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The productivity secrets of young business leaders

People who’ve made their mark on the world at a young age hold a particular fascination. How did they achieve so much so quickly? And, maybe more importantly, how can we do the same?


Anyone who’s achieved such a meteoric rise will have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to productivity. So, we gathered some of their ideas on working harder, smarter and faster to help you follow in their footsteps.


Tackle procrastination five minutes at a time 

It’s reassuring to know that even the billionaire founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, struggles to get around to the unpleasant tasks on his to-do list. But he has a psychological trick that he recommends to beat the urge to procrastinate.


“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” the 38-year-old suggests. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” Psychologists suggest procrastination is a form of avoidance, so you can overcome your reluctance by making the task more manageable.


Focus on what’s important, not what’s urgent

As the boss, everyone wants a piece of your time. That can easily result in your team running you, rather than the other way around, as you dash about tackling the urgent issues they bring to your attention.


CEO of Instacart Fidji Simo says her solution is to write out her priorities for the week on Monday and rearrange her agenda to tackle them. “If I don’t do this, I find myself reacting to what’s most urgent during the week instead of focusing on what’s most important,” the 36-year-old says.


Review your week to fine-tune your focus

Scott Farquhar, the co-founder of software company Atlassian, takes the opposite approach and focuses on reviewing his diary for the week for insights on time management. “It will transform how you spend your time,” he says.


When looking over a printout of his diary, he says he asks himself whether he achieved what he wanted, whether he needed to attend all the meetings he did, and whether he could have achieved the same results in a shorter timeframe.


Give your undivided attention

Alison Atwell, one of the designers responsible for Amazon’s Alexa voice interface, says she has one rule: “I always give what’s in front of me my undivided attention.” She says it’s a litmus test for whether she’s using her time well.


“If I’m not giving enough undivided attention to one thing or project or relationship to be successful, it’s a sign I need to adjust. If I don’t have that kind of time, it means I’ve spread myself too thin,” the 33-year-old says.


Don’t make up the numbers at meetings

Meetings that are too big, meetings that are too frequent – Elon Musk really hates unnecessary meetings. If you want to match the success of the world’s richest man, you can’t waste time making up the numbers.


“Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value,” the Tesla CEO says. “It is not rude to leave; it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”




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