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Productivity hack: Secrets of getting more done at work

Could this be a major productivity booster? (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

Could this be a major productivity booster? (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

What’s the secret to being more productive at work? Is it ignoring email? Brushing off chatty colleagues? Endless to-do lists? Magically creating more hours in the day? How about working in the wee hours of the morning or emptying your email inbox?

Most professionals regularly look for ways to squeeze more from their time. In the last week, about 70 LinkedIn Influencers shared their secret productivity hacks — the little tricks or key practices that allow them to get more done and make time for the things, at work and in life, that matter most.

Here’s what some of them had to say.

Paul Metselaar, chairman and chief executive officer at Ovation Travel Group

“Napping as a productivity hack seems counterintuitive,” wrote Metselaar in his post, The Nap That Changed My Life. “To enhance productivity, you usually need to do something. Make a to-do list. Set updates in your Outlook calendar… Get up an hour earlier to allow yourself extra quiet time in the office before the morning rush. Or in my case, take a nap.”

Metselaar’s reasoning: Around the same time each day, he finds himself operating “in slow motion”. “When I’m tired, I hit the wall, and that’s all there is to it,” the non-coffee-drinker wrote.

“But when you’re the CEO and supposed to lead by example, it doesn't look great to offer snores instead of wisdom,” he wrote. One particularly sleepy afternoon, after a big lunch with a client, Metselaar took a catnap in a conference room before a team meeting. “When I came to, a remarkable transformation had happened… I was remarkably alert and refreshed and… came up with a great solution to a problem that had been vexing us for a while.”

“From then on… I chose to accept what my body and mind were craving and take 10 to 30 minutes to recharge,” he wrote. “I hit the pause button on whatever the day has delivered and disengage.” Sometimes Metselaar sits on his office couch and reads a newspaper, other times he takes a power nap or simply sits to clear his mind. The effects have been real for his demeanour and his company, he wrote. “Since the day I fell asleep in the conference room many years ago, my business has grown five-fold.”

Sallie Krawcheck, head of 85 Broads and former president at Bank of America Wealth Management

The most precious commodity in business is time,” wrote Krawcheck in her post Why 4am Is the Best Time to Work, adding that she is most productive when she blocks out a spell to think, write and build earnings models.

In corporate jobs, Krawcheck would block off time several Fridays a month, she wrote. “But I had one significant problem: email. Some people can ignore email, but I have never formed the discipline of not checking email repeatedly and obsessively during the course of the day,” Krawcheck wrote. “So now I work when others sleep.”

“I am never more productive than at 4am… My mind is clear, not yet caught up in the multiple internal conversations that we all conduct with ourselves once we gear up for our first meeting of the day,” she wrote. “It is at this time of day that I often have a rush of ideas (some of them actually good.)”

Elliot S Weissbluth, founder and chief executive at HighTower

To master productivity, Weissbluth describes one simple rule in his his post I Empty My Inbox Every Day. “You can get to zero, too,” he writes

Weissbluth, who receives “thousands of emails every day”, realised he needed to tame his email to be more productive when he considered the intrusion the inbox creates.

“Email is unidirectional — anyone, at any time, can just go to your inbox without permission, invitation or consideration. Empowering the world to demand a thin slice of your attention is more than unfair — it’s a recipe for constant distraction,” he wrote.

Among Weissbluth’s rules for inbox emptiness: “Unsubscribe” to newsletters; “delete with a vengeance”; and “get to the point and have a call to action” in your emails to others.

Maynard Webb, chairman at Yahoo and former chief operating officer at eBay

I get tons of requests for meetings — people who want time with me, and who are usually willing to come see me where I am, or who want to give something in exchange for my time, so they offer coffee, lunch or a dinner,” wrote Webb in his post Why I Don’t ‘Do’ Coffee. “I turn down these invitations 99.9% of the time.”

Webb received more than 20 such requests a day — requests that earlier in his career he would pursue “with gusto”. “I’m delighted to help people with an introduction or some coaching — it’s so important for people to have mentors who are not tied to their companies — but I found that all of these meetings were an enormous time vortex. It’s always a bigger commitment than a 30- or 60-minute meeting as both parties have to travel to get there, and often someone is late,” he wrote.

About a year ago, Webb implemented a screening process. “Now, unless I know the person well, I no longer take the first meeting. Instead, I ask them in email to spell out what they would like me to do and why. Then I connect them to the appropriate source,” Webb wrote.  If the request is more personal, he still asks for an email with more information and the writer’s questions.

“With this strategy I am able to help far more people than I could if I had to personally meet with them, and I also have many more hours a week to focus on my priority endeavours,” he wrote.  “I also have a lot more time to see (and eat and share coffee with) the people I care about most — my family.”

Since the day I fell asleep in the conference room many years ago, my business has grown five-fold. — Paul Metselaar

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