices flowing and keeps his writing schedule on track.
…or create your own version of a quiet room, like inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu. This prolific inventor has patented over 3,300 inventions and is the creator of the floppy disk (R.I.P.). He uses his washroom, made entirely of 24-karat gold, to “block out television and radio waves” and to gain seclusion for his creative process, proving that some of the best ideas can come from sitting on the toilet.