10 Productivity Tips From Visionaries


In and of itself, productivity can be difficult to nail down in that it can look different depending on the person and profession; and while there are no silver bullets, there is definitely plenty we can learn from those who have proven to be successful and productive people. (See also: Personal Productivity Rules)

That's not to say that you don't make your own road in a lot of ways, but given your own style and situation, you can take these tricks and ideas and incorporate them into what you're trying to accomplish.

These are a few of what some might call proverbs of productivity.

1. Break Big Tasks Down Into Smaller Ones

"The key for me to get things done and not become paralyzed by overwhelming projects is to break them down into smaller tasks that I can achieve." — Darren Rowse

Blogger Darren Rowse gets to the heart of compartmentalizing important tasks by breaking them into smaller pieces and making them more interesting. As you can see, the concept isn't unique to Darren's situation and could be applied wherever you have big-ticket items on your to-do list. (See also: How to Achieve More With Goal Sequencing)

2. Train Your Memory

"By the time I got to record my first album, I was 26, I didn't need pen or paper — my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape." — Jay-Z

The earlier portion of Jay-Z's career, when he was in in his mid- to late-20s, was marked by memorizing (and forgetting) a lot of music. Over the years he trained his memory by retaining the lyrics he came up with to the point where he didn't need to write them down.

These days we have tools like Lumosity to help us train our memories. (See also: How to Improve Your Memory)

3. Live Out Your Passion

"Don't follow your passion. Live it." — Mike Rowe

Dirty Jobs star Mike Rowe has long been a proponent of America's working class and blue collar types. He's also got a lot of great things to say about work and education. The above phrase is essentially a ploy to not waste time and actually put forth the effort to build something instead of following an ambiguous passion.

4. Leverage Customer Feedback

"Your customers can tell you the things that are broken and how they want to be made happy. Listen to them. Make them happy." — Mark Cuban

If you let your customers be the ones to identify where things are broken and how you can best fix them, you'll save yourself the time and energy of trying to be one step ahead of them. You don't need to be. Instead rely on them for that information, so long as you don't abrogate your responsibility to create and develop the future roadmap for your business and products.

5. Approach a Task From a Non-Traditional Angle

"It's about ignoring the tradition of the instrument." — Tom Morello

Tom Morello is the guitar player for Rage Against the Machine, and while his advice pertains to music, his idea is still applicable to any work-related situation. Don't be afraid to think outside of the typical approach or the tradition of what you're doing. Being productive (and creative) often stems from an ability to look at a task or an idea from a different angle or through different lenses. (See also: 15 Ways to Solve Your Problem)

6. Don't Wait for Inspiration to Put the Push On

"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just show up and get to work." — Stephen King

There's something to be said for spontaneous inspiration, which is why it's always good to keep a notebook handy. On the other hand, it's not a good idea to sit idly by until that inspiration comes. "Show up and get to work" is some of the most sound productivity advice you could ever take.

Stephen King actually makes it a point to write at least 10 pages every day, regardless of his level of inspiration. Particularly when it comes to writing, or other creative activities, pushing yourself to do it on a regular basis even when you're not inspired can make you more productive and consistent in your work output. (See also: How to Boost Creativity)

7. Block Out the Thoughts That Don't Pertain to Your Work

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand." — Alexander Graham Bell

If your mind tends to wander while you're trying to focus, being intentional about concentrating is a discipline you should put into practice. There's no question that it's tough to stay focused for long periods of time, but those who are able to do it set themselves apart in terms of their accomplishments.

Young Alex Bell was so focused on the subjects that interested him, particularly the sciences and biology, that he even disregarded large portions of the rest of his schooling. This eventually led to intensive and long-winded study with his grandfather before he secured his first job as a teacher.

In school, it might not have been the optimal approach. But in the workforce, if you can move everything else out of your mind and focus on the task at hand, you'll put yourself in the optimal productivity setting. (See also: How to Stay Focused at Work)

8. Be Aggressive About Keeping Meetings Short

"By doing that, I'm able to cram a number of things in the day and move people in and out more effectively and efficiently." — Gary E. McCullough

The former U.S. Army Captain and now CEO of Career Education Corp. is a big believer in giving people half of the time that they ask for when scheduling a meeting, forcing them to be quick and efficient about their use of his time. It might mean people will be a bit frustrated with you, but shortening meetings can definitely increase productivity by giving you some of your time back. (See also: 7 Things to Change About Meetings)

9. Pay People Positive Attention

"The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity." — Tom Peters

Business management guru Tom Peters has spent a lot of time thinking about organizations and productivity. Paying positive attention simply means being alert and open to other people's needs and concerns. When that happens, you'll begin to make real connections and find working solutions.

10. Do Something That Builds on What You've Already Done

"Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before." — Franz Kafka

In other words, productivity means you're building on what you've already done and creating something that didn't previously exist.

If you want to build something worthwhile, make sure you're not just rehashing old accomplishments.

Do you have any other productivity tips from leaders or visionaries? Let us know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

My biggest productivity tip is keeping lists and making sure to make steady progress checking things off of them. I get so much more done that way than if I try to keep everything organized in my head.

Guest's picture

I like Stephen King's advice the best. You just have to keep at it even when you're feeling completely uninspired. Thanks for this bump in motivation!