Technology leaders reveal their productivity hacks

Lucy Hattersley

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Heading up a huge organisation requires the ability to cut out the clatter and focus on important tasks, and the important people required for them. Who better to turn to for productivity hacks than the world’s best business leaders?

The daily life of a C-suite executive can be exciting, varied and even terrifying, but never boring. CEOs are just too busy to get bored.

The biggest challenge most CEOs encounter is dealing with the demands on their time and many have come up with creative productivity hacks that keep them in the game. Here are five of the best suggestions:

Put your phone on silent and leave it like that

“Put your phone on silent. Totally silent! And leave it like that always,” says Ivan Mazour, founder and CEO of Ometria. He explains on Quora why this is a good idea: “The bigger your team gets, the more questions you will get asked. The better known your company gets, the more people are going to want to speak with you. My core productivity hack is to always be in control of how I allocate my time.” You should be the person initiating conversations all the time.

Have ‘airplane’ days

Take one day a week, or two half days, and block it off on your calendar. On ‘airplane’ days you switch off the phone and internet, refuse to go to meetings and treat the time as if you were in the air (or at least in the air before they introduced Wi-Fi on planes). This hack enables you to focus on productive tasks that might otherwise not get done. “A couple of years ago I noticed that I got some of my best work done on long intercontinental flights” says Bryan Guido Hassin, CEO of Smart Office Energy Solutions. “When I made the joke that I should start flying internationally more often for productivity reasons, the light bulb went off.”

Early to bed, early to exercise

Most famous business leaders are early risers. This is no coincidence: Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, performed research in 2008 that found early birds were more proactive than evening people. Early risers do better at school, land better jobs and head up the corporate ladder faster.

“I’m always HBT (horizontal by 10pm),” says Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat. “I exercise most days. It gives me much more energy, clears my mind, and allows for quality thinking and reflection. I typically start my day at 5:45am with a run or some sort of cardio training.”

Reflect on the bigger picture

Take time out to think about what you are doing. “A CEO should spend at least a day, if not two days a month outside of the office on a bike or something,” says Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData. The typical day of a CEO is full of calls, explains Stanek, and “the stuff that suffers is the strategic thinking”. Get away from the office, turn off the phone and just think about the where your company is going.

Choose your relationship carefully

“The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry,” says Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. While it sounds traditional, paying attention to personal commitments is good advice that people often overlook in the business world. “I have an awesome husband, and we’re 50/50.” It’s advice that’s as good for men as it is for women; having a supportive spouse can be a huge part of your success.