Focus on productivity

CEO secrets to success.

By Leslie T. Snadowsky

Striving to be productive takes more than just hanging a Vince Lombardi motivational poster in your office. You need to focus on how best to focus, and these five CEOs have cornered the market in finding ways to make their productivity soar. From reinvention to employee empathy to getting enough sleep, these tips can help reenergize your business and leadership and inspire your employees to reach new productive heights.


Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corp.

Tip: “Reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.” 

Takeaway: Nadella oversees more than 180,000 employees and $160 billion in revenue, so he may be on to something here. His vision of reinventing productivity is to increase efficiency, simplify operations and improve customer interactions by streamlining applications and creating seamless user experiences. Unifying systems across your business will let efficient employees spend less time aggregating and organizing data and more time focusing on resourceful company growth and customer engagement.


Kathryn Minshew, CEO and co-founder of The Muse

Tip: “Understanding your employee’s perspective can go a long way towards increasing productivity and happiness.”

Takeaway: Minshew’s career platform has more than 75 million users, and her business was named one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World. Her advice to invest in finding out how your employees think about your company, what they want from their job and how they feel about working for you can help you engage in strategies to keep your workforce focused, impassioned and success-oriented. 


Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square

Tip: “On Monday I focus on management…. Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is marketing and communication and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships, and Friday is the company and culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off. I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback and strategy.”

Takeaway: Perfecting and practicing a winning routine can keep a leader and a workforce focused on productivity. Managing more than $13 billion in assets and keeping up with more than a billion Twitter account holders means creating innovative ways to micromanage time schedules, assigning tasks of winning themes, staying organized and diminishing distractions. If you can keep on track, it clears a faster path to reach a goal.


Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder and former CEO of Instagram

Tip: “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”

Takeaway: Procrastination is the root of all business evil, especially when your business is projected to have 1.2 billion monthly users by 2023. Focusing on taking instant action is the first step to achieving productivity. Think of procrastination as self-sabotage, and use the proclivity to stir you to action. Next time you procrastinate, think about famed artist Pablo Picasso who said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you’re willing to die having left undone.”


Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)

Tip: “I’m so much more productive when I get sleep.”

Takeaway: Brewer, who manages 450,000 employees at the Walgreens conglomerate and is the third Black woman to run a Fortune 500 company, said pre-COVID she slept only four hours a night. But an unintended benefit of the pandemic meant more control of her schedule and more time to catch up on zzzz’s. According to The Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation causes neurons to work overtime, impairs thinking and slows your reflexes, which makes it easier to make mistakes, become forgetful, stressed out and unproductive.



Unconventional Tips

Puppy Love – A Virginia Commonwealth University study found going to work with your dog leads to less stress, more job satisfaction and the belief that your employer is the cat’s meow. The study finds furry friends at work are a “low-cost wellness benefit.” 

Chocolate Break – Forget sneaking out of your cubicle to take a coffee or a smoke break. Munching on dark chocolate at the office can give your gray matter a boost. You can blame the phenomenon on its flavonoids that facilitate blood flow to your brain.

Mellow Yellow? Don’t fall prey to the blues or the mean reds at work. Instead, paint your office a bright shade of yellow. Several studies show the cheery hue suppresses melatonin, a.k.a. the sleep hormone and basking in its golden glow give you the energy that helps you stay productive longer.

Naked Fridays – Your HR department will probably frown upon baring it all, but according to a business psychologist in England, stripping down on the job has positive effects on employees. An executive exposé revealed working in the buff bred honesty and encouraged unclad coworkers to be more trusting of one another.

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