How the 40 Under 40 Get Stuff Done: Their Favorite Productivity Hacks

July 10, 2019, 12:00 PM UTC

The members of this year’s 40 Under 40 class likely log more miles in the air and hours in meetings than most of us can imagine. We asked them to share their personal productivity hacks—tricks that allow them to squeeze in massive amounts of work, and might even leave a little time left over for, you know, a life.

See some of the responses below.

Jessie Wisdom, 37

Cofounder & CEO, Humu

At the start of every week, I write down everything I want to accomplish. But I write it down as if I already have, like “Finalized the white paper,” or “Successfully met with each person on my team.” Obviously, no week goes perfectly according to plan, but the little nudge of the framing really helps me to hold myself accountable.

Trevor Martin, 30

Cofounder & CEO, Mammoth Biosciences

Mak[e] sure to create space without distractions like calls or messages and set aside time to focus on what’s important rather than urgent. 

Alison Atwell, 31

Voice User Interface (VUI) Designer, Amazon

I have one rule: I always give what’s in front of me my undivided attention. If it’s time to work on X, Y has to wait. If I’m giving someone my time in a meeting, my phone won’t be there to compete for attention. It’s been a forcing function for balancing my life. If I’m not giving enough undivided attention to one thing or project or relationship to be successful, It’s a sign I need to adjust. If I don’t have that kind of time, it means I’ve spread myself too thin. This has made me much more productive at work, happier in my relationships, and a much better mountaineer.

Mike Gorenstein, 33

CEO, Cronos Group

My best work hack is to have a solutions-oriented approach to everything. Instead of trying to figure out why a bad process was put in place, figure out the optimal solution and implement it.

Omer Ismail, 39

Head of U.S. Consumer Business, Goldman Sachs

Manage your calendar or your calendar will manage you. I dedicate one hour a day for emails rather than trying to keep pace throughout the day, block off ten hours a week of “think time” on my calendar and two hours a week of office hours for catch ups with colleagues throughout the organization.

Kristo Käärmann, 38

Cofounder & CEO, TransferWise

My best advice for work and travel is to make sure you get enough sleep. To do my best work, I arrange my day such that I don’t need an alarm clock to get up. For travel, especially on long haul flights, I sleep throughout the whole flight. I also stopped drinking alcohol 5 years ago. 

Sam Rapoport, 38

Senior Director of Football Development, NFL

I wear the exact same outfit every time I fly. All black and my Yeezys. It reduces the amount of decisions I have to make before I get on a flight and I’m extremely comfortable.

Henrique Dubugras, 23

Cofounder & CEO, Brex

I am Brazilian so I appreciate a long lunch. Even during the busiest times I still find the opportunity to sit down and have a proper lunch to clear my mind – not just a sandwich or some salad scarfed down like many Americans seem to love.

Parisa Tabriz, 36

Senior Director of Engineering for Chrome, Alphabet

I almost always have a bag of almonds or nuts on me in case I get hungry at work, on the road, or when out and about. Hunger leads to bad decisions and unnecessary victims, so I try to keep healthy calories within reach to eat or share.

Alysia Montaño, 33

U.S. National Champion runner

I almost always travel with my kids so my rule is: Keep it simple. One carry on per person, and that’s it! If it can’t fit in the carry on it doesn’t need to come.

Favorite Tools and Apps

Sometimes, doing your best work is all about having the right tools. Here are the tools and apps our 40 under 40 can’t live without:

Liz Meyerdirk, 37

Global Head of Business Development, Uber Eats

A digital watch that can toggle between timezones. Knowing what time it is at home really helps me stay connected to my family. 

Michael Kratsios, 32

U.S. Chief Technology Officer designate, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Spar—an app a friend developed when I was in Silicon Valley. It helps you get into good habits—reading more, working out, etc.—and holds you accountable with friends.  

Michael Mignano, 36

Cofounder & CEO, Anchor

Todoist helps me keep track of the many things I have to get done on a daily basis. It’s super straightforward, and I love it.

Peng Zhao, 36

CEO, Citadel Securities

Slack (work), Spotify (personal), and WeChat (personal).

Ryan Williams, 31

Cofounder & CEO, Cadre

1. Todoist app

2. Audible app

3. Tidal app

4. Bible app

5. Calm app

Kristo Käärmann, 38

Cofounder & CEO, TransferWise

I spend a lot of time on Zoom and Slack. I’m also mega impressed with the productivity boost I get from Looker and GitHub.

Joy Buolamwini, 29

Founder, Algorithmic Justice League

A notebook to capture ideas, thoughts, poetic phrases. Sometimes it’s digital, sometimes it’s physical, but the important part is collecting sparks of ideas that aren’t fully formed to revisit and refine. 

Pete Buttigieg, 37

Presidential Candidate & Mayor of South Bend, IN

I can survive pretty much anywhere as long as I’ve got a pen, a toothbrush, some music, and beef jerky.

This article is part of the 40 Under 40, our annual selection of the most influential young people in business. Click here to see the additional 2019 coverage of these disruptors, innovators, rebels, and artists.

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