Gini Dietrich

The 14 Productivity Tips of Ridiculously Successful People

By: Gini Dietrich | September 28, 2017 | 

Productivity TipsBy show of hands, how many of you use Pocket?

OK. I can’t see you (but how cool would that be?).

But if you didn’t raise your hand or nod your head, you must check out Pocket.

While I certainly save a lot of articles to my Pocket, the thing I like most are the recommended stories and the opportunity to explore.

I find so many things in both of those sections that I would never otherwise read.

Case in point: last night I found an article titled, “14 things ridiculously successful people do every day.

I’m big on productivity tips and I also like to hold myself up against “ridiculously successful people” to see where I stand.

I assumed it was a little click-baity and it wouldn’t offer me much in the form of ideas.

Boy, was I wrong!

14 Productivity Tips

The author, Travis Bradberry, begins his productivity tips article by talking about Kevin Kruse, the author of We and other best-selling books:

Kruse recently interviewed more than 200 ultra-successful people, including seven billionaires, 13 Olympians. and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs. One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question: “What is your number one secret to productivity?”

Kruse grouped all of their responses into 14 productivity tips.

He found they:

  1. Focus on minutes, not hours
  2. Focus on only one thing
  3. Don’t use to-do lists
  4. Beat procrastination with time travel
  5. Make it home for dinner
  6. Use a notebook
  7. Process emails only a few times a day
  8. Avoid meetings at all costs
  9. Say “no” to almost everything
  10. Follow the 80/20 rule
  11. Delegate almost everything
  12. Touch things only once
  13. Practice a consistent morning routine
  14. Focus on energy

There is a lot to be learned from this list, so let’s get started!

Focus on Minutes

A few years ago, I had lunch with my friend Jeannie Walters.

She told me about a podcast she’d listened to that suggested you have a list of things to do during the 10 or 15 or 20 minutes you have between meetings.

We all have those off minutes and we typically check email or jump on the social networks, completely wasting that time.

After all, how much can you really accomplish in 15 minutes?

It turns out…quite a bit!

Jeannie told me she started using those minutes to start a blog post or record some thoughts for her podcast or return a phone call.

She was almost gleeful when describing how much she’d accomplished by changing that one little habit.

So I thought I’d try it, too.

It works. Try it. You’ll be far more satisfied with your progress at the end of each day.

Focus on One Thing

We’ve actually talked quite a bit about this on this very blog.

Early in the summer, I challenged all of you to work in blocks of time to see if you could reduce your work time to six hours or less each day.

When you focus on only one thing at a time, you are able to accomplish a lot more.

At the end of each day, write down the one big thing you have to get done the next day.

If it’s a large project, break it down into smaller chunks.

Then spend the first two or three hours of your day focused only on that one thing.

Don’t Use To-Do Lists

Remember how I said I like to read articles to hold myself up against “ridiculously successful people”?

Well, I failed at this one.

love my to-do lists and Wunderlist is my hero.

But this heading is a bit misleading.

You still need to-do lists so you can stay organized and not miss anything.

What is suggested, in addition to your to-do list, is scheduling what needs to be done.

If you take the first two productivity tips already discussed, you would block 8:30-11:30 to do one project—and that would actually go into your calendar.

Let’s say you have a phone call from 11:30-12:00 and it ends at 11:50.

Pencil in what you can do in those 10 minutes.

Then block your next deep work session from 12:00-2:00 and so on.

The point is to put in your calendar what you are going to do, not just block the time to do it.

Beat Procrastination

I laughed out loud at this productivity tip in the Bradberry article:

Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are time inconsistent. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future.

Uh…I mean, I don’t know what he means. I’ve never done that. Have you?

I’m also really bad about thinking, “Oh, I don’t have any meetings on Thursday. I’ll do this gigantic project that will take 26 hours then.”

And then, because it’s so overwhelming and I don’t have 26 hours on Thursday, I procrastinate.

Stop doing that!

(I’m saying that as much to myself as to you.)

Make it Home for Dinner

The nice thing about this for me is there is no dinner in my house if I don’t make it home.

While some might consider that an added pressure, I use it as an excuse to stop what I’m doing and be present.

I also have been taking the Small Child to/from school on my bike (I can probably eek out one more month doing that) so I have to leave by 5 p.m.

When you make other commitments that will cost you money ($1/minute if she is picked up after 6 p.m.) if you don’t keep them, you keep them.

Figure out ways to make it home for dinner, put your phones/tablets away, be present, and enjoy your families.

You can always do more work later.

Use a Notebook

We’ve had this debate on this very blog—do you prefer pen and paper or technology?

It turns out ultra-productive people carry a notebook.

