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Top productivity hacks successful leaders have adopted during the pandemic

Wellbeing and productivity have moved up the agenda for leadership teams as managers juggle more than ever before in the current crisis. Could these productivity hacks help you and your teams thrive?

2nd Oct 2020
CEO Prialto
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Shot of a group of businesspeople working in an office
iStock/Charday Penn

Executives are juggling more than ever as they support fully distributed workforces while playing the roles of parent, teacher and manager concurrently. While home life has become more frenetic, however, the limited choices of how to spend a day and a week have made life calmer overall. With business lunches, travel and commutes removed from the calendar, executives have more time in their schedules, and they are almost universally investing in productivity enhancing activities that will set them up for success when the economy rebounds.

Productivity systems help leaders achieve more, both personally and professionally.

We surveyed more than 500 executives around the world earlier this year, and then again in the early weeks of widespread business shutdowns, and we found a clear and increased focus among executives on what entrepreneur Michael Simmons calls ‘compound time’. Like compound interest, these are activities in which even a small investment now is likely to yield large returns over time.

Among the findings of the Prialto Executive Productivity Report is that executives are investing in compound time to create calm and confidence in their future success in three key ways. Here’s how you can realise similar benefits.  

Adopt a productivity system

One of the most striking findings from our survey was that an increasing number of executives are adopting a productivity system (adoption of which was already high before the pandemic). More executives are finding time to retool their time management practices. Between February and May 2020, 18% of executives adopted a new time management system, bringing the total usage to 75%.

Intuitively, executives know that hours spent configuring a system that saves a bit of time today has tremendously positive compounding results. Productivity systems help leaders achieve more, both personally and professionally, by enabling them to:

  • Spend more time on strategic activities such as creating, problem solving and planning.
  • Improve their work/life balance by minimising distractions and irrelevant tasks.

Successful people are almost always planners. Not only do they have plans around their big goals, but they also see the value of planning their time. When you know your goals, you can positively channel and react to the big surprises, even the surprise of a dangerous, once-in-a-century contagion. Similarly, planning your time will allow you to positively channel the surprise disruptions of kids and other home distractions in your daily work.  

Culture Pioneers

Foster mutually beneficial relationships

In early April, my executive peer group met over Zoom with its sister group in China, which was beginning to open its economy just as we were beginning our quarantine. The most emphatic piece of advice we heard from our Chinese counterparts was to “go out of your way to help. People are remembering who helped them”.

Executives know that relationships matter and that finding time to invest in them yields unexpected results in perpetuity. So, despite increased concerns for families, personal health and economic viability, leaders are continuing to foster their networks. Our productivity survey found that since the pandemic began, 47% of executives have sought out more help with responsibilities such as strategic projects, administrative tasks and staying organised – freeing up time they can now spend cultivating relationships.

I’ve heard a constant stream of innovative ways to build personal connections while we function physically apart. From Zoom drinks to online movie-watching parties, the possibilities are endless. One executive I know is making time for virtual ‘lunch walks’. He and an acquaintance, whether new or old, walk their respective neighborhoods together and make a point of sharing new things they notice while they also discuss a life or business issue one of them is facing.

Seeking and offering support wherever you can helps you, and those around you, continue to thrive even amid challenging circumstances. As the situation eventually improves, these efforts will undoubtedly keep relationships strong and lead to long-term, mutually beneficial opportunities.

Make your personal wellbeing a priority

Successful executives take care of themselves in ways that foster lasting health and energy with which to power toward their plans. Our survey found that nearly everyone is placing a greater emphasis on themselves: 99% of executives are now investing a significant amount of time in wellness activities to ensure that they don’t burn out from all of the added stress they’re experiencing. In fact, this focus on personal wellbeing is actually channeling would-be stress into positive adrenaline.  

Personal wellbeing goes beyond just exercising and eating healthily. An overwhelming majority of executives (92%) now prioritise exercise, 62% prioritise getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, and nearly half prioritise eating right, but they’re also spending time on activities like family time, nature walks and listening to music. A substantial and growing number say they are focusing on mental strength, with nearly 20% of executives now reporting that they regularly meditate to foster mental balance and mindfulness.  

Investing some time saved during the pandemic on commutes and business lunches to reduce time-sucking anxiety and finding ways to prevent your head from cycling through negative thoughts about the past and the future will clearly yield a compounding return on time saved for the years after the pandemic.

The space to invest

It’s true that leaders are managing more than ever as they keep their employees engaged and productive, their businesses moving forward and their families connected – all from within one closed home environment. As a result, they’ve become more intentional in how they use their time. They’re making space to invest in the compound time activities that will pay the greatest dividends, including adopting productivity systems, fostering relationships and prioritising their own personal wellbeing. In doing so, they are positioning themselves, their teams and their organisations for success in the new normal – whatever that may look like.

Interested in this topic? Read Maintaining productivity whilst transitioning back to the workplace.

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