Luckily for us, they’re willing to let us in on their productivity tips, tricks, and strategies. Here’s how Richard Branson, Daymond John, and 12 other leaders in their fields manage their overwhelming to-do lists and get so much done.
Read on if you want to up your productivity game.
Richard Branson works out in the morning
The billionaire entrepreneur wakes up at 5:00 am to work out, which he claims boosts his productivity significantly.
“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit,” Branson tells FourHourBodyPress. “It keeps the brain functioning well.”
Marcus Lemonis makes ‘knockout lists’ on personalized note cards
“I get up in the morning and I’ll make a list of the five things I want to get done that day — and without exception, I have to get those five things done. If I end up getting some things in addition to that done, great, but I always have my knockout list,” says the entrepreneur and star of CNBC’s “The Profit.”
“I just physically write it down. I have little cards in my closet in my basement. They’re long, narrow cards, with my name on top — and they make really cool paper airplanes, so when I’m done with them at the end of the day, I like to make paper airplanes out of them.”
Mary Callahan Erdoes manages her calendar, rather than letting it manage her
“Calendar management is the single most important thing, especially as you get busy and have more responsibilities,” the CEO of JPMorgan Asset Management tells CNBC.
“You have to be maniacally focused on owning your calendar, on having the lists of what you need from other people and what other people need from you. What are the short-term issues that need to be dealt with? What are the long-term issues?
“Unless you can stay on top of that religiously, it will end up owning you, and that’s not a way to go about staying organized and being on top of things.”
Daymond John finds creative ways to maximize his time
“I’m always trying to maximize my time,” the “Shark Tank” investor and founder of FUBU tells CNBC. “For example, I’ll do my emails when I’m on a plane, instead of when I’m in the office. I try to have my team members handle as much of the meetings as possible — I’ll be involved in the last part so I don’t have to sit through five separate meetings of the same purpose. And when I have personal interaction, I try to maximize that as well.”
Arianna Huffington takes time to ‘pause’
The author and entrepreneur makes sure to take breaks during the day, especially for meals.
“Take a colleague and go to a cafeteria or go to a table away from your desk in your office and have lunch,” Huffington says. “Even if you take 20 minutes to do that, it’s more recharging than what so many of us do which is eating lunch while working.”
Taking “pauses” not only boosts productivity, but it decreases stress, she says: “It just makes a difference to how the rest of your day goes.”
Tracy Anderson writes down notes and visualizes tasks on paper
“I have a lot of little notebooks,” says the celebrity trainer and fitness entrepreneur. “I do a lot of little notes and ideas, and then I figure out which ones I’m going to keep, which ones I’m going to save for later, and how I’m going to craft the bigger piece out of many of them. I grew up as a chess player, so I think that’s part of it — I need to see all of the pieces or the obstacles and then I’ll figure it out for myself.
“I like the notebook so that I don’t leave things behind, because I do run fast. I get so many emails and so many texts that sometimes it’s just easier for me to brain dump there.”
Norman Lear lives by a two-word philosophy that allows him to stay present and focused
“I think the two least-considered small words in the English language may be ‘over’ and ‘next,'” says the television writer and producer. “When something is over, [it’s] over. We’re onto next. I live in that moment. I mean this is it — this is the best conversation I could possibly be having, and it took me 93 years to get here.”
Liz Wessel uses her inbox as a checklist
“Like many other CEOs, I use my inbox as my to-do list. I don’t let myself go to sleep unless all of my to-do’s are done, which means that my inbox is empty,” the co-founder and CEO of WayUp tells CNBC. “If something isn’t urgent, I use the Boomerang extension for Gmail to make sure that I send non-urgent things to be returned to my inbox the next day or week.”
Koel Thomae unplugs completely
“It’s very easy to get distracted by your inbox or phone. When I have a big project or when I need to get something done — and done well — I shut down my email, I turn off my phone, and I put on some of my favorite music,” the co-founder of Noosa Yoghurt tells CNBC. “I just dig in and get it done.”
Jack Groetzinger turns his to-do list into a game
“I’ve enjoyed ‘gamifying’ my to-do list,” the co-founder and CEO of SeatGeek tells CNBC. “I have an estimated number of minutes for all tasks and have written software to record when I begin and end each item. Each day, I challenge myself to hit an efficiency goal: number of actual minutes divided by expected minutes. The best part of playing a game by myself is that I have every spot on the leader board.”
Nick Huzar takes advantage of Sundays
“Plan your work and work your plan,” the co-founder and CEO of OfferUp tells CNBC. “I make sure to prioritize alone-time on Sundays to focus on the team’s top priorities for OfferUp across each department. I then spend the week supporting the team to execute on these priorities.”
Katelyn Gleason picks up an inspiring biography
“If I feel creatively burned out from working long hours, I’ll go and read something inspiring about someone’s journey,” the founder and CEO of Eligible tells CNBC. Her go-to reads are biographies or autobiographies of people like Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie and Katharine Hepburn .
“In order for me to regain focus I need to be intellectually and creatively inspired.”
Bill Smith steps back when he needs to and delegates
“As much as I’d like to be able to do it all myself, I know there are some areas of my work life that are best to pass off so I can keep focused on what is most important,” the founder and CEO of Shipt tells CNBC. “Hiring a fantastic executive assistant is crucial. It may be difficult at first, but let this person manage straightforward, time consuming tasks.”
Allison Page sets alerts on her Apple watch
“When it comes to productivity, I’m a huge believer in a good old-fashioned list. I love being able to cross things off as they’re completed, and it’s a reminder right in front of me when something has to get done,” the co-founder and head of product of SevenRooms tells CNBC.
“I also block time off in my calendar to make sure I can focus on outstanding projects. My new favorite trick is to set alerts on my Apple watch, as well as Slackbot reminders. It’s a quick digital reminder that really helps when you’re wrapped up in something else.”
This article was written by Kathleen Elkins, a writer and personal finance reporter for CNBC Make it, the largest and fastest-growing section of cnbc.com.