Wake up at 4 AM. Do 30 minutes of yoga. Gulp down a green smoothie, then leap into 10 hours of work… before segueing into your side-hustle, of course!
Or maybe not.
Many of us are reevaluating what personal success and achievement look like. And while productivity tools and tips can accelerate you toward your goals, too much productivity advice focuses on inflexible routines and regimented workflows.
The world's most ambitious investors, creative thinkers, and fast-rising business leaders haven't copy-pasted a formula for success — they've built their own. So we asked 5 impressive entrepreneurs to share their unique productivity styles.
I know what you might be thinking... even more advice to add to your list! But these counterintuitive approaches to productivity can help you find your own best way to work — so you never have to use another hack again.
Let's dive in…
Productivity tip #1: Let go of others' expectations, and take mornings slowly — Anthony Ongaro
Let's kill one myth right now: early-morning routines and high productivity don't always go hand in hand. Unless you're naturally an early riser, trying to mold your routine to include dawn meditation and pre-breakfast workouts will do more harm than good.
"Slow mornings are essential to my productivity," says Anthony Ongaro, filmmaker and the creator of Break the Twitch. "The more rushed and chaotic my mornings are, the more scattered and distracted the rest of my day is."
The key to productivity isn't about setting your alarm — it's about accepting yourself, leaning into your personal productivity style, and discarding working habits that don't serve you.
"In the past, I've spent a lot of energy trying to make the ways I stay productive fit into other people's expectations," Anthony explains.
"As an entrepreneur, you can really work on letting go of the external expectations that came from old bosses or coworkers on the 'best way' to get things done. It takes time to unwind those things, but it's all a part of allowing yourself to do your best work in the way that works best for you."
Learn more: Embracing self-acceptance
Productivity tip #2: Reassess whether your productivity routines actually work — Luba Yudasina
Popular productivity wisdom encourages us to devise good habits, chain them to our existing routines, and watch as our output accelerates ever upward!
But routines can also drag us down; they don't give us the breathing space to evaluate our long-term goals. Just ask Luba Yudasina, a former product manager and software engineer at Airbnb, turned startup co-founder, CEO, and opera singer.
"I'm letting go of the commitment that I had to always stay on track with my routines," says Luba. "The productivity bells and whistles phase has passed from my life."
"It's not about becoming 100X more effective. It's about going back to those foundational principles, figuring out what I'm doing with my time and my life, and asking myself: am I enjoying it? And then enhancing it with more simple practices and routines, like making a to-do list, reviewing plans, and tracking goals."
Learn more: Simplifying your routines
Productivity tip #3: Experiment with unbridled workflows — Hitha Palepu
Now, here's the tricky part: cultivating the self-awareness to know when you need a framework, and when you should follow your intuition.
For example, time-tracking can be a highly effective way to get things done — especially when paired with the Pomodoro Technique. But if you adopt this framework for every task, you could risk stifling your creativity.
Intuitive working is how Hitha Palepu, an entrepreneur, investor, and speaker, carved out the time to write a book.
"If I sat down at my computer, and thought, 'I am not going to be able to write this section right now', I would book interviews, review my research, edit another chapter… and as long as I did something productive, I knew I was making progress on the final product," says Hitha.
One way to ensure your intuitive workflows don't waver, and avoid succumbing to distractions? Minimize decisions.
"I ordered the same one or two salads from Sweetgreen every day, just to get something healthy in me," says Hitha. "I've started doing these things any time I take on something really challenging."
Learn more: Building an intuitive workflow
Productivity tip #4: Allow yourself healthy avoidance — Sophia Amoruso
The speed of modern communication is a blessing and a curse. As email flies into your inbox, you feel obliged to respond… or grow more and more uncomfortable, as you let it go ignored.
Entrepreneur culture tells us to respond quickly and face challenges head on. "Avoidance" is a dirty word. But it doesn't need to be — it could even safeguard your stress levels. Just ask Sophia Amoruso, original Girl Boss, bestselling writer, and entrepreneur.
"Avoidance is portrayed as something that isn't a good trait — but I've learned that healthy avoidance can allow things to unfold, and help the important things rise to the top," says Sophia. "You can also avoid things temporarily, to manage your own time."
Learn more: Adopting healthy avoidance
Productivity tip #5: Embrace asynchronous working — James Beshara
Most of us have embraced asynchronous working, whether because of pandemic-induced distance or working across time zones.
But to author, investor, and advisor James Beshara, asynchronous working isn't a necessity: it's actually the most efficient use of your time.
"Adopting an asynchronous working style has been life changing for me," says James. "Instead of running 30-minute meetings, where I can't get into flow 30 minutes beforehand, and where it takes another 20-30 minutes afterward to get back into flow, I've switched to 5-8 minute Looms with thoughtful back and forth (versus reactive back and forth)."
"It allows for both higher quality and more efficient communication for 90% of interactions."
Learn more: Leveraging asynchronous communication