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How Fortune’s 40 Under 40 Gets Stuff Done

July 19, 2018, 4:16 PM UTC

There are many words you could use to describe various members of Fortune’s 2018 40 Under 40 class. “Slacker” is not one of them.

Whether they’re building companies worth billions of dollars, carving a prominent niche in a Fortune 500 business, leading governments or winning Academy Awards, these listers are running fast and winning big. How do they do it?

We asked our 40 Under 40 crew for their best productivity tips. And, as it turns out, some common themes emerged. Read on to see which tips may work for you.

Don’t Spend Too Much Time in Meetings

Dedicate at least 3 days a week to having zero meetings and just get things done. I try to have all my meetings on Tuesday and Thursday, leaving the remaining days to focus on our top 3 goals.
Stephanie Lampkin, 33
Founder & CEO, Blendoor

I carve out time every day to be proactive, with no meetings, so I can be thoughtful and prioritize. I also have very few applications on my phone (aside from Lyft) to eliminate distractions.
John Zimmer, 34
Cofounder & President, Lyft

Write It Down

I write everything down: important decisions, my number-one goal for the day, to-dos, and miscellaneous thoughts. It helps me focus on what’s most important each day, not forget anything, and provides a nice look back at key moments and inflection points that can be good teaching moments for new employees down the road.
Vlad Tenev, 31
Cofounder & Co-CEO, Robinhood

I start my day with lists and end my day with lists. It helps me cut through the noise of email and zero in on the two/three most important things to accomplish everyday.
Anu Duggal, 39
Founding Partner, Female Founders Fund

Everyday, I write down affirmations (what I aspire to be in the world) and my goals (if I only got three things done today, what would they be). Then I start on those three things, before looking at anything else like my inbox.
Brian Armstrong, 35
Cofounder & CEO, Coinbase

Just Say No

It can be easy to say yes to a meeting or event invite when there is nothing on your calendar, but even then people should have a very strict filter. Saying no allows freedom to think and to choose how to spend that time instead of letting others choose for you.
Dave Gilboa, 37
Cofounder & Co-CEO, Warby Parker

It is painful that I can’t say yes to everything I believe in or would enjoy but it’s also critical to my sanity and my time that I say no a lot.
Katrina Lake, 35
Founder & CEO, Stich Fix

We often say strategy is what you say no to. I find for day-to-day work, focusing on one activity before moving on to the next is critical. Check email only when you have the ability to respond.
Neil Blumenthal, 37
Cofounder & Co-CEO, Warby Parker

Make Time to Relax

Time out makes you better at your job, and isn’t something you should feel guilty about. It took me years to accept that, and I still fight it.
Jacinda Ardern, 37
Prime Minister, New Zealand

Take breaks, get enough sleep, take care of yourself. You can be “busy” and work more hours, but if you’re not sharp, then you end up wasting more time than not.
Arlan Hamilton, 37
Founder & Managing Partner, Backstage Capital

Every month I spend a few days away from the office somewhere remote, to force myself to make time for creative thinking and idea generation.
Marc Stad, 39
Founder & Partner, Dragoneer Investment Group

Sleep a lot. As much as you can. (Disclaimer: I don’t have kids, so I get to say this.) I routinely sleep nine or ten hours a night when I feel tired, and if I can sleep ten to twelve hours on the weekends, I do, and have done so for years.
Andy Dunn, 39
Founder & CEO Bonobos; SVP of Digital Consumer Brands, Walmart

Hire Smart …

Surround yourself with people you trust.
Joey Levin, 38

Don’t compromise on hiring great people, set high expectations for them, and create transparency by providing them a lot of context.
Lynn Jurich, 39
Cofunder & CEO, Sunrun

… Then Listen Up!

Minimize multi-tasking during meetings. It can be tempting to respond to emails, slack or texts during meetings, especially when you are not speaking. I’ve found when I give someone or a topic my full attention, it usually leads to more productive meetings, less revisions, fewer follow-ups and, in general, a more engaged team.
Sumaiya Balbale, 37
VP of E-Commerce, Mobile and Digital Marketing, Walmart