How do top CEOs stay highly productive

15 Habits of Highly Productive People

Nobody want Postpone work. Nobody want feeling stressed. Nobody want get distracted every day. And yet it happens.

But what about the most successful people in the world?

What are you doing differently? you have to I'm sure you have to deal with countless distractions every day. What habits help you focus on what is most important? This is exactly the question we are trying to answer in this article.

15 Habits of Highly Productive People

  1. They take frequent breaks to recharge their batteries
  2. You are very determined
  3. They create their to-do lists the night before (and divide large tasks into subtasks)
  4. They use tools to prevent internal distractions
  5. They keep a separate to-do list for outside distractions
  6. They use tools / systems to optimize their email traffic
  7. Exercise and a healthy diet are part of their daily routine
  8. You are lightning fast with computers
  9. You have a "dynamic self-image"
  10. You outsource undemanding tasks
  11. You meditate
  12. They say no (in a nice way)
  13. You focus on the positive
  14. You avoid unwillingness to make decisions
  15. They are enthusiastic about tips and tricks to increase productivity

Habits of highly productive people

We looked at the brightest minds and most successful entrepreneurs to find out

  • how they manage not to lose focus and successfully avoid distractions.
  • How do you maximize your daily energy reserves without drinking one cup of coffee at a time?
  • How do you manage not to postpone difficult, mentally strenuous activities?

During our research, we discovered some fascinating trends. from which we were able to crystallize 15 habits that the majority of these people had in common.

Habit 1: You take frequent breaks to recharge your batteries.

Should you take a break from work every now and then?

Yes absolutely! Taking a short break can dramatically increase your concentration, productivity, and creativity. Use your circadian and ultradian rhythms to develop your full potential and give your brain a break.

Research has shown that taking short breaks during work dramatically increases concentration and productivity (sources here and here). Why is that?

Our body has two biological clocks:

  • The circadian rhythm
  • The ultradian rhythm

The circadian rhythm extends over a period of 24 hours. Our body releases melatonin based on this rhythm and thus determines when we are full of energy and when we feel tired. Here is a graphical representation:

The ultradian rhythm, on the other hand, extends over a period of 90 minutes. Based on this rhythm, we experience phases of higher and lower energy over the course of a day.

Therefore, we can work highly concentrated for 90 minutes, for example, but then feel exhausted and have to recharge our batteries. This is exactly our body's own ultradian rhythm, which when graphed looks something like this:

Productive people understand that effective energy management is just as important as good time management.

An efficient method to work hand in hand with your own ultradian rhythm is the "Pomodoro technique".

How it works in practice: Try the Pomodoro technique

To keep your energy up throughout the day, give it a try the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. This is what it looks like:

Habit 2: You are very determined

Steve Jobs once said:

If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I planned for today?

Steve Jobs

If he had too many days in a row where he answered "no" to that question, he would adjust his lifestyle until he got one "yes" at a time. The end result was a company worth $ 702 billion. This strategy forced Jobs to set long-term goals and stick with it.

Productive people think about the end of their lives. They have a firm idea of ​​how they want to be remembered. What legacy they want to leave behind. Or what others (should) say about you at their funeral.

And from that point they sort of work backward, to achieve their goals.

This is reflected in psychological theories and models of motivation. When we are driven by a specific intention, we are much more likely to work extra hard. As Simon Sinek, an award-winning writer, says:

People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek

What is a personal "mission statement"?

Highly productive people often define their own intentions in the form of a personal "mission statement". By defining your intentions like this, you can set long-term goals. Smaller short-term goals then emerge from these long-term goals. Concrete to-do lists emerge from smaller goals.

So it all starts with defining our own intentions. What are your long-term goals?

How it works in practice: Define your personal "Mission Statement"

This step requires some introspection. Ask yourself:

  • What is really my passion? (Tip: To determine your own passion, ask yourself this question: "If all jobs were paid equally, what would I want to do for a living?")
  • What can I do better than others or what is particularly easy for me?
  • What should others say about me at my funeral?

If you need some inspiration, you can read the personal Mission Statements of five well-known CEOs here.

Habit 3: You create your to-do lists the night before, including subtasks & deadlines

The concept of "particularly important tasks"

Many highly productive people have a very similar character trait: They concentrate primarily on their BWA, their “particularly important tasks”.

There are two effective methods for doing this. 1. Create a to-do list the evening before and 2. set intermediate deadlines for the most important tasks.

