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Explainer

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Synopsis

Ever wondered how Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk stays so productive? What about how Google, Asana, or LinkedIn plan their own productivity? In this explainer, we're going to review the techniques top companies use to increase their productivity. You'll learn how to run meetings, plan your day, schedule your week, and manage projects on a month-to-month basis just like the top business leaders in the world do.

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Outcome

With this framework, you'll gain insights into the top tools for productivity management and how productivity planners can impact your day. Unlike quarterly or annual goals, these productivity planner tools are for immediate action, whether it's per day, per week, or per month. These tools can not only be used for yourself but shared across teams so everyone can plan their days accordingly, especially as remote work and digital nomad work styles become more common.

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Tool highlights

Day planner

So how do you stay productive on a day-to-day basis? As the CEO of two major companies, Elon Musk needs to maximize his time management, which is why he uses a framework called MIT.

MIT, or the most important task, requires that you triage the day to begin with the tasks that are most critical. Then, you multitask less important tasks that can be done simultaneously. In 2018, a leaked email to Tesla employees revealed some additional advice on productivity. Musk advised Tesla employees to avoid excessive or frequent meetings and even suggested walking out of a meeting the second it stops providing value.

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To plan your own day, use this day planner visualization to view your day's schedule in a list format. List your responsibilities and meetings in an hour-by-hour format with a section to add any notes that are relevant to the task. To follow Elon Musk, start the day with your most important task. (Slide 3)

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On the sidebar, you can write a brief summary for your goal for the day so you stay focused on your main objective even as you tackle a series of often unrelated tasks.

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Weekly plan

So you've got your day to day planned out, but what about the week to week? How do you stay productive as you juggle daily tasks and weekly meetings? Jeff Bezos has an idea...

In 2018, the Amazon CEO shared some insights into the company culture around meetings. For starters, he uses a "two-pizza rule" to keep meetings small. If two pizzas won't feed the room, there are too many people at the meeting. Bezos also requires all meetings to provide a six-page memo that everyone reads together in silence at the beginning of each meeting before discussing the topic in depth. This is to provide a high-quality conversation where everyone has the same key details to work from, like a study hall.

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Amazon teaches its execs to write and rewrite these memos for weeks at a time before they are ready to present. The narrative presentation focuses the attention on what's important over what's not, and the high standard of the memo creates a culture where meetings are held only for the most important topics.

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To plan your week, you can use a weekly plan to focus your attention like Bezos. Highlight your top four most important tasks on each given day along with the associated time you plan to work on each. You can apply Bezos' meeting technique to limit meetings only to the most important topics. (Slide 18)

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For instance, if a topic of discussion doesn't relate to your top 4 most important tasks for the day, it might not be important enough to schedule a meeting. This will help you reduce your attention and time being taken away from what's most important to your business.

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Weekly timeline

So you've got your day and your weekly plan. How do you make the most of the week to maximize your productivity?

Google pioneered the concept of the five-day sprint as a way to design, prototype, and test ideas in a quick and efficient process. The five-day sprint is used by product managers and product developers to build and launch a prototype that typically takes months to develop as an MVP over a five-day period instead. On Monday, you map out the problem you want to solve. On Tuesday, you come up with an idea. On Wednesday, you decide to move forward with the test. On Thursday you develop it, and on Friday you launch it as a test with customer interviews to get feedback.

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While Google designed this process around launching a product in a week, you can also use the SCRUM Sprint process to tackle backlogged features or assignments over a week to week period.

A weekly timeline view helps highlight the top priority each day. Using the sprint framework, you can highlight each day's priority with a sub-heading to expand on the task that needs to be accomplished. This visualization can be the source of truth for your team as you navigate the sprint process. (Slide 10)

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Gantt charts

Weekly sprints are a great way to maximize productivity on a week to week basis. So how do you track your progress on longer term tasks?

Asana is a productivity SaaS tool that many businesses use for team management, and publishes a blog with productivity tips provided by its team. The company's Engineering Manager Greg Sabo recommends not to do any work before you have a task assigned for it, which includes checking your inbox. He also says you should always set a due date for every task. On or before a task's due date, you should either complete it or assign a new due date. This conscious focus on due dates helps you stay productive and focused on completing tasks in a timely manner.

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To track your productivity across these multiple tasks and assignments, a monthly Gantt chart with progress bars can help. The tracker bars can be extended as progress increases over a set period of time, so if you do find yourself moving a due date, you can extend the incomplete bar accordingly. (Slide 21)

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Monthly assignments

So you've got your month-to-month productivity down. But what about when you want to track your progress towards long-term, more aspirational goals?

In 1999, Google was the 18th search engine to arrive on the web. The company needed to make tough choices, keep its team on track, and measure what mattered; Google used a tool called OKRs, or objectives and key results, as the key tool that helped lead the company to 10x growth many times over, according to Co-Founder Larry Page.

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By 2017, Google had built seven products, each with a billion or more users — Search, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube, GooglePlay, and Gmail.

While you can use Gantt charts to simply track progress towards completion, you can use this monthly assignment visualization to track your OKRs. In this instance, your progress is measured against your objective with the benchmarks for success set by your key results metrics.(Slide 24)

As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says, these objectives are "something you want to accomplish over a specific period of time that leans toward a stretch goal rather than a stated plan." Even though the goals are aspirational, they should have short duration timelines to create "greater urgency and greater mindshare"

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Additional tools

For more tools to increase your productivity, download this Productivity Planner (Part 2) presentation. You'll gain more variations and visualizations to help plan every type of productivity, with daily, weekly, and monthly views.

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