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The Ultimate Productivity Reading List: Top CEOs Offer Their Secrets

Real CEOs reveal their top productivity tips and the books that gave them the best advice about how to get things done and how to run their business
by Melissa Kabakci | Jun 15 2016

What is your ultimate productivity tip?

Gary’s top productivity tip

Email is a major productivity killer. I, like many of us, spend a majority of my time in email and am a slave to the zero inbox. One of my managers told me once to look at an email and quickly deal with it, delegate it, or delete it. I have practiced this methodology over the years with some success and find that it is a great way to keep ahead of the curve. My current email inbox is 4 messages. Some people also mention a 4th “D,” defer it, however the problem with deferring is that you have to usually deal with it later, anyway.

Recommended productivity read:

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. It offers practical advice for concise meetings, feedback, etc. I have referred back to it many times throughout my career.

Ida’s top productivity tip
A paper wall calendar where you can see a whole year. Without that I don’t get a sense of how my next months are going to be best planned. My planning involves a lot of traveling and balancing family needs with what is optimal for my company. Both have to be closely orchestrated with my business partner, who is also the father of our two kids. For us, work and family life are all in one big melting pot where we try to have alchemy happen. It is sometimes quite challenging to make it all come together. Often extra ingredients like other family members and team members have to be part of the mix. So looking at that big sheet of paper helps us have a conversation where we can find solutions and make the best decisions.

Recommended productivity read:
David Sibbet’s Visual Leaders on facilitating with visuals. I am a visual
person and using visual tools to stay organized and productive is key for me. This book is a great resource for remembering that using visuals also helps groups become productive and shows what a great leadership tool they can be.

Jacob’s top productivity tip
Change the dynamic. If you are in charge of building a product or business, or executing a strategy, you need to constantly mix it up. Inspiration comes from many places—not sitting at the same desk, day in, day out.

Recommended productivity read:
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It has taught me many things about how my brain works and the productivity of my thought processes.

Niklas’s top productivity tip
I use the concept of MITs—Most Important Tasks—on a daily basis. It’s very simple: every morning I choose my three Most Important Tasks for that day and try not to work on anything else until I’ve finished them. MITs are the hard things that I need to tackle to move forward with my priorities and goals. Of course I get more than these three things done every day and I still have a regular to-do list, but no matter what else I do on that day, I want to be sure to get my three MITs done.

Recommended productivity read:
Getting Things Done by David Allen was the first book on personal productivity I ever read and it sparked my interest in this topic. Understanding that productivity is not about just getting more things done in less time but getting the right things done has helped me tremendously.

Anna’s top productivity tip
Get a solid CRM in place as early as possible. When we started using Pipedrive it totally changed our work. I would also say automate all boring repetitive tasks where you can because they can drain so much time and can eventually affect morale.

Recommended productivity read:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. (This proves to be a popular choice! — Ed).

Isolde’s top (two!) productivity tips
Can I have two? Sure — Ed. Making lists and time management. As a team we’ve recently started using Trello for coordinating to-do lists and tracking what everyone is up to and Toggl for tracking time spent on individual projects so we know what we’re doing and how long it’s taking.

Blinkist Magazine reader Lewis reviewed Toggl on his blog. You can check it out here.

Recommended productivity read:
I tend to leave things to the last minute and love the pressure of a deadline. Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy was a great read to help me to stop procrastinating and generally be more productive.

Itamar’s top productivity tip
When I need a high level of concentration I put my laptop aside and use instead a whiteboard or my notebook and a pen. It’s the best way to avoid distraction and forces you to concentrate on the ideas and task at hand.

Recommended productivity read:
The Power of Habit is not a productivity book per se, but it has great insights on how to hack our brains to create new habits which is a key part in helping to increase productivity. The core theme of the book is that habits can be changed and rebuilt, and once you understand this, you have the freedom—and responsibility—to remake them.

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