5 Habits of highly productive CEOs
We wanted to know what makes startup CEOs from Series A and above more productive and we learned their top five productivity habits. From morning rituals that set the stage for success to mastering time management secrets. Dive into the world of top-performing executives and apply the formula to your own workload. It may not be magic, but it’s worked for all of them.
How can you be just as productive?
Productivity is not about putting in more hours of work or canceling personal commitments, it’s a holistic approach that you must put to use every day.
Create a morning routine
One of the reasons why a morning routine is so important for productivity is the opportunity it provides to work in solitude. During these early hours, when everyone else is offline and the world is still sleeping, you can make the best out of uninterrupted and focused time for yourself. This undisturbed period is invaluable for deep work, concentration, and making significant progress on important tasks.
“I’d feel a ton of angst on Sunday afternoons as a Founder. And so I started a little ritual where I’d ask and answer two simple questions: Where am I? What do I do next? This little ritual of mine turned into a completely unmanageable 170+ page Google document but it helped me go into every week feeling centered”. TK Kader – Founder, author & investor
Build some predictability
No matter how busy the day ahead may be, having a consistent morning routine offers a sense of stability and control. There are always fires that need to be addressed as quickly as possible or negotiations that require your immediate attention, but as long as you build a sustainable morning routine, there’s a portion of the day that you can control 100% of the time.
By dedicating time to reflect and strategize in the early morning hours, CEOs gain a competitive edge. Use this time to identify key objectives, set achievable goals, and map out a clear roadmap for the day ahead. This intentional planning allows you to be on top of daily occurrences, prepare for important meetings and get ahead of possible roadblocks that may be coming your way.
Having the day completely mapped out before diving into meetings is how you get ahead of the day. By planning ahead you can minimize the cognitive effort you need to put into figuring out what should come first. By having your calendar compartmentalized and your tasks ruthlessly prioritized, there is no need for you to waste any energy on re-planning or shifting your priorities.
A popular practice embraced by many CEOs is combining exercise with productive learning. Listening to a podcast while engaging in activities like running, such as the widely acclaimed “How I Built This” podcast by Guy Raz, offers a double advantage. It provides physical benefits and nourishes the mind with valuable insights and inspiration.
For Fineas Tatar, Co-CEO at Viva, the ideal combination is to go through his gym routine while staying close to his customers:
“I asked my executive assistant to include the link to one of our customers’ calls directly on my calendar. That way when I go to the gym, I just hit play”.
As CEO one of your main concerns should always be your team and in order to give them the guidance they need, it’s crucial that you spend enough time working on upskilling yourself. Keep on learning, not only for yourself but for the betterment of your team as well.
Prioritize your personal growth alongside organizational learning. Engage with executive coaches, advisors, board members, reading, and podcasts to expand your knowledge. Avoid overwhelming commitments like reading entire books for leisure. Instead, treat your learnings as painkillers: focus on them when specific challenges arise, making applying the insights to your situation easier. This approach ensures the information sticks and delivers practical results.
The best athletes in the world have someone that pushes them further, helps them get better in every possible way, and reach higher goals every time. If elite athletes have a coach, why don’t all elite CEOs have a key partner as well? The fastest way to upskill yourself with the help of a coach is by going through Matt Mochary‘s curriculum: a comprehensive collection of over 200 concise and easily digestible documents.
Matt Mochary’s curriculum is designed to improve every area in the life of a CEO: from how to onboard new hires to how to make your meetings more efficient, how to motivate your team and many more. Discover the power of this publicly available document and enhance your understanding of essential topics.
Follow industry leaders
Experts and thought leaders provide invaluable knowledge and guidance. Finding industry leaders can be done through various channels, including social media platforms like LinkedIn, professional conferences and events, and industry-specific online communities. By actively engaging with industry leaders, you can gain access to valuable insights, discussions, and networking opportunities that can propel your learning journey and open doors to collaboration.
Stay connected with industry leaders by having your executive assistant create a curated list based on specific criteria (such as expertise, influence, or relevance) and gradually add them to your network over a few weeks. This approach allows you to engage in meaningful conversations and maintain valuable connections in your industry. Plus, it can help your personal brand grow.
The business world evolves rapidly, especially if you’re in technology. One way to keep yourself up to date is by taking courses or attending masterclasses that expand your knowledge. One example of a platform that connects professionals and promotes upskilling is EOS. This serves as a hub for continuous learning and collaboration, offering resources, webinars, and networking opportunities. These kinds of platforms provide a space to exchange ideas, gain industry-specific knowledge, and stay connected with like-minded CEOs.
Manage your time effectively
The first step to effective time management is to determine the need for your involvement in each project. To do that ask yourself three questions:
- Am I the only person who can do this?
- Am I the best person to do this?
- Is this something I enjoy doing?
Prioritize the responsibilities that require your unique expertise and passion by keeping three things in mind: focus on hiring, raising capital, and taking on one responsibility you enjoy doing (sales, product, engineering, etc). This will allow you to concentrate on the core aspects of your role.
Time is scarce not just for you, but for your team as well. Planning meetings beforehand is a good practice when it comes to putting your time to good use. CEOs who start and end meetings on time demonstrate respect for their own time and the time of others.
Being consistently on time for meetings and appointments demonstrates respect for others’ time and fosters a culture of professionalism within your organization. When you prioritize punctuality, your direct reports will notice and feel valued, increasing their engagement and respect for you as their leader. Honoring commitments and showing up punctually creates a positive work environment that promotes productivity, accountability, and mutual respect.
