Exceptional Performance: Four Tips for Extreme Productivity

“Once time is gone, it will never come back. That’s why it’s so bizarre to me that professionals often use their time inefficiently — by procrastinating, by perfecting an unimportant task, or by just sitting around in the office, trying to be seen. It seems to me that professionals should husband time as an irreplaceable resource.” – Robert Posen, American businessman and writer.

If nothing else, productivity boils down to the way you manage the work time entrusted to you. You want to squeeze as much productivity out of your time as humanly possible, so you should hoard it; be selfish about it; and never waste a minute of it (unless you’re doing it on purpose to relax).

The reality of extreme productivity is that nothing is left to chance. Some may view this as terminally boring, even dispiriting and robotic, but properly implemented and properly maintained, it works amazingly well. It also ensures you the time and energy to enjoy spontaneity during your time off with the people you care about.

Let’s look at four characteristics the most productive people all share.

  1. They have a high level of routine. Productivity masters prep everything in advance and always do it the same way, removing the tyranny of choice from their lives. This works best when the people you share your personal life with act just as meticulously, and once your children have grown beyond the toddler stage; but it can work at any level. For example: some high achievers get up at the same time every day, eat the same breakfast, and wear similar clothing – so all they must do is reach for a clean outfit. Former President Obama wore only blue and gray suits for that very reason.

  2. They embrace simplicity. The breakfast you eat routinely can consist of no more than a bowl of oatmeal and protein shake, and still act as effective, healthy fuel for your body. Refuse or get rid of optional activities that take time away from productive work time, whether it’s going out to long lunches daily, taking more than your share of coffee breaks, wasting time on social media or games, or doing work others can do better or more cheaply. Limit how many times you check your email to focus on actual work and strategy. Respond to personal texts and emails when you’re not at work. Get out of the office on time and then focus on the personal.

  3. They focus on what they’re best at. The whole point of delegation, one of the most common time management methods, is to farm out less complex tasks other people can do more cheaply, even if you can do them better. Push your least important tasks as far down the hierarchy as possible, leaving you only the things you do best and most profitably. As you rise in position, this should change. If you’re in sales, at the beginning you may focus on selling; later you may oversee a group of salespeople, while they do the selling; and later still, you may be responsible for the results of a region, while sales managers take care of oversight. Wherever you are, there’s always something you should focus on because you are the best at it or for it, as it’s the most profitable use of your time. And as you rise, you can’t keep doing the same activities and must shift the nature of your work.

  4. They know exactly what’s next. With routine, you don’t have to stop and think before deciding what to do next; your priorities decide it for you. High performers are hypersensitive to time and respect it, because slow is expensive. Speed, when both effective and efficient (i.e., doing the right thing right), saves time; and though Einstein never proved the formula, it’s still true that Time = Money, in life as in business.

You don’t have to become a humorless drone to get your work done, or react to everything with robotic efficiency. You can, however, save time in a myriad of ways, and react with the maximum speed and efficiency humanly possible—and just refuse to let yourself or others waste time. That’s extreme productivity!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Christine@TheProductivityPro.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland



  1. Many thanks Laura for a great post. Really enjoyed reading it. – Barry Hall.

  2. In my profession, the things I do each day change and are not always the same or repetitive. A few tasks can be repetitive but most of it relates to client projects that can change day to day. How do you work efficiently in this environment?

    • Hi Dawn, most people work this way. Rarely are any two days the same! You keep a prioritized to-do list, an updated calendar, and an empty inbox. Make sure to review the next day the night before to see what the day has in store for you!