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Having interviewed some of the world’s leading women over the past decade, I've been fascinated by the habits, rituals and lessons learned that have been instrumental in fueling their success. “The One Thing” series is dedicated to distilling that hard-won wisdom into leaders’ most salient advice on closing the gap between ambition and reality. Each month I’ll ask leading voices to drill down on “the one thing…,” from career success to wellness to bouncing back from failure, all of which can help us better navigate these experiences in our own lives.
In this installment, six busy female leaders share their high performance productivity habits and the morning rituals that maximize the day ahead. Despite competing demands on time, the most efficient women carve out moments for self-care, plan their path for the coming week, and prioritize the activities that bring them energy and joy. Below, they share their best advice on getting more things done in less time.
What’s “The One Thing” that helps you to be more productive each and every day?
We’re very good at taking care of everything and everyone else, but often we forget to put our own oxygen masks on first. I learned that when you start the day off with a frenetic pace, it sets the tone not only for the day but possibly the week. It also impacts your family and your team dynamic. I don’t like the term work-life balance, and quite frankly, I don’t even know what that means, but I do practice hyper-prioritization. As a mother of two teenage boys, a wife, entrepreneur and active board and community member, I have made it a point to add “me” to the list of people I am accountable to.
My productivity tool is my morning routine. I wake up at 5 am, and for the first 10 minutes, I do absolutely nothing but visualize my day before I get out of bed. I practice a few mindfulness techniques (I am still a work in progress when it comes to meditation!) followed by a quick workout . I then list the three most important things I must get done that align with my overall goals for the week. This is my success list versus my to do list.
When I build my schedule, I schedule myself in first, then key family events, and my work will take every other moment there is. This is why grounding myself in self care first, is how I can be at my best for all other aspects of my life. - Lisa Skeete Tatum, Founder and CEO, Landit
Lately, I've been starting every morning with a meditation. This is one of the things that helps me start the work day with a clear mind and forces me to set an intention. My days are so much better and more productive when I go into them with a clear idea of what I want to accomplish. Other than that, I try my best to be present in the moment of whatever I'm doing. If i'm in a meeting, I accomplish so much more when I don't check my phone or try to answer emails at the same time. I think the key to success is giving your all to that moment. - Anine Bing, Founder & Chief Creative Officer ANINE BING
Blocking out time for myself is key for my productivity. In the beginning stages of our business, it felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. I’ve learned over the years that carving out moments for self-care, no matter how busy things are, ultimately enables me to be a better leader, mother, wife and friend. Self-care can be as simple as listening to a podcast during the morning commute instead of immediately jumping on emails or blocking out time on the calendar - free of meetings - to think and strategize with my cofounder Sarah. Inspiration can come from a brisk walk around the block, meeting with other entrepreneurs outside of the office or even during my nightly skincare routine. This way I’m able to address my needs without distraction and take on the day’s challenges with a renewed perspective and energy. - Christine Chang, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Glow Recipe
Working in late night television with some of the best and brightest comedic minds out there, I find keeping up to date with current events and what’s buzzing to be vital each day. I always start my morning off with Cheddar’s Need2Know Newsletter which gives me the perfect rundown of ten top stories to better equip me for the day. The email covers all subject matters and presents the news in an easy and quick to consume manner, which is perfect for on-the-go reading. In the event I need to know more, it also includes quick access links allowing me to probe further and get the full scoop in real time. In my world, staying ahead of the curve is paramount, and Need2Know gets me up to speed by the time I first step foot in the office. - Lauren Roseman, Senior Vice President, NBC Entertainment Publicity, NBC Universal Media, LLC
The best productivity hack I’ve found is a simple one: asking for help. And for me, that help often comes in the form of my husband. The knowledge that he is at home – managing transport, homework, dance classes, permission slips, and stuffy noses for our five incredible daughters – means my mind can be at work when I’m at work. Having my husband manning the fort at home frees up the part of my brain that would be occupied worrying about my kids every day. I realize that this solution isn’t in the cards for everyone, but every juggling parent could probably use the reminder from time to time that no one does it alone. - Meridith Maskara, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater New York
I am squarely in the ‘sandwich generation’ - where we have young children, aging parents and our career has hit its stride from a complexity and demand perspective. It’s a bit zany- and productivity is paramount to being able to handle it all. For me, productivity requires ample fuel. I must refuel each day, and the most important refueling I do comes from daily, quality, engaged time with my young children.
This is something I learned from my amazing father, whom I lost suddenly after heart surgery in February. He was a very successful technology executive. Despite the pressures of his job, he always made intentional and focused time for his family. As a consequence, I knew that no matter what life threw at me, my dad was always there, in my corner.
Now I refuel in much the same way. Most evenings I set aside focused family time. Even if just for an hour to put the kids to bed. The phone is down. The computer is off. We engage, we listen, we snuggle, and we go to sleep knowing we love each other. This is my touchstone, and my fuel. It resets me every day as to what is truly important. And then I have the ability to think more clearly, prioritize, make loads of decisions, and come back more productive and full of fuel for the next challenge. -Carrie Palin, CMO, Splunk