2. Ruthlessly block out distractions.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova says, "I concentrate on concentrating." For those of us who don't have the willpower to be self-accountable, there are several technology solutions for blocking out distractions. For example, Rescue Time is an application that runs in the background of your computer and measures how you spend your time so you can make better decisions. Get Concentrating is another useful tool that will help you focus on important tasks by temporarily blocking social media sites. (Are you easily distracted? If so, here are six more popular programs to block distractions.)
3. Set a strict time limit on meetings.
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, is strict on the timing allotted for single-topic, non-operational meetings: He allows a maximum of one hour and 30 minutes. Fifty percent of the time is for the presentation, and 50 percent is for discussion. Gary E. McCullough, former U.S. army captain and now CEO of Career Education Corp., gives people half of the time they ask for a meeting or appointment. This forces them to be brief, clear and to the point. "By doing that, I am able to cram a number of things in the day and move people in and out more effectively and more efficiently," McCullough says. People generally don't need as much time as they ask for. Meetings are time vampires. Be ruthless in managing this endemic productivity drain so you can focus on high value tasks.
RELATED: How to Be Productive Working From the Coffee Shop
4. Set up productivity rituals.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, provides four tips for setting up rituals to automate behaviors that will make us more productive, without depleting our energy reservoir. One of them is prioritizing one key task to accomplish per day, and starting your day focused on that task. "Force yourself to prioritize so that you know that you will finish at least that one critical task during the period of the day when you have the most energy and the fewest distractions," Schwartz says.
5. Get up earlier.
Research shows that mornings can make or break your day. It's not uncommon for successful CEOs to start their day well before 6 a.m. In 27 Executives Who Wake Up Really Early, we see how incredibly busy people—from Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, to Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo—use their mornings to seize the day. Use the mantra "mind over mattress" to motivate yourself to get out of bed to pursue your goals. As Laura Vanderkam says in What Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide To Making Over Your Morning—And Life, while many are sleeping in, successful people are already up and getting a lot done. If this is not your preference, Vanderkam advises to start with small steps, such as getting up just 15 minutes earlier every day and gradually increasing the time.
6. Group your interruptions.
This idea comes from restaurateur Danny Meyer. He has his assistant group all questions that come up during the day in one list so she doesn't have to interrupt him repeatedly during office hours. Take a cue from this and see how you can ask others on your team to group questions, requests and other non-urgent inquiries so you're not distracted by interruptions that don't add value.
7. Outsource personal chores.
Highly productive people are selective about how they expend their energy. They don't waste it on tasks that others can do. For example, Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit, uses services such as Fancy Hands, an army of virtual assistants. Others automate grocery shopping with sites such as Amazon's Subscribe and Save, or services that deliver groceries to your doorstep. Others even use services such as Plated, which delivers perfectly measured ingredients for chef designed meals at home. Do a cost/benefit analysis of how you spend your time and see if it's worth offloading some repetitive tasks so you can focus on what will bring value to your company.
8. Set up email rules to maintain sanity.
Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, founders of Birchbox, insist that team members indicate when they need a response in all emails. This simple tip helps with prioritization. Designer Mike Davidson has set up an email policy that limits any email he sends to five sentences. As he explains, many email messages in his inbox take more time for him to answer than they did for the sender to write. Analyze your email habits and institute time-saving policies that work for your particular situation.
RELATED: What Annoys You at Work Can Actually Boost Productivity
9. Capture all creative ideas.
The world renowned scientist Dr. Linus Pauling once said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." Most leaders and entrepreneurs are visionaries who generally don't lack good ideas; however, capturing all these ideas is often a challenge for busy people. Evernote is a popular, free program for collecting ideas. (Here's a list of other tools to consider.)
10. Increase your effectiveness through technology.
There's a wealth of programs to make a small-business owner more effective in increasing productivity. A few popular tools—some of which are free—include Dropbox to store files online; Any Meeting to host a webinar; Basecamp for project management; Trello for keeping track of projects and deadlines, and Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your social media postings.
11. Don't lose it:
Read it later.Don't miss out on important information because you're in a rush and have no time to read. Two programs help you scoop information to read later. Get Pocket
allows you to put articles, videos and any other information into a virtual pocket, saved directly from any site. Another worthwhile program is Instapaper, which allows you to save long Web pages to read later when you have time.
12. Learn from others.
Consider subscribing to Lifehacker's How I Work series, which asks highly successful people to share their best time-saving tips. For example, Eric Koger, founder of ModCloth, shares his nerdiest way to save time: His keyboard layout is Colemak. Learning Colemak is a one-time investment that allows for much faster typing. This site provides an abundance of advice on how super busy, successful entrepreneurs salvage time.
Read more productivity articles.
Author: Bruna Martinuzzi, founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd.,and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow
Daniel Ek, CEO, Spotify
Figure out what the top five most important stuff is, focus relentlessly on that and keep iterating. Less is more.
Dennis Crowley, CEO, FourSquare
Don’t let people tell you your ideas won’t work. If you have a hunch that something will work, go build it. Ignore the haters.
