The effort to increase your daily productivity proves challenging for everyone. The world seems more distracting than ever and our human nature to procrastinate can prevent us from accomplishing what we truly aim to complete. History’s greatest leaders are not immune to these challenges, they just found unique methods to work through these distractions and emerge on the other side as highly productive and influential people. Here’s a quick round-up of techniques from powerful leaders which, if applied in your own life, may increase your productivity as well.
1. FRED RODGERS—Stick to your Daily Workout
For over 30 years, Fred Rodgers helped children develop emotionally with his hit show “Mister Rodgers Neighborhood.” Rodgers was an ordained minister and viewed his uplifting programming for children as a way to reveal the love of God through secular means.
Daily routines, including a morning swim, proved paramount in empowering Rodgers to maintain his stamina. After a full 8 hours of sleep, he would start his morning with a prayer, go for a swim and then hop on the scale to ensure that his weight remained at 143 pounds. The number 143 was important to Rodgers because it represented the number of letters in each word of the statement “I love you.”
2. MAYA ANGELOU—Separate your Home and Work Environments
Maya Angelou’s poetry and writings had a profound impact on millions, and she was able to leverage her fame to increase visibility on topics related to civil rights. Her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” has proven to be a particularly powerful book to illuminate issues common to the experience of living as a black woman in a segregated America.
For Angelou, it was extremely important that she keep her working environment separated from the comforts and distractions of the home. In her case, she rented a small distraction-free hotel room which she visited for 7 hours daily and focused solely on writing while there.
3. JONATHON EDWARDS—Always Be Prepared to Jot Down Notes
In the mid-1700s Jonathon Edwards established a powerful ministry in the USA. This revivalist preacher shared his sermons across New England and was best known for his 1741 message “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God,” an iconic sermon that reveals the theology of The Great Awakening.
Edwards never knew when an idea may present itself that could help him in his ministry, so he always carried a pen and notebook with him to jot down notes. On the off-chance he was unable to write down a note, he developed a unique technique to ensure that he wouldn’t forget the idea that was forming in his head: he would pin a small piece of paper to the section of his clothing that most reminded him of the idea and then would focus on recalling the idea once he returned home and changed his clothes.
History’s greatest leaders are not immune to these challenges, they just found unique methods to work through these distractions and emerge on the other side as highly productive and influential people.
4. GEORGIA O'KEEFFE—Go for a Walk
Georgia O’Keeffe was a masterful artist and is celebrated as the “Mother of American Modernism.” Her abstract art often celebrated the beauty of nature, especially images of flowers and picturesque scenes inspired by the landscape of her home in Santa Fe, NM.
For O’Keeffe, going for a walk each morning was critical in orienting her for the day and inspiring her senses. After drinking a warm cup of tea, O’Keeffe took in the morning sun as she roamed the desert with a walking stick to ensure that the rattlesnakes were kept at bay.
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Enjoy the final stretch of summer 😎 Georgia O'Keeffe. "My Front Yard, Summer," 1941. Oil on canvas, 20 1/16 x 30 1/8 inches. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation. © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. [2006.5.173] #okeeffemuseum #gokm #georgiaokeeffe #theokeeffe #okeeffeinspired #simplysantafe #santafenm
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5. ABRAHAM LINCOLN—Write out your Feelings, but Don’t Hit “Send”
Abraham Lincoln was a profoundly important president who helped guide the moral compass of the United States and who boldly worked to ensure the abolishment of slavery in the American South. Today, we celebrate his legacy in countless ways and admire his bravery, moral convictions and effective leadership capacity.
Lincoln developed an excellent technique to manage his anger and maintain diplomacy in his relationships. Rather than mail off an angry letter, Lincoln instead would draft out all his feelings, but then wisely kept the letter to himself. For those of us who feel that emotional distractions are preventing us from our work, try writing out all your feelings in letter or email, but be sure to not send the message out.
6. STEVE JOBS—Treat Every Morning as Though it's your Last
Steve Jobs was a visionary business leader who fundamentally changed computing for a generation. By bringing the iPhone to the masses, he slipped powerful computers into the pockets of billions. Arguably, iPhones have increased our distractibility over the years, but thankfully Jobs also shared a method to stay focused with us as well.
Jobs’ life was cut short when he died at the age of only 56 from pancreatic cancer. Perhaps he knew he would die young because he developed a powerful technique to help him remember what mattered most every morning. Every morning before leaving for work, Jobs would look himself in the mirror and ask “If today was the last day of my life, would I be happy with what I’m about to do today?” If the answer was “no,” he found a way to shift his priorities so that he could get back on track with a lifestyle that he found fulfilling and personally uplifting.