Use Downtime, Empower Staff and Build Diversity, CEOs Advise

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A recent article in Fast Company listed the favorite productivity secrets of a few well-known CEOs. Let’s take some of those and add a few SIPA leaders to the mix.

Keep one day a week free from meetings. Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz has implemented a company-wide “No Meeting Wednesdays” (NMW) rule. “The high-level goal of NMW is to ensure that everyone gets a large block of time each week to do focused, heads-down work,” he writes on the company blog.

Create conditions for success. "You need your staff to collaborate to create products that can grow platforms," said Tim Hartman, CEO of Government Executive Media Group. "Create a culture to build trust and collaboration, and breaking down silos... Think ambitious experiments and trust each other. If you look around and don't see that, you have a problem."

Define your mission. Knowing what your mission is is critical, said Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence. “Understanding the mission [allows you to] create a vision. The mission tells you where you're going. It gives you a roadmap, and then it's about making people believe you can get there. They're oddly intertwined. You can't say this one is first, this one second and this one third.”

Use downtime to think. CEO Sara Blakely of Spanx knows that she does her best thinking in the car. The problem is that she lives very close to her office. “I’ve created what my friends call my ‘fake commute,’ and I get up an hour early before I’m supposed to go to Spanx, and I drive around aimlessly in Atlanta with my commute so that I can have my thoughts come to me,” she told LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman on his podcast Masters of Scale.

Get diversity in the room. "Collaboration is always better than non-collaboration, and diverse collaboration is better than having the same 10 guys in a room, said Brian Crotty, CEO and president of OPIS by IHS Market.

Be specific with email. Katia Beauchamp, cofounder of Birchbox, says one of her best productivity tricks is something simple: She insists that her team includes a deadline in their email. “It makes prioritization so much faster,” she told Lifehacker.

Empower your staff. "Empowering people and giving them the opportunity to make the decisions makes a huge difference,” said Brittany Carter, president, Columbia Books & Information Services. “You'll see people step up who you never thought would."

Say “no” more often. CEO Jason Fried of Basecamp says it’s hard to be productive when you say “yes” to too many things. So he is very selective about what he does. “All the techniques and hacks in the world never add up to the power of ‘no,'” he told Lifehacker. “Having fewer things to do is the best way to get things done.”

Asked about what he has said no to, Sean Griffey, CEO of Industry Dive, said that there were some revenue opportunities such as licensing and events that he decided would "take us away from our core, our real business. So we're going to walk away. Events are huge, but I'm not good at them. They take so much time and energy from everyone. I don't want to do that. We're growing at a good clip, so I don't want to be distracted. Let's keep going in one direction." (Industry Dive recently ranked #195 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™.)  

Create better lists. CEO Brian Chesky of Airbnb starts each morning with his twist on the standard to-do list. “Make a list of everything you want to accomplish that day. Be as exhaustive as possible,” he told Hoffman during an episode of Masters of Scale. “Group a few similar tasks together. Ask yourself for each group: What one action takes care of all of these? It’s like a game of leverage.”

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…