Learn to say no
Avoid spreading your team too thin by focusing on a select few initiatives instead of saying yes to everything. Prioritize a few significant bets that build into your ability to reach your north star with your team and channel your team’s energy towards excelling in those areas. By narrowing your focus, you significantly increase the likelihood of success. It’s better to go deeper and do better on a few key initiatives than to take on too many and risk diluting your team’s efforts.
Resist knee-jerk reaction
An overflowing email, non-stop Slack notifications, and any other digital ping are distractions that get in the way of your work. Some of them are of high importance, but many others are just that: distractions that are bound to be sent to the spam folder right away. The only way of knowing the difference is by constantly checking them out, right? Not quite.
Resisting the knee-jerk reaction to handle every item that enters your calendar is crucial. Delegating tasks to capable team members empowers others while freeing up precious time for you to concentrate on strategic decision-making and higher-value activities.
Reduce decision fatigue
Everyday chores are easy to do and most of them only take a couple minutes of your time. But simplifying routine decisions, such as having the same breakfast every day or establishing a consistent dress code, minimizes the mental energy spent on trivial choices, allowing yourself to reserve your decision-making capacity for more impactful matters.
Delegate, compartmentalize, prioritize
Our life’s mission is to help CEOs and C-suite executives 10x their productivity. One of the ways we’re making that happen is by offering coaching sessions and masterclasses on delegation, compartmentalization, and prioritization.
In the masterclasses, the executives go on a 15 to 30-minute virtual meeting with one of our customer success managers. In that completely personalized session, they learn about the 5Ws of delegation, get a total overhaul of their calendar or understand how to ruthlessly prioritize. If you think you can benefit from any of our sessions, sign up for any of our free masterclasses.
“One of the lessons I learned was to focus and to have ruthless prioritization. You don’t just do all these aimless bets that have a 1% chance of working. You put the entire weight of the company behind a few large bets, and you nearly guarantee they’re going to work”. Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO at Airbnb
Stay close to your team and your customers
No matter the size or tenure of a company, staying connected with employees and customers is a critical practice for CEOs to foster growth and customer satisfaction. While the demands of a CEO’s role may be extensive, nurturing meaningful relationships with team members and customers should never be overlooked.
Talk to all team members
One crucial aspect of staying connected is actively engaging with team members at all levels of the organization, not just the executives. By regularly engaging in conversations with employees across various departments and levels, CEOs can gain valuable insights. These interactions offer an opportunity to understand the challenges, aspirations, and perspectives of different team members, fostering a sense of belonging and ensuring that everyone’s voices are heard.
One way to stay updated with new team members is by utilizing the support of an executive assistant. Ask your EA to create a tracker and schedule weekly “donut chats” with 2-3 team members at a time. These informal conversations provide an opportunity to connect, exchange information, and keep everyone in the loop.
Have Q&As with new hires
Conducting Q&A sessions with new team members is another effective practice. These sessions provide a platform for new employees to ask questions, share their experiences, and gain a deeper understanding of the organization’s values and objectives. Additionally, these interactions offer CEOs the opportunity to convey their vision, address concerns, and establish rapport with new hires setting the stage for a positive and productive work environment.
Listen to customers
Reading customer service emails is a valuable habit that keeps CEOs in the loop. Customer feedback, suggestions, and concerns provide invaluable insights into the changing needs and expectations of the market. By staying close to customers’ needs, CEOs can identify emerging trends, adapt strategies, and ensure that their company remains customer-centric and responsive to evolving demands. This practice demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction and allows CEOs to proactively address any issues that may arise.
“Every time I work backwards from what’s best for my customer, I win. Every time I work backwards from what I think a future acquirer might want to see, I lose (…) Stay focused on your customers. Stay focused on what they need. Let that always be your North Star”. Sam Jacobs, CEO at Pavilion.
Leave room for creativity
Getting creative goes beyond simply generating new ideas; it allows for deep work, strategic thinking, and ensuring that the company is on the right path at a macro level. Create space for your mind to wander freely. This stillness provides an opportunity for your thoughts to explore new perspectives, make unexpected connections, and generate innovative ideas. Allow your creative mind to take center stage by intentionally setting aside moments of quiet reflection.
Allow your brain to get bored
Embracing boredom is an often-overlooked aspect of creativity. Allowing the brain to wander can lead to unexpected connections and innovative ideas. Create moments of stillness, where your mind has space to explore and wander. In these moments of mental downtime, the seeds of creativity take root, leading to breakthrough insights and solutions.
According to recent research, boredom can spark your creativity and problem-solving skills by providing your mind with the opportunity to wander and daydream.
“Boredom is a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied. If we can’t find that, our mind will create it. There’s no other way of getting that stimulation, so you have to go into your head”. Sandi Mann, psychology lecturer & Author.
Take a step back
Set aside dedicated periods for reflection, analysis, and big-picture thinking. Step back and examine the trajectory of the company products, identify opportunities for expansion, and evaluate if you’re thinking ambitiously enough. Allocate one session every quarter to review and contemplate the changes that have occurred throughout the year and a longer, more intensive weekend session once a year to reflect on the entire year.
This reflective process allows you to ensure that your company is heading in the right direction. Question yourself on whether you are thinking too small or limiting your brand’s potential. If, for example, sales are declining, it’s time to take a detour and explore unconventional strategies. Creating referral plans, seeking input from prospects, and brainstorming with team members can spark fresh perspectives and lead you to alternative solutions.
Implementing the habits of highly productive CEOs today will take your productivity to new heights. Embrace a consistent morning routine, master time management techniques, and commit to lifelong learning. Start by taking a free executive Masterclass on the most effective time management techniques.