You don’t need additional hours in a day to get more done: you need to be more productive with the hours you've already got. By Prerna Gupta (Founder & CEO of a stealth startup)
How do some entrepreneurial leaders get more done in a day than the rest of us?
Here are four simple strategies, used by the world’s most successful people, that will increase your productivity and save you an hour — or more — each day:
1. Reduce Decision Fatigue
Decisions are costly.
Making an unnecessary decision not only wastes time while you’re doing it, it also saps mental energy for later, which means the next decision you have to make will take even longer.
Save your decision-making power for things that actually matter by reducing the need to make decisions on mundane tasks you repeat everyday. The more things you can put on autopilot, the more efficient you will be throughout the day.
President Obama wears the same color suit all the time because he doesn’t want to waste a decision on thinking about what he should put on each day. Steve Jobs was another famous example of a leader who wore the same thing everyday, as is Mark Zuckerberg.
But wearing a uniform is not the only way to reduce decision fatigue.
For those who prefer a bit of wardrobe variety, try finding other parts of your daily routine that could benefit from some decision-trimming, like what you eat for breakfast and lunch.
Find a routine that works for you, and save your mental energy for the stuff that counts.
2. Go on an Internet Diet
Focus, focus, focus. You probably know you should be focusing on just one thing at a time because you’re unlikely to be one of the lucky 2 percent who can actually multitask effectively. But odds are that you’re multitasking more often than you should be, and that it’s killing your productivity.
There is one very simple way to get yourself to focus on the task at hand: unplug.
You may be wondering how that’s even possible in this day and age, but the truth is that many of the world’s most successful people are able to achieve so much precisely because they’re better at unplugging than the rest of us.
Some people go to great lengths to avoid wasting time browsing the Internet. George R. R. Martin, for example, writes on a DOS computer that has no Internet access at all.
Unplugging entirely may not be practical if your work requires you to use the Internet, like it does for many of us. But that doesn’t mean you have to be constantly checking email, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, all at the same time, and all while trying to get some real work done.
Try scheduling designated times during which you allow yourself to read email or social media, and be disciplined about keeping your browser tabs closed otherwise.
3. Just Say No
Most of us are bombarded with requests for our time. It can be tempting to say ‘yes’ to every interesting opportunity that comes your way, and tell yourself you’ll just buckle down and work harder to fit it all in. But overcommitment is the enemy of productivity.
You can’t do it all.
Instead of letting yourself be pressured into overcommitting, have the courage to say no more often than you say yes.
Sheryl Sandberg ruthlessly prioritizes in her own life by being proactive about deciding what matters most to her, at the beginning of every month, and saying no to anything that does not fit within that.
4. Get a Hammock
When was the last time you let yourself swing aimlessly in a hammock, and just do nothing for a while?
Most of us only allow ourselves that sort of luxury when we’re on vacation, because swinging in a hammock seems like an utter waste of time. But giving your mind time to wander aimlessly can actually be great for productivity.
We often think that high-powered CEOs are going nonstop from morning to night, but many of them are careful to fit ‘lazy time’ into their crazy schedules.
Arianna Huffington is a big believer in the power of breaks to improve productivity, so much so that she’s had nap rooms built at the Huffington Post office.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break — go for a walk, swing in a hammock, listen to music, take a nap, have a beer. Do something that will allow you to truly relax.
You might be surprised by how much more you’re able to accomplish with a fresh mind.
About the guest blogger: Prerna Gupta is Founder & CEO of a stealth startup in a novel area of artificial intelligence. She is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and author, whose work has been published in the New York Times, Forbes, TechCrunch, FastCompany and Recode, among others.