Productivity Tips from Unicorn CEOs

February 16, 2016

2:00 pm

What do Brian Chesky, Jack Dorsey and Jeremy Stoppelman have in common?

First of all, they are all members of the so-called “Unicorn Club” – a witty term Aileen Lee coined back in 2013 to define US-based software companies launched after 2003 and having an estimated $1+ billion value by public and private investors.

While the name already suggests there is something “magical” about these companies, it’s more about the people behind them: the founders, who have managed to create extraordinary successful ventures, without actually distorting the reality or coming from a special breed of super-entrepreneurs.

Unicorn CEOs faced and still face the same difficulties all of us do. Yet, what often sets them apart is the productivity routine they adopted for pursuing their goals. Below are the top productivity tips from the world’s top entrepreneurs you can easily borrow and start using today.

Brian Chesky: Set Your Priorities Right

In his interview to Fortune, the Airbnb founder said:

“As CEO I’m the captain of the ship. But I really have two jobs: The first job is, I have to worry about everything below the waterline; anything that can sink the ship.” The other job is “to focus on two to three areas that I’m deeply passionate about — that aren’t below the waterline but that I focus on because I can add unique value, I’m truly passionate about them, and they can truly transform the company if they go well.”

In one line – know your strength and set your priorities appropriately. A lot of CEOs, especially in the early days, are guilty of micromanagement and scattering their efforts too thin.  Learn to trust your team. You’ve hired the bests for a reason. And keep your focus sharp on the areas, where you skill-set can be truly valuable.

Jack Dorsey: Keep a Diary

The Twitter and Square founder prefers writing longhand, rather than tweeting, when it comes to setting goals and analyzing the results.

“Find a simple way to track your progress,”- he says. “You really get to see how you have grown, how your business has grown and how your own leadership has grown.”

Though we are living in a digital age, journaling is still actively advocated by Oprah Winfrey, Nicky Hajal and numerous other entrepreneurs. Bubba Page from Inc gives a few more good reasons why startup founders should keep a journal.

Jack Dorsey: Set “Themed Days”

As he mentioned at a 2011 conference, Mondays are for management.  Tuesdays are for products. Wednesdays are dedicated to all-things marketing and growth and so on. Does Dorsey have weekends? Not exactly as “Sunday is reflection, feedback and strategy,” – he admitted.

Keith McNiven from Right Path says he has adopted the same strategy after his company celebrated the 100th user milestone:

“At this point, I’ve noticed that things started to boil up. I could no longer afford to be present everywhere and jungle the business backends, customer support issues and marketing strategy at the same time. Now I color-code the days and weeks in my Google Calendar to set the priorities right and keep my focus sharp”.

Jeremy Stoppelman: Ditch Unnecessary Meetings

The Yelp co-founder believes that most meetings are huge productivity and creativity killers. “People habitually go to meetings as a way to prove their relevance and consume their workdays. The goal is to run meetings more efficiently.” That’s why he adopted the RACI model.

Marissa Mayer: Don't Work from Home

Marissa Mayer’s decision to abandon the long-standing Yahoo practice of working from home first raised a massive backlash. However, in the official memo, she justified the decision with some valid points:

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

And Mayer was right. After the decision was implemented Yahoo stocks had risen drastically and the company started its steady recovery after a series of lows.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien