Productivity Lessons from the Giants: Zuckerberg, Gates, Nadella, and Buffett
Being productive is more than just sitting at a desk and working. We’re at an age where everyone is more reachable than ever, but this comes with a risk of losing focus and concentrating on the wrong things at the wrong time.
There is a difference between effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, with the focus for most working individuals and companies, on the latter.
This is no coincidence, some of the world’s most influential people got to where they are by developing, maintaining, and improving productivity. High achievers like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Satya Nadella and Warren Buffett master the following skills to always stay productive to get what they want.
1. Make Every Communication Count
Communication can be a block to productivity. Devoting energy in the wrong place leads to time being wasted.
Co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates for example, is an advocate of communicating by email. And being a self-proclaimed master of emails is also one way business magnate Elon Musk stays productive; in his own words claiming the reason for this is, “I’m very good at email”.
Minimizing communication by phone or through meetings frees up time to concentrate on more imperative issues. So until email is eliminated altogether, messages can be deferred and thus allow you take control of your own schedule.
2. Optimize at Every Opportunity
Musk also advocates constantly questioning your productivity.4 Ask yourself how you could do something more efficiently or better use your time daily for as many scheduled events, meetings, and projects as possible.
This idea of optimizing your time and work also runs true for Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, who likes to keep things simple. He eliminates the mundane, or in his own words, “silly or frivolous” decisions in life, which allows him to concentrate on his work and to be as productive as possible.
One apparent example of this simplicity is his go-to grey t-shirt and jeans work outfit which he wears every day. Find out more about how keeping things simple leads to better decisions: Make Better Decisions by Knowing How Decision Fatigue Works
And he’s not the only one – the late Steve Jobs famously wore almost solely black turtlenecks, Albert Einstein was known for wearing the same grey suit and having unkempt hair, and you’ll only see Obama in either grey or black suits.
Finding the most simple and optimized way of completing tasks and projects means energy spent on something trivial, can be retargeted towards more important decision for your business.
This is also applicable to getting the simple things done first. This way, smaller tasks and decisions aren’t a distraction from tackling the bigger ones.
3. Bust Multi-tasking
Studies have shown that the brain doesn’t do things simultaneously, but rather switches between tasks. The implications for productivity means that rather than focusing on many things at a time, we are spending energy and brain-power on the action of switching from one task to another.
Eliminating multi-tasking can therefore increase productivity. Being in the moment and concentrating on one specific task will allow you to complete it without agonizing about what’s going to happen later in the day, or in the next meeting.
One way of doing this is by delegating and collaborating with others. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella announced in 2014, that the company will
“reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”
With such a vast number of apps and services allowing for collaboration through video conferences, remote meetings, and even augmented and virtual reality, making use of these technologies (albeit almost exclusively those by Microsoft), helps the likes of Nadella stay productive.
4. Stick to One Thing and Master It
Writing about Bill Gates, author Cal Newport recently argued that distractions minimize the impact of our work as well as our overall potential.
In a process, he refers to as deep working, the idea is that we can successfully maximize impact by spending a dedicated amount of time (even just an hour or two) working with urgency and eliminating all distractions.
In fact, it is this ability to meticulously dedicate focus to one task at a time, that allowed Bill Gates to found a billion-dollar business in just a couple of months.
Another way of perfecting the art of focus comes from American business magnate Warren Buffett, who uses a 3-step productivity strategy (also known as the ‘two list’ strategy) to help his employees.
Step 1 – Make a list of twenty-five goals (these could be career goals, goals for a particular project, or even general goals for a specific week or month).
Step 2 – Review the list, highlighting the five most important goals, and then separating these on to a new, separate list. These are your ‘Top 5’.
Step 3 – Focus on achieving items from the ‘Top 5’ list first, disregarding the rest of the written goals until they are completed.
In this strategy, Buffett argues the focus should be on the ‘top 5’ list, treating the remaining twenty goals as a distraction.
Focusing on a smaller number of important goals first allows for a more manageable and thereby achievable way of working. As a result, you can set your own schedule and take control of your time.
It’s Easier Than Ever to Get Things Done Fast
We live in an age where we no longer need to initiate an action or conversation to get the information we need. AI is moving into our workplace, and various Apps and services are now integrating features that predict our next step and optimize, prioritize, and multitask for us, which ultimately leaves us more time and brain-space to be as productive as possible.