15 productivity tips from the mouths of today’s top tech entrepreneurs (infographic)

All the hard work in the world won’t help you if you don’t have a little strategy to make it count.

Centuries of self-congratulatory work ethic have filtered through to a 21st-century scenario when real work isn’t considered real work unless you break a sweat and bust through the 35-hour working week mark by a considerable stretch. It may feel (perversely) fulfilling to work like this, but a few months or years down the line you’ll face burn-out, disillusionment, and failure.

When you look at the top business leaders of our epoch, they rarely seem super-stressed – despite the huge pressure on them. Sure, there have probably been periods when they’ve pulled a 60-hour week, but what has kept them fresh, energized, and inspired to come up with their unique ideas has been a question of smart productivity: instead of doing lots of work, they do the right work really well.

Business founders have learned a few things along the way, and it can be enlightening to come across their words of wisdom. Here’s Mark Zuckerberg, for example: “The question I ask myself like almost every day is 'Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’

Zuck makes for an amusing example because he literally spends all day on or around Facebook. But his is an important question for digital media professionals who have an element of social media in their job description: sure, it’s great to Tweet and respond to your business’s Instagram comments, but is that the most important thing you could be doing right now?

Whether social media is part of your job or not, it’s easy to get drawn in. But self-control over such things is a serious asset. Have you heard of Walter Mischel’s ‘marshmallow experiments’? Mischel (and later researchers who followed up on his work) discovered that people who could resist temptation got higher SAT scores, and that this sort of executive function beats an IQ test as an accurate predictor of academic success.

Mischel left young kids alone with a single marshmallow, and told them that if they could wait several minutes without eating it, they would get a second marshmallow as a reward. Most of the kids ate the first marshmallow pretty quickly and never saw that second treat. Our monkey brains sometimes overrule our sensible city brains.

As a grown-up and a professional, if you can filter out the distractions and temptations from your work environment you have a much better shot of completing the tasks that matter most, more efficiently and to a higher standard. And then you can leave work early and eat as many marshmallows as you like.

Because Zuckerberg gets to put Facebook time first, he actually quit school to concentrate on the tasks that matter most. For the rest of us non-billionaires, figuring out that posting a picture of the work crew eating morning donuts is less important than writing an important report can make all the difference between instant gratification and long-term success.

What to learn from laid-back entrepreneurs

Okay, so Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are hardly ‘laid-back’ figures compared to, say, your mate Dino. But they’ve each shared pieces of advice that counter the traditional work ethic’s emphasis on perfectionism.

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had,” suggests Bezos. “If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”

Part of Bezos’ advice speaks to the need for entrepreneurs and other professionals to strike while the iron is hot rather than to dilly-dally and miss out on an opportunity. But it also refers to the fact that a lot of the time, perfectionism is just procrastination in disguise.

Yes, research is important. Facts are important – in the current political climate more than ever. But it is important to take the first step in actually making a decision and executing a task. Many people don’t just wait for that 90% that Bezos considers unnecessary; they wait for the impossible 101%, and never get anything done.

Steve Jobs likewise evangelized the need to press ahead and not get caught up in unnecessary details. But Jobs was looking from the far end of the process. For Jobs, looking back was an occupational hazard, and it was important to deal with the fallout of things gone wrong quickly and undramatically in order to make progress.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes,” he said. “It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”

While it is important to learn from mistakes, there also has to be a moment of letting go. Jobs’ response is a kind of Occam’s Razor - slicing through a problem he faced with a new product, he would sometimes come to the simplest answer: this isn’t working and it’s time to stop.

Finally, Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan suggests taking a break from the social and professional pressure of your regular workplace can be a great way to juice-up your productivity:

“I do work a lot,” says Halligan. “One of my hacks is that every Wednesday is my work-from-home day, so if I'm not traveling in a given week, or even if I am traveling, I keep Wednesday open and that’s the day that I can just think and get stuff done.”

This new resource from Resume.IO offers some practical ways to action the top tips of business founders like those above. Which ones work for you?

15 productivity lessons from successful founders (and how to apply them)

Successful founders are productive.  We'll never know whether they're successful because they're productive or if they forced themselves to become productive because they wanted to be successful -- it's a chicken-or-egg question.  But the fact remains that even though they only have 24 hours in a day, they founded multi-million dollar companies while the rest of us were probably browsing our phones.   Here's the good news:   There are changes you can make to your daily life to boost your productivity.   That's why Resume.io analysed interviews, biographies and blogs written by the world's most successful founders in the lookout for juicy quotes about what makes these people productive. They then researched the science behind why their approach works and distilled practical tips that anyone can apply:

Read next: Surprising Ways in Which the First Ten Minutes of Your Day Affect Productivity (infographic)
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