For example, suppose a particularly important task is completing a ten-page presentation. Many particularly productive people would set intermediate deadlines for this task the evening before. It could look something like this:

  • 9:00 am - 10:00 am Create a rough outline of the presentation
  • 10: 00–11: 30 am Write texts for the presentation
  • 11:30 am - 12:30 pm Include all images in the presentation
  • 12.30 p.m. Lunch with Kathrin

Setting intermediate deadlines means that Parkinson's law has to be adhered to. Because a task that is due in a few minutes can also be done in those few minutes.

How it works in practice: Create your to-do list the evening before

Plan your entire next day.

Step 1: Define your BWA (particularly important task).

Step 2: Break them down into smaller subtasks.

Step 3: Set deadlines for each of the subtasks.

This will help you make sure you stick to tighter deadlines and also give you a more realistic idea of ​​what you can achieve.

Habit 4: Use tools to prevent internal distractions

Of course, you can try to plan your day strictly, but there are always distractions. These occur in two ways:

  1. Internal distractions that we create ourselves
  2. External distractions caused by others

Most of the time, however, the distractions come from us. We think of something and we search for it on Google. Then we quickly end up on Facebook, Twitter or other websites. Or we go through our favorite apps on the smartphone.

How to Get Rid of Internal Distractions:

  1. Download browser apps like StayFocusd that limit the time you can spend on certain websites (e.g. Facebook)
  2. Turn off your WiFi while you work on your particularly important tasks
  3. "Hide" distracting apps on the last side of your smartphone
  4. Go to a remote location with a fully charged laptop and try to complete your most important task before the battery runs out (race against battery)

These four tips can help significantly reduce internal distractions. To learn how to address external distractions, see the section below.

How it works in practice: Save yourself from distractions

Here are some steps you can take to avoid internal distractions:

Step 1: Download StayFocusd to reduce your time on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

step 2: Hide distracting apps on the last side of your smartphone

step 3: Turn off the WiFi to avoid accidentally drifting into the black hole of Internet surfing

Habit 5: You lead one separate To-do list for outside distractions

How do very productive people manage to concentrate on their work in the midst of a flood of emails, calls, chat messages, SMS and inquiries from others?

Many of them keep a separate to-do list for daily distractions.

For example, if a coworker asks you to review a sales presentation, respond as follows:

Re: Can you take a look?

Hello (Mr. / Ms. surname),

i like to look at it.

However, I'm about to meet a deadline. Would it be okay if I took care of it later?

In the vast majority of cases the answer will be "All right, no problem!" be.

The request is then noted on a separate to-do list that is processed, after this the most important task of the day is completed.

Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower once put it very aptly:

What is important is not always urgent. And what is urgent is not always important.

Highly productive people do not allow themselves to be distracted from their long-term goals by external influences.

A helpful tool for defining distractions is the so-called Eisenhower matrix, which helps to classify tasks into the categories “important” and “urgent”. Here are some examples:

To define your Eisenhower matrix, ask yourself the following questions: Which tasks are important to you and which are not important? What distractions are common? Write them down:

  1. The most important tasks for my career are ______________.
  2. Tasks that I do a lot but that don't serve my long-term career goals are ______________.
  3. My most common distractions in everyday life are ______________.

Then find out if and how you can outsource or delegate the tasks that are of the least importance.

Habit 6: They use tools / systems to optimize their email traffic

Emails can get on your nerves.

You are a Sisyphean task. No matter how firmly we plan to process all emails, new ones will always be added. Almost like rolling a rock up a mountain.

E-mail in installments - a systematic approach in which you only check your e-mail at certain times of the day can help you get your inbox under control. But when you get hundreds of emails a day, you need another solution.

Many successful people from different industries use SaneBox for their email, including Hiten Shah (CEO of KissMetrics), Tony Robins (media personality) and Amy Hubbart (casting director of The Hobbit).

Another email productivity tool is the HubSpot Sales extension. The program shows you when someone opens an important e-mail, enables you to plan the sending of e-mails and provides you with important contextual information about your recipients directly in the mailbox.

Another very useful tool is This allows you to unsubscribe from several e-mail distribution lists at the same time.

There are also a number of keyboard shortcuts for e-mail programs that can save you up to 60 hours a year.

Here's how it works: Download email productivity tools

Try tools like:

SaneBox to filter out unimportant emails.

HubSpot Sales to get notified when someone has opened an email and to schedule emails to be sent later to be able to unsubscribe from several newsletters at the same time.

These are three particularly valuable productivity tools that can create order in your mailbox in no time at all.

Habit 7: Exercise and eating healthy are part of your daily routine

Brian Balfour, a successful entrepreneur and investor, views his brain as a muscle.