Before we both had kids, Andy Crestodina and I (along with a handful of other friends) used to have a monthly dinner out.

My favorite thing to do, after a drink or two, was to pull out our notebooks and compare notes.

We both have blog post ideas, quotes that inspire us, things we’d like to accomplish, and other notes in our notebooks.

He used to go through his blog post ideas and say:

Oh, this one makes more sense for you to write. Do you want it?

Of course I do!

We also used to figure out what we could both write about and then have a contest to see who could get on the first page of Google results first.

Ahhhh…I miss those days.

The point is that ideas are all around us.

Carry a notebook so you can capture them in the moment.

Process Emails a Few Times a Day

We moved over to G Suite a few months ago and, with it, I stopped using Apple Mail.

Sure, I can still get my emails in there, but I prefer to go to to get my mail.

Because…it’s no longer open on my computer.

When I used the app, I would set it to “take all accounts offline” and keep it off for a few hours.

Now, I just close the web-based browser and it’s out of sight, out of mind.

It forces me to check emails only a few times a day.

I typically do first thing (5 a.m.), around lunchtime, and again at the end of the day (around 4:30).

I’ll also check it around bedtime, just to be certain nothing has blown up.

While email is a huge distraction, we have most of our communication through Slack these days.

I have Slack on my laptop (not on my desktop) and I keep the lid closed when I’m doing focused work.

That way, the notifications aren’t pinging me constantly and I’m not tempted to respond.

Avoid Meetings

Of course, you can’t totally avoid meetings.

Lots of conversations have to happen in person (or, in our case, on video chat).

But limit the number of meetings you attend.

For me, I front-end all of my meetings to the beginning of the week so I have the latter part of the week to get work done.

These meetings include client updates, one-to-ones with my direct reports, media interviews, and podcast recordings.

If someone wants to pick my brain or show me a demo or use my time in a way that does not drive revenue, I either find a way to do those over email or they fall into a Monday late afternoon slot.

In some cases, that means the person has to wait six or eight weeks to meet with me.

I’m terrible at saying no to people (which is also on this list), but this schedule allows me to control it a bit better.

Say No




Warren Buffet once said:

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.

And that, my friends, is the reason I have failed at least three of these productivity tips.

I cannot tell someone no.

If you’re bad at this, too, let’s make a pact to be much better about it in the last three months of the year.



Follow the 80/20 Rule

Do you know which activities you do that drive 80 percent of your results?

I’m willing to bet it’s a small part of what’s on your task list—or what has made it to the blocked off time on your calendar.

If you don’t track your time, commit to doing so for one week.

At the end of the week, go through and circle the things that produced the most results.

This could be lead generation, sales, new business development, or inbound marketing.

Whatever it is, take the following week to focus only on those things—and delegate everything else.

Delegate Almost Everything

Which leads me to here.

Not all of us have teams. Not all of us are in positions to be able to delegate.

Perhaps you’re at the very start of your career. That means you are the person who is delegated to.

That’s OK! You’ll get your turn.

For the rest of us, figure out where you can delegate.

We love, love, love Virtual Staff Finder.

For $300/month, you can have a part-time marketer, customer service rep, or virtual assistant.

And, for $600/month, you can have someone full-time.

Pretty much every, single business on earth can afford that—from multi-billion dollar organizations to solopreneurs.

Read Virtual Freedom, do the work he suggests in the book, and then delegate, delegate, delegate.

If you take only one thing from this list of productivity tips, it’s this one.

Hiring someone like this is scary at first, but I am willing to put serious money on the fact that you will be mad at yourself for not doing it earlier.

Touch Things Only Once

This is a productivity tip nearly every expert provides—touch things only once.

If you’re in the responding to email mode and you receive something that will take 15 minutes or less, do it right then.

If it’ll take longer than an hour, add it to your blocked time.

And if you can delegate it, do it right then.

Nothing should sit on your desk or in your inbox, once it’s been opened.

Practice a Consistent Morning Routine

It doesn’t matter if you get up at 5 a.m. or 9 a.m. (though I’m envious if you can sleep that late), the point is to be consistent.

Most ridiculously successful people don’t skip breakfast, they exercise, and they do something for their brains, such as journaling or meditation.

I’ve often talked about my morning routine, which includes all of those things, and begins at 5 a.m.

As I write this exact sentence, it’s 5:23 a.m.

As much as I would love to sleep in some days, I find my body and my brain are totally screwed up if I do.

So 5 a.m. it is!

Focus on Energy

I’m the type of person who needs eight hours of sleep, and I protect that sleep as though I’m a newborn.

