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15 Productivity Tips from Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Others

zoebourque profile image zoebourque ・7 min read

Getting motivated to start a new endeavor can be easy, the thrill of the chase and the possibility of success can keep you going. But what happens when you get there? How do you stay motivated to keep going?

Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Jeff Bezos all offer advice on how to be more productive. And stay productive.

The productivity tips and hacks to help you become more productive

Here are 15 tips and tricks to help you be productive every day. Now, some of these may go against conventional wisdom, but look at who’s doing them and their continued successes.

1. Google Doc meetings

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, says Google Doc meetings are one the best ways to speed up the critical thinking process. That way is a Google Doc meeting.

It involves ten minutes of reading and commenting directly in the document. This allows everyone to be on the same page, and means the attendees can be in any location and still contribute meaningfully.

This process makes it easier for everyone to contribute, and doesn’t encourage bullies or time wasters. Essentially, reducing unnecessary talk and creating a space where meaning conversation and brainstorming can occur.

2. Sharpen focus by meditating

Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, isn’t the only one who thinks meditation is an important productivity habit. Everyone from Jack Dorsey to the Ray Dalio (hedge fund billionaire) consistently meditate.

It’s a simple exercise to help improve focus and get mentally prepared for the day ahead. Some meditate daily, while Gates mediates about two or three times a week for about 10 minutes.

Gates has said that meditation helps him to pay attention to what thoughts are in his head, and it helps him gain a little distance and perspective. Which helps to improve his concentration.

3. Know when to say no

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said a key component of productivity was knowing when to say ‘no’. He believed that saying no is a great way to stay focused on what you’re currently working on.

Warren Buffett agrees with Jobs, saying that really successful people are different to successful people because they say ‘no’ to pretty much everything.

4. Make quick decisions

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has said that decisions should be made with about 70% of the information you wish you had. Because if you wait around for more, you’re probably going too slowly.

Bezos’ philosophy on the matter goes further: he believes making the right decision is less important than making a quick decision. And this is because many decisions can be reversed. So, if you’re wrong, there’s not a whole lot to lose.

So, as long as you’re good at correcting your bad decisions, being wrong can work out to be less costly than making the right decision slowly.

5. Get enough sleep

Bezos, Gates, Musk, Gary Vaynerchuck (co-founder of VaynerMedia) and other entrepreneurs all say they get as much sleep as they need. Bezos sleeps about eight hours a night; Gates says he needs about seven hours a night, and Musk gets about 6-7 hours of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is not conducive to productivity. It’s important that you figure out how much sleep you need and make that part of your routine to increase productivity.

6. Streamline your focus

Steve Jobs was a big proponent of this. And it is part of how he made Apple what it is today. Focus on one thing at a time.

Focus primarily on the foundation of what you are building, and ignore the peripheral tasks until you’ve finished. Once you’ve completed the main task, find the next main task and keep going. Everything else will follow.

7. Create a routine and stick to it

Muhammad Ali, not an entrepreneur but one of the greatest boxers who ever lived, hated his training routine. Hated every minute of it. But he wanted to be the best. So, he stuck to it.

You need to create a schedule/routine that works for you and stuck to it. This will involve a fair bit of trial and error, but once you nail down a rhythm to your routine, it’ll become second nature and you’ll start to perform your routine with ease.

8. The art of multitasking

Conventional productivity wisdom says don’t multitask. After all, we just mentioned Jobs’ views of streamlining your focus.

However, Elon Musk disagrees. He works 15-hour days, runs three companies, has 5 children, and never stops working. He’ll be scanning invoices while taking meetings and sending emails—all the while texting his kids.

So, multitasking does work for some—it’s all a question of finding out what works for you, and sticking to that.

9. Know when to take a break

John D. Rockefeller, considered the wealthiest individual of all time, believed in naps, working at a leisurely pace, and not trying to cram something into every minute of every day.

He routinely took post-lunch, and post-dinner naps and paced himself. Rockefeller believed one could achieve more by working at an even pace and not trying to attempt too much.

