Staying Productive as a CEO in an Always-On World

Today's post was written by PTG Founder & CEO Reed Wilson. 

Recently, I was in a meeting with some 20-somethings in our company and mentioned how on business trips, after a meeting, we used to race back to the hotel so that we could ‘check email’ (this was in the early 2000’s before the advent of the smartphone).  While we had cell phones they were just used to make calls – that’s it.  They looked at me like I was a dinosaur.

I will admit that I miss these times because the lines between ‘work time’ and ‘personal time’ were clearly demarcated. Obviously, that has changed since the rise of smartphones and tablets. The lines between when you are working and when you are away from work have become increasingly blurred.  We are always connected now and, surprisingly, staying productive has become extremely difficult.  (Isn’t it funny that the very tools that were supposed to make us more productive have had the opposite effect?)

Staying productive while running a business and balancing family life can be tricky. I thought I would share some of the tools, tips, and tricks that I have adopted over the years to keep myself focused and productive in this ‘always on’ world.

Turn off the email distractions

For me, email can be a huge distraction.  I’ve turned off all email notifications in Outlook so that I’m not notified when new mail comes in.  Prior to doing this, I would stop what I was doing anytime my email would ‘chirp’ or I would get a new mail notification.  This allows me to stay focused on the task at hand.

Use an app to track your smart phone usage

There are several apps that will track how often (and for how long) you use your smart phone.  I use an app called Moment.  It’s a great app that reminds me when I have gone over a certain amount of screen time for the day.  Be prepared to be shocked!

Set clear expectations on how and when you will communicate

My team knows that if they have something that is urgent, it’s best to pick up the phone or come down to my office.  If it’s not urgent, feel free to send an email and I will respond when time allows.  This has two effects: 1) it limits the amount of email I get and 2) people will generally ‘think’ before bringing an urgent issue to me.

Leave your phone in your car when you get home

I have two small children at home and have learned, if my smartphone is handy, I find it difficult to be ‘in the moment’.  I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving my phone in my car when I get home in the evening and I don’t get it out until after they’ve gone to bed.  It’s great to have conversations at the dinner table again!

Go old school and write a list

To Do ListWhile there are certainly some great apps to help you with your to-do list, for me the best method of keeping a to-do list is to hand write it on an index card every day. I keep a stack at my desk in the office and at home. Every day, I write down the list of things that are crucial for me to get done that day.

The card stays with me all day long and it’s extremely gratifying to mark items out. The following morning, anything that didn’t get marked off goes on to today’s card.  If a to-do is moved more than twice then I have to ask myself how important it really is.  Although this is low-tech, this is my favorite productivity hack!

What about you?  Have you found any productivity hacks that you think are especially useful?  Let me know – I’d love to hear them as I am always trying to get better.

In the meantime, our team has put together an email course full of productivity advice on topics like email, cutting distractions and meeting to help you get more done as an individual and as a company. It advice we use in our own company every day to help us be more successful and I highly recommend it. 


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