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Favorite Productivity Tips from Oprah, Google, Ford, and more.
Top Productivity Tips from Oprah, Google, Ford, and more.

In the November 2015 issue of Fast Company, the feature story was on 72 Real-World Lessons from across a spectrum of very successful people. Oprah led off, and included a fascinating in-depth view into her post-talk show run as she ramped up OWN. After that, there were 4-6 productivity tips each from executives from Google, Ford & Airbnb, and others, such as the Mayor of LA, Steve Aoki & even Aziz Ansari. Here are my top 10 productivity tips from the issue, distilled from the 20+ pages of lessons:

  1. “You can’t let the urgent overcome the important.” This quote from the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti is something that I like to remind myself of every single day. There’s a difference between being busy and actually making progress!
  2. To help with this, North Carolina productivity coach Kimberly Medlock recommends carving out 90 minutes every day to focus on the most important tasks. To be consistent and most effective, I think it makes sense to schedule this for different times each day based on your weekly workflow. For instance, if you know that you’re better at strategic thinking first thing in the morning, make that your daily starting point M-Th, and save your 90 minute block on Fridays for the afternoon as a catch-all for anything that didn’t get knocked out yet.
  3. From the secrets of Punctual People, they remind you to be meticulous about keeping your calendar up to date. “My calendar is the tool I’ve put in place to remind me when to do things,” says Kara DeFrias, deputy director of 18F Consulting. For those of you that know me, you know that keeping a tight schedule will always be on any list of my top 10 productivity tips. Find something that works for you, whether it be Outlook, your to-do list or an executive assistant, but always keep your day on track!
  4. Waiting for an important email but don’t want to get distracted by your inbox? I really liked Alexandra Samuel’s favorite productivity tip; she’s the author of Work Smarter With Social Media. Set up an email-to-text alert by doing a quick Google search to find the correct format. Verizon, for example, is, so if your mobile number is 555-123-4567, your address is [email protected]. Using that address, set up your email so that it forwards messages from the specific sender that you’re waiting on, and you’ll get a text when they finally email. Now you only have to worry about your group text distracting you!
  5. Lorraine Twohill, SVP of Global Marketing at Google has a big Email Pet Peeve that I definitely share. “The most common email people get from me is two words: ‘Call me.’ I still believe the best form of communication is talking. I know that this is very antiquated.” AMEN!
  6. “Seek out the sun.” Access to sunlight boosts productivity according to a study by the California Energy Commission. I like to take a quick walk if I don’t have a desk or office near a window.
  7. I always like to have a plan for meetings in order to maximize everyone’s time. Alan Eisner from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business recommends limiting meetings to 3 agenda items or less. This helps keep the meetings shorter and more focused, and follow-up items are easier to communicate after the meeting.
  8. “Hit the elliptical.” Exercise not only improves health, it boosts output. I’m a big believer in doing this every single day, even if it’s just 20-30 minutes to get the blood flowing and break a quick sweat!
  9. There were lots of different sleep philosophies. Oprah functions very well on only five and a half hours of sleep, and refuses to use an alarm. (You have to be super disciplined to keep that schedule!) Most said they like to get around 7 hours each night, while Steve Aoki says he can get by on some tours with only a few naps here and there. The general lesson is to know yourself and make sure you get what you need. Both under-sleeping and oversleeping can slow you down.
  10. Finally, one of the lessons that I’ve learned over the years was said perfectly by Oprah. “I try to surround myself with people who really know what they’re doing and give them the freedom to do it.”

So there you have it – my top 10 productivity tips from Fast Company’s November 2015 issue. You can find the full issue here and I like to share more tips on Twitter and LinkedIn.