Winston Churchill was another who believed in afternoon naps as a way of helping stay sharp and productive.

10. Hold on to your passion

Walt Disney struggled financially in the beginning, after all, it’s not easy to help pioneer an entirely new industry. But his passion for storytelling and animation kept him going. It helped him stay productive through the emotional and financial setbacks.

If you keep your desire and passion for what you’re doing at the forefront of your thoughts you will better be able to keep going, stay motivated and remain productive.

Accept the inevitability of adversity and keep pushing through.

11. Make lists

All entrepreneurs already mentioned talk about making lists. Whether it’s goal setting or just a to-do list that you then share with others. This helps you stay accountable, which can help you stay motivated.

Making lists also helps you to prioritize and gain perspective. Steve Jobs said that he used to make a list of everything he wanted to do, looked at the most important, and ignored everything else until the most important task was completed.

12. Keep it simple

Warren Buffett has said that more often than not the simplest behavior is far more effective than complex, difficult behavior. This echoes the idea of streamlining your focus — don’t focus on 55 things at once, focus on a few things that will help you generate revenue, and hone in on them.

And it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Often the simplest solution is the most effective, and the most profitable.

13. Always carry a notebook

Richard Branson, co-founder of Virgin Group, said that a notebook was one of the top five most important tools he carried with him on the road.

He uses it for everything from jotting down ideas, suggestions for problem solving, contacts, and more. Note taking is an incredibly useful productivity tool, as well as being useful creativity, memory, and new ideas.

Branson has said that if more leaders took notes, they would have more ideas, and probably more success.

Of course, if you don’t want to carry around a notebook, taking notes on your phone can also suffice. What’s important is building a habit of taking notes.

14. Write everything out

Amy Landino, American entrepreneur and best-selling author, takes Branson’s note taking one step further.

She said she writes everything down. Documenting everything from talking points that need to be discussed to any other bases that need to be covered. Once you have everything down, including deadlines, it’s just a case of reverse-engineering deadlines and other goals.

15. Give Yourself 15 minutes each morning

Similar to Rockefeller’s know when to take a break, this productivity tip from Landino is about starting your day on your terms. For some people it’s just about finding a few minutes to gather themselves.

Other people use it to meditate and get themselves into the appropriate mindset for the day.

Whatever you do, it’s an important part of productivity to get yourself in the right mindset for the day.

Not racing into the day like a whirlwind can actually make you more prepared. If you only go slow at one part of the day, make it the morning. It can help you be better switched on for the rest of the day.

Find what works for you

The caveat that goes with each of these tips is that they are what worked for the individual entrepreneur. Elon Musk is a successful multitasker, Steve Jobs believed in working on one thing at a time.

Rockefeller believed in working at a steady pace and napping a few times a day: others believe in working 15 hours a day.

Some meditate, others enjoy their morning coffee, tea, or gym session. Ali hated his training regime, but he knew it would help him to become a champion. All of them knew what they were/are passionate about and stuck to it.

Discussion (5)

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losteden1 profile image
Alex Vasilevsky • Edited

The Ivy Lee Method — Assign yourself no more than six important tasks per day, list them from most important to least important, and then work on and complete each one in that order.

tweek.so/calendar/ivy-lee-method

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blender profile image
Saloni Goyal

100% vouch for meditation and its benefits. 😃
If anyone is interested, here is Bill Gates review of the book 'The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness'.

"...it’s a great tool for improving my focus. It’s also helped me step back and get some ease with whatever thoughts or emotions are present. I like what I’m getting from my 10 minutes every few days. I’m grateful to Andy for helping me on this journey."

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anshulnegitc profile image
Anshul Negi

Nice article
Keep writing...

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joachimzeelmaekers profile image
Joachim Zeelmaekers

Amazing list!
This is some new content that I tend to like!
Keep going!

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Aashir Aamir Khan

Same here, it's been a week and this is best of DEV