“Think of your brain as a muscle. Like your arms and legs, your brain needs food to function well, exercise to get stronger, and rest to recover. A good physical condition lays the foundation for mental energy. If you are poorly fed, overweight, and generally unfit, how is your brain supposed to be? When it comes to nutrition, there are certain foods that provide healthy nutrients and others that slow us down and make us lethargic. "

Research has shown that exercise wakes up our brains and increases alertness and concentration. Movement, like our food, is food for the brain. Let's compare these two dishes:

If you eat the pulled pork burger, you end up in an anesthetic afterwards. If you choose the salad, you are giving your body a lot of nutrients and therefore more energy.

Unhealthy meals for lunch (e.g. pulled pork burger with french fries) cause our blood sugar levels to rise sharply, which causes the body to release a lot of insulin. This in turn creates a feeling of tiredness and lethargy.

After your lunch break with an extensive meal, you have probably already experienced a meeting in which you could not concentrate on anything.

How it works in practice: Create healthy "little habits"

Behavioral psychologist Dr. BJ Fogg of Stanford University recommends building up “little habits”. These are small steps and actions that are not difficult for us on their own, but can change our own behavior in the long term.

To move more start jogging for two minutes a day. When you get used to it, increase to three minutes. Then four minutes. You increase in small intervals until jogging becomes your habit.

To eat healthier, start by having a salad for lunch on Wednesdays. On the other days you can eat something unhealthy. The following week you will have a salad on Wednesday and Friday. In the week after next you eat a salad on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Again, increase in small intervals until the salad is part of your daily routine.

Habit 8: You are lightning fast with computers

Most of the most productive people direct their computer use to get the job done as quickly as possible. The following options are available here:

  1. Adjust the speed of the mouse pointer - We use our computer mouse every day, so you can easily accelerate.
  2. Learn key combination - There are countless keyboard shortcuts for Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, e-mail programs, Google Docs, operating Mac or Windows and much more. This saves a lot of time.
  3. Use tools to find applications quickly - Entrepreneur Noah Kagan is excited about a free tool called Alfred (for Mac). This allows you to quickly find the programs you want to open.
  4. Increase the typing speed - Typing faster means getting things done faster. The average typing speed of people who do a lot of computer work is 80 words per minute. If you type more slowly, you should learn to type faster. Here you can find a free test to measure your speed.
  5. Use two monitors - With two monitors you can increase your productivity by up to 50%. Because you no longer have to switch back and forth between your tasks and documents.

Here are some simple methods that you can use to speed up your daily computer tasks.

This will make you faster on the computer

  1. Increase the speed of your mouse.
  2. Take the time to learn keyboard shortcuts for the programs you use most often.
  3. Download Alfred (for Mac) or Launchy (for Windows) and save yourself access to programs from the Start menu.
  4. Test your typing speed. If you're typing slower than 80 words per minute, be sure to take a class at a speed of at least To achieve 80 words per minute.

Habit 9: You have a "dynamic self-image"

The psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck says that everyone has one of two possible self-images:

  1. Static self-image
  2. Dynamic self-image

A static self-image gives us the idea that our skills, qualities, and our character are immutable.

People who have such a self-image say, for example: "I'm just not that good at dealing with people." Or "I'm not good at giving speeches in front of others."With this they give up, because they see their skills and abilities as unchangeable and permanently fixed. They always need confirmation from others and see failure as failure.

In the case of a dynamic self-image, on the other hand, it is assumed that all skills and qualities can be learned.

If your writing style is bad, you can learn how to write better. If you're not a good salesperson, you can learn to get better. People with a dynamic self-image love challenges and see failure as a way of learning something new.

Here's a nice graphic by Nigel Holmes on the differences between static and dynamic self-image:

Source:, translation by HubSpot

Just think of people around you who have the respective self-image: Who gives up easily and gives up? Who always wants to learn something new?

Most important, however, is your self-image.

How it works in practice: Time for some self-reflection

Ask yourself if you have ever uttered yourself in a similar way:

“I could never be successful in sales. I'm just not that good at dealing with people. "

“I will never succeed in giving a speech in front of large crowds. I just get very nervous, sweat and feel uncomfortable. "

“I've never liked writing. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm just not good at it. "

If so, they have a static self-image. Remember that anything can be learned. Any skill, no matter how bad at it, can be learned.

To learn more about how you can transform your self-image, take a look at Carol Dweck's book Self-image: How our thinking causes success or failure

Habit 10: You outsource undemanding tasks

Highly productive people concentrate exclusively on their specialty - the rest is outsourced.

Do you need the following services?

  • Data entry into a spreadsheet