As an entrepreneur, I’m always on the lookout for words of wisdom from fellow innovators. Looking to the rule breakers (who often evolve into rule makers), I've come up with these six ways to successfully challenge the status quo.
1. Get regular exercise. Studies confirm what we’ve always suspected—that people who get regular exercise perform better on cognitive tests and are more creative than people who are sedentary. Guy Kawasaki, business guru, bestselling author and public speaker extraordinaire, has certainly found that exercise provides a welcome break in the middle of his workday and helps him maintain his focus when he’s working. Kawasaki plays two hours of hockey midday and rides a stationary bike or does yoga in the evenings. It’s hard to argue with the results of exercise on this admitted workaholic’s productivity.
2. Strive for minimalism. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, has found that he works best with a streamlined workspace that’s free of distractions. His office isn’t cluttered with stacks of papers or an array of screens. Newmark’s setup includes his desktop, a window, and Homer Simpson and Grandpa Simpson figurines. That’s it. A little nature, a little inspiration from his animated heroes, and the tools he needs to accomplish his goals. Minimalist workspaces let thought leaders do their work, where they do it best: in their own minds.
3. Say “no” a lot. I am a huge admirer of Seth Godin, and he taught me an important lesson when I approached him about endorsing my first book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. He declined—politely and firmly—because it didn’t square with his vision or his brand that he worked tirelessly to promote. I learned that you absolutely must say no to the projects that don’t support your vision, or you run the risk of diluting your brand and your leadership. Tenacity pays off, by the way. Godin did support my second book, The Pumpkin Plan, because it made sense for his brand to associate with the principles I laid out in that book.
4. Embrace your inner introvert. Malcolm Gladwell is a simply brilliant public speaker. And although public speaking still scares him, this introvert embraces his nature, rather than trying to be someone he’s not. Public speaking for him is a performance—a role he inhabits in order to share his important thoughts. Thought leaders are typically introverts by nature, spending their most productive time turning inward to their own thoughts. (Check out Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.)
5. Get back to the room. I do a lot of public speaking, and I recently spoke at an event with Michael Gerber, Jack Canfield and Guy Kawasaki. Now these gentlemen were thoughtful, and generous in sharing their thoughts and ideas publicly, but I noticed that they were absent from the social, networking portions of the event. I had dinner with Michael, and I asked him about his routine—his work habits. He typically speaks at events, sharing his stories and inspiring attendees, and then he goes back to his room and gets to work. That habit lets thought leaders work with the public and still have time to generate the ideas that make them worth listening to.
6. Take sleep seriously. Your body needs sleep in order to function at its highest level, and productive people create their own routines to get the amount—and quality of sleep—that works for them. Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, realized that he was having trouble filtering out work concerns when it was time for bed, and it was negatively affecting both the amount and quality of sleep he was getting. Establishing a routine that lets him reflect on the day’s work before consciously putting work away, clearing his mind for restful sleep, has been a productivity booster.
We all work differently, but we can learn a lot from the habits of uber-successful folks—the ones who reshape the world to fit their unique vision. Modeling some of these traits of thought leaders can boost your productivity by helping you focus, turn your thoughts inward and shape your schedule to support your entrepreneurial vision.
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