Sarah Prevette, Founder, Sprouter
Just do it. Get it out there, absorb the feedback, adjust accordingly, hustle like hell, persevere and never lose your swagger.
Sarah Lacy, CEO, PandoDaily
Follow your gut. it may be wrong, but you won’t regret it if you fail. You’ll regret it if you ignore your gut and fail.
Craig Newmark, Founder, Craigslist
Treat people like you want to be treated. Apply to customer service.
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO, VaynerMedia
Do work for your customers, not for press or VCs. The end user is what matters long term.
Matt Mullenweg, CEO, Automattic
Only reinvent the wheels you need to get rolling.
Jason Goldberg, CEO, Fab.com
Pick one thing and do that one thing — and only that one thing — better than anyone else ever could.
Alexis Ohanian, CEO, Reddit
Make something people want. Then give more damns than anyone else about it and you’ll make something they love.
Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works
Buy@ericries’s book. Beyond that? Build a platform. This is the big year.
Matt Howard, CEO, ZoomSaferStartup wisdom:
The number one job of a CEO is to not run out of money.
Brian Wong, CEO, Kiip
Always be learning from others. Whenever you meet someone, you don’t want something from them, you want to learn from them.
Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja, SCVNGR and LevelUp
Something my dad taught me: Ask forgiveness, not permission!
Hooman Radfar, Founder, Clearspring
Give away the wins, own the loses. Your job is to curate greatness.
Alexa Hirschfeld, CEO, Paperless Post
Users and employees are key predictive indicators of a company’s success; press and investors generally months behind.
Author: Peter Corbett (@corbett3000) is the CEO of the creative agency iStrategyLabs, and is the founding organizer of DC Tech Meetup.
“What does it take to be a great CEO or senior executive leader?”
"The most important quality of a CEO is to take risks, and take calculated risks. This is why you're at the top of the hierarchy, because you're able to do that. You're in an envious position and if you wish to stay there, you must do what others cannot."
Adam Garcia, CEO at Ultimate Stock Alerts
"I would say it is not one skill, but a mix of several skills that come together to make one a successful CEO. CEOs have to be smart, authoritative and knowledgeable in what they do. If they lack any of the required skills, they will fail in their capacity."
Daniel Cohen, Online Marketer
"The role of a CEO or a business owner is constantly changing, and is more dynamic today. If I had to pin down one important skill, I would say the ability to deliver. That's the most important thing. Everyone looks to the top and when you're sitting there you must deliver in your capacity. And trust me, it's a lot easier said than done."
Josh Cartu, CEO at SandStorm Holdings
"The role of a CEO is constantly changing, but I'd say at its core it remains what it was centuries ago, and it will continue to be so. CEOs are supposed to do what CEOs do, and that is to lead. But the tools are changing, and today's leaders must get used to the new leadership tools if they wish to excel in their roles, and the ability to adapt is their most important quality."
John Hairabedian, CEO at Hgreg
"A number of people think that all CEOs do is sit and sign papers, which is completely untrue. They're burdened with the heaviest of duties and have to make the toughest of decisions. And this I would say is their most important skill, the ability to make the right decision at the right time."
Trevor Gerszt, CEO at GoldCo Precious Metals
“It is important to understand that you can't know and do everything. Surround yourself with smart people. Listen to their opinions and once you have a complete view, make the best decision based on the information you have.”
Patrick Redmond, Allied Van Lines, Allied.com
“The most important skill is the ability to stay dedicated to the company’s vision. While running a business, there will be many opportunities that come along that are not part of your vision. These are only distractions. The company’s owner or CEO must have the ability to remain focused on the vision of the company without wavering.”
Dr. Barry Burns, Forex Strategies at Top Dog Trading
“You must ask yourself - Can I make a real contribution to society? This 'urge' to 'be able to contribute to society' will force or motivate you to think and think outside the box, till you come up with the real idea, and how to go about it. Business model is thereafter created around this broad objective and eagerness to achieve it.”
Amit Goel, Co - Founder & Creative Director of Grocare India
“Deep understanding of the customer is key to any successful business. The most successful companies have been able to identify a customer pain point well and have stayed focused on solving it. The entrepreneur/CEO has to play a key role in driving this relentless push for customer focus from the team and make it part of the culture. Every individual should be pushed to find the right answer for the customer first.”
Ashish Goel, CEO & Co-founder, Urban Ladder
“To be able to see things on a macro and micro level simultaneously could be one of the most important skills. To be a business owner, one must possess more than just one skills, of course. Multiplicity of thoughts and actions make a real business owner.”
Purnendu Goel, Founder & CEO of Growell India
The great thing about gathering the opinions of those that are in the trenches leading great organizations is that you can see certain commonalities as well as a variance in opinion on the priorities. Great leaders often agree on what it takes to successfully drive a team to achieve results, but their opinions on the most important aspects vary.
What do you think the most important aspect is for being a great senior executive or business owner?
Author: Brent Gleeson, Navy SEAL, speaker and leadership consultant. Follow Brent on Twitter at @BrentGleeson or view his website.