Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires a particular skill set. You need a good idea (or the ability to recognize somebody else’s), a knack for inspiring employees and customers, and above all, focus. There’s simply no way you can quickly grow a company from $1 to $100 million without being able to get a lot done at once.

That’s where productivity comes in. When it comes to sheer number of tasks, CEOs probably have more to deal with than anyone. They have more emails to answer, more meetings to go to, and more decisions to make. How do they manage?

Below are the habits some of the world’s most successful CEOs rely on to get stuff done. From strategies for handling your email to ways to approach your lifestyle, there’s a productivity secret in here for everyone.

10 Productivity Habits Successful CEOs Swear By

1. Eric Schmidt

His secret: The O.H.I.O. ("Only Hold It Once") method. This means Schmidt immediately responds to emails that take less than two minutes so he's not revisiting small tasks multiple times.

How to use it: Have an email from a prospect asking to confirm a meeting time? Respond to it now. But if you get a request for information or a longer series of questions, finish what you're working on now before you switch gears.

He is: Google's Executive Chairman     Age: 60     Net Worth: $11 billion 

2. Jack Dorsey

His secret: Dorsey assigns a theme to each day of the week so he can work with single-minded focus. For example, Mondays are for management, and Tuesdays are for product.

How to use it: Realistically, you can't only make calls on one day of the week. But you can theme each hour (or blocks of hours) so you have time devoted to calls, emails, prospecting, and more. 

He is: Square and Twitter's CEO     Age: 39     Net Worth: $944 million 

3.  Gina Trapani

Her secret: A three-folder email system: "Follow up" for emails that require a reply, "Hold" for messages to be handled in the future, and "Archive" for emails that don't need a response.

How to use it: It depends on how you work. You can stick with Trapani's system, or create a system based on deal stage or any sorting method that works best for you. 

She is: Lifehacker's founder     Age: 39     Net Worth: $109 million 

4. Andrew Marsh

His secret: Marsh (and his team) place "cones of silence" on their desks when they need to work without being interrupted.

How to use it: When working on tasks that require concentration, such as writing follow-up emails, sourcing leads, or prepping for calls, put on headphones (or get a cone) to indicate that you're not available for impromptu meetings.

He is: Fifth Column Games' CEO     Age: 34

5. Kathryn Minshew

Her secret: Doing her most concentration-intensive tasks during her most productive hours.

How to use it: Observe your own behavior to determine when you are most productive. Then, guard those hours and reserve them for your most difficult or least favorite tasks.

She is: The Muse's CEO     Age: 30

6. Dustin Moskovitz

His secret: At Asana, "No Meetings Wednesday" keeps employees' calendars clear at least one day each week.

How to use it: Again, it's not realistic to refrain from making calls one day a week. However, you can block out off hours each day for administrative tasks or other work.

He is: Asana's CEO    Age: 31     Net Worth: $9.9 billion 

7. Stefano Merlo

His secret: Merlo keeps a "distraction list." If he remembers an unfinished task or an idea pops into his head, he simply writes it down for later and returns to his task.

How to use it: Keep a piece of paper and pen within reach at all times, and revisit it when you're less busy.

He is:'s CEO     Age: 30

8. Oprah Winfrey

Her secret: Radical focus keeps Winfrey working on just one thing at a time. "Multitasking? That's a joke for me. When I try to do that, I don't do anything well," she told Fast Company.

How to use it: Eliminate distraction. Close out of any channels you don't need for a particular task, and don't reopen them (or switch gears) until you've finished it.

She is: Oprah Winfrey Network's CEO     Age: 62     Net Worth: $3.1 billion 

 9. Jamie Wong

Her secret: Wong schedules three non-negotiable personal activities per week in the categories "Create," "Love," and "Grow."

How to use it: Research shows that happier people perform better at work. Is putting in 60 hours at work a week really going to make you better at your job? No. So make sure to set aside personal time each week. Then, take it.

She is: Vayable's CEO     Age: 35

10. Chad Dickerson


His secret: Every time Dickerson adds a new person to his network, he jots quick notes about how he met them and what they talked about.

How to use it: Get into the habit of taking notes on all your sales calls in your CRM so you're never racking your brain for the details of your last conversation.

He is: Etsy's CEO     Age: 43

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Originally published Feb 15, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated February 09 2017


Sales Productivity