15 Secrets of Ultra-Productive Ceos—Part 2

In Part 1, we’ve talked about the first seven secrets to productivity of startup CEOs. Now, we give you the last eight efficiency hacks you can apply to your daily routine.

Secret #8: They avoid meetings at all costs.

When I asked Mark Cuban to give me his best productivity advice, he quickly responded, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Meetings are notorious time killers. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander in their topics and run long. You should get out of meetings whenever you can, hold fewer of them yourself, and if you do run a meeting, keep it short.

Secret #9: They say “no” to almost everything.

Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And James Altucher colorfully gave me this tip: “If something is not a ‘hell, yeah!’ Then it’s a ‘no!’” Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes in every day. Don’t give them away easily.

Secret #10: They follow the 80/20 rule.

Known as the Pareto Principle, 80 percent of outcomes come from only 20 percent of activities in most cases. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results, then focus on those and ignore the rest.

Secrets #11: They delegate almost everything.

Ultra-productive people don’t ask, “How can I do this task?” Instead, they ask, “How can this task get done.” They take the “I” out of it as much as possible. Ultra-productive people don’t have control issues, and they are not micro-managers. In many cases, good enough is, well, good enough.

Secret #12: They theme days of the week.

Highly successful people often theme days of the week to focus on major areas. For decades, I’ve used “Mondays for Meetings” and make sure I’m doing one-on-one check-ins with each direct report. My Friday afternoons are themed around financials and general administrative items that I want to clean up before the new week starts.

I’ve previously written about Jack Dorsey’s work themes, which enable him to run two companies at once. Batch your work to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness.

Secret #13: They touch things only once.

How many times have you opened a piece of regular mail—a bill perhaps—and then put it down only to deal with it again later? How often do you read an email, and then close it and leave it in your inbox to deal with later?

Highly successful people try to “touch it once.” If it takes less than 5 or 10 minutes—whatever it is—they’ll deal with it right then and there. This practice reduces stress since unimportant emails won’t be in the back of their mind, and is more efficient since they won’t have to re-read or evaluate the item again in the future.

Secret #14: They practice a consistent morning routine.

My single greatest surprise while interviewing over 200 highly successful people was how many of them wanted to share their morning ritual with me. Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning told me, “While most people focus on ‘doing’ more to achieve more, ‘The Miracle Morning’ is about focusing on ‘becoming’ more so that you can start doing less, to achieve more.”

I’ve heard about a wide variety of habits, but most people I interviewed nurtured their body in the morning with water, a healthy breakfast and light exercise. They nurtured their mind with meditation or prayer, inspirational reading and journaling.

Secret #15: Energy is everything.

You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy, which will increase your attention, focus, decision-making and overall productivity. Highly successful people don’t skip meals, sleep or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and pulse and pause with “work sprints.”

Since releasing the book, I’ve gotten emails from readers every day telling me how their life has changed. The ideas that seem to have the biggest impact—not necessarily the easiest to adopt—is having a daily MIT, scheduling time for your MIT in the morning, throwing out your to-do list, and living from your calendar instead.