How Top CEOs Stay Productive? 6 Productivity Hacks They Use and So Should You


Meetings, Emails, calls, overseeing different companies and departments, keeping an eye on all the business development activities and the list runs on to no end. CEOs are the busiest people on the planet. They wake up before the light of dawn, need less sleep than us mortals and work more hours than anyone in their right mind would consider.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, an average CEO works for 62.5 hours per week and attends 37 meetings. How many of these 62.5 hours are actually productive? At the end of the day, this is what matters most. Making the most of these hours is indispensable to staying productive.

Here is how top CEOs stay productive and how they get the best out of their employees.

How Top CEOs Stay Productive?

1. Bypass Hierarchy

One of the biggest problems with following the chain of command is that it brings the entire process down to its knees by making it drag. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space X agrees with this notion as well. In one of his emails, he tells employees how “communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done.”

Elon Musk considers poor communication a root cause for a majority of issues. He writes, “The way to solve this is to allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right things happen.”

2. Go Light On Emails

Emails are one of the biggest productivity killers at work. Did you know that office workers receive around 200 emails every day and they spend 2.5 hours on average reading and responding to these emails? Yes, you read that right. This is why Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, doesn’t set a score by emails.

CEOs stay productive

He uses an innovative approach of “sending less emails to receive less emails.” to keep his inbox clutter-free. To put this in practice, he started writing emails only when necessary. As a result, he got, “materially fewer emails and a far more navigable inbox. I have tried to stick to the same rule ever since.

3. Make Faster Decisions

The pace at which the business world is evolving compels you to take the right decisions quickly. Former CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Meg Whitman, explains how she makes better decisions faster in one of his interviews, “I take in all the data. It helps knowing that when you make mistakes, you can always fix mistakes.” By using a task management software, you can easily crunch on all that data and get useful insights from it.

According to her, “A fast ‘no’ is better than a long extended ‘no’ or long extended ‘yes.’” She further adds, “If you think about every bad thing that will happen, you freeze. This is where pattern recognition is really helpful. I’ve been doing this for so long; I’ve seen the movie before.

4. Use Downtime to Think

We all have productivity slumps and productivity bumps. Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx knows how to make the most of downtime. Sharing her experience, on Reid Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale, she said, “I have 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.”

Sara Blakely always carries a notebook with her to make the most of downtimes. She admits, “There’s a number of events where the content on stage is super boring, but I’m locked in my chair because I can’t walk out. That’s the reason I always bring a notepad with me, because what I’ll do is I’ll start working. I have the focus of the fact that I can’t leave, I can’t get distracted, I can’t go work on something and I can’t do email, and I’m just sitting there with my pad of paper. I’m sitting there going, ‘Okay, this is really fucking boring,’ and I pull out my notepad and I start working.

5. Take a Nap

Josh Luber, CEO of StockX, sleeps on duty and considers it one of the best ways to recharge his batteries during the day. He said, “I find that one of the best ways to maintain productivity is to incorporate power naps into your day,” he says. “At the rate at which StockX is growing, it’s a 24-hour job and I spend 70% to 80% of my time on the road across varying time zones, which can be hard on your body. I take 11-minute naps once or twice per day and find that it makes for increased energy and efficiency

CEOs stay productive

6. Create Better Lists

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb gives a unique twist to To-Do lists. Here is how he goes about it, “Make a list of everything you want to accomplish that day. Be as exhaustive as possible. 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.” Repeat that process until you have few big tasks left.

He further adds, “If you have a list of 20 things to do, you end up realizing, ‘I don’t need to do 20 things. If I do these three big things, the other 20 things will kind of happen as outcomes, or outputs, of it.


Despite having so much on their plates, CEOs stay productive by making the most of every minute. They know the value of time and never waste it. Follow in the footsteps of most productive CEOs and take your productivity to the next level. How do you stay productive at work? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.