Jeff Bezos is the world's richest person, CEO of Amazon, owner of the Washington Post, and founder of a new $2 billion charity to help homeless families and to form a new network of preschools in low-income areas. So you'd think Bezos would start work before dawn, schedule more than a dozen meetings each day, and make scores of decisions every week.
Nope. In fact, as Bezos explained last week at an event held by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Bezos takes a counterintuitive approach to managing his time. Here are his three key strategies for being productive:
1. He gets plenty of sleep.
Studies have shown for years that good sleep "helps us to think clearly, remember information, and make decisions," according to the National Sleep Foundation. "When we don't get enough quality sleep, it impairs our 'executive function'--a set of abilities we need to do well in school, at work, and in all realms of daily life."
Bezos is a believer. He goes to bed early and makes sure he gets eight hours of sleep. "I think better, I have more energy, my mood's better," he said.
2. He doesn't schedule meetings before 10 a.m.
Unlike high-powered executives who start at dawn, Bezos says he likes to "putter" in the morning--reading the newspaper, drinking a cup of coffee, and eating breakfast with his children.
That may seem like wasting time, but Bezos is actually gearing up for the day. As Laura Vanderkam writes in Fast Company, too many morning meetings can be viewed as an opportunity cost--yes, you've checked that meeting off your list, but you could be using your time for more productive work. "Researchers with Johnson & Johnson that measured people's energy levels throughout the day found we hit our peak right at 8 a.m.," explains Vanderkam. "That is game time. We are ready to execute. But