I also schedule in exercise (and I have a coach to hold me accountable) and I know when it’s time to sharpen the saw, as my mom would say.

Ridiculously successful people:

view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and breaks as opportunities to recharge to get even more done.

I also have no idea why anyone would skip a meal, especially breakfast.

It’s the most delicious meal of the day!

If you change your mindset to fuel your body, recover your brain, and recharge to accomplish more, do you think you’ll skimp on those things?

I’ll bet not!

Yourself Compared to These Productivity Tips

When you compare yourself to this list of productivity tips, how did you do?

Don’t worry—I failed in many of them, but that’s good!

Now I know where I need to focus for my own growth—and you do, too.

And now the floor is yours. Which of these productivity tips do you find the most helpful?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • jeanniecw

    Say no! Ha ha ha ha!! Ok, deal. I’ll try.

    And I’m glad one of our lunch conversations inspired you!

    Recently, I have also been embracing the idea of a daily reset. If I don’t follow good habits or have a crazy few days, I can always “reset” the next day. There is something about that I find helpful and more positive than beating myself up for messing up.

    Thanks for the shoutout! Now get back to being productive!

    • Ohhh! I love that idea!

      • jeanniecw

        I love how it makes me just move on instead of dwelling on what DIDN’T happen.

    • That’s what I did on Monday of this week…but it was because I went to Chicago Gourmet on Sunday and let’s just say I overindulged. In all things—food, wine, everything. So it works in all aspects of your life.

  • Debbie Johnson

    When I first saw “don’t use to-do lists” in the list, I started to freak. I can’t imagine not having a to-do list. I’d forget to do things! But after reading the post, I get it. I have been making the effort to schedule time in chunks and focus on one thing at a time. The days I’m able to do it, I get a lot more accomplished and I’m not as stressed out at the end of the day.

    Regarding meetings, there is a department in my office that has a weekly team meeting, and they are notorious for wasting time. The department head was recently replaced, so when I met with the new department head, I suggested that a focused agenda would make that meeting more efficient and productive. She agreed, implemented the change, and the meeting now has a purpose.

    But I also think being productive is about setting priorities. One of my priorities is to do more reading and writing outside of work. I need time to do that, and I can’t do that if I’m doing work that I didn’t get done during the day at night. So I have an incentive to be productive during the work day because it means I have more time to devote to my priorities.

    • I LOVE that you have set personal priorities that force you to be productive during the day. I love, love, love that.

      I also read an article yesterday about how Jeff Bezos manages meetings. They all have a silent start. This is the time for everyone to read memos and make notes, while being completely focused. It puts onus on the person running the meeting to write the memos and engages the group most productively. I love that.

  • These are sooooo good! I’m horrible at the no thing as well, but I saw a quote the other day that said “every time you say “yes” to one thing, you say “no” to something else. Choose your priorities.” That really resonated with me.

  • Dawn Buford

    I LOVE Pocket. I squirrel away articles every day and read them in the evenings. Sometimes I overwhelm myself with too many articles and read them all on weekends. I read the original article about the 14 tips and I agree with them. I incorporate most of these into my daily routine. And Gini, you don’t have to say no, that’s what you have me for. : )

    • I KNOW! And I’m terrible about using you for that sometimes. Argh!

  • Morning routine! I love it. Earlier this year I found a morning routine that works very well for me. It includes a delicious breakfast, exercise, and me time (reading, writing, podcasting). If I skip it for whatever reason I noticed I am very unhappy (read pissed) that day.

    I like the “focus on minutes” idea. I will put it in action. I already have some ideas. Thank you!

    Agreed with the to-do list. I cannot live with without one. At the very top I have each day’s priorities and then the rest.

    OK, saying no is a tough one.

    I’ll save this for reading again and again and again.

    • I’m fairly certain it’s impossible for you to be pissed. But carry on.

  • Bill Clifford

    Damn you Gini, another resource to review!

    This list is so good. @laura_petrolino:disqus you may be bad at saying no, which I find hard to believe knowing you, I am the worst at delegating. It amazes me how many things I do that others do better than me. The rest of 2017 and 2018 is the year (and three months) of delegation!

  • So glad you clarified that to-do list item. I do love, and hate, my to-do list. Knowing how to manage it and to ensure it makes your day productive, rather than encumbering it, is super important, and super hard. But I’m getting better… I also need multiple lists. That to-do list that never gets smaller isn’t effective. If I add the same thing on the list 5 days in a row, yet I know I’m not going to get to it in until next week, that’s just silly.

  • Liz Reusswig

    Hahahahahaha! What is this “no” you speak of? 😉

    • Bahahahahah! RIGHT? You’re the worst at this. You do so much for the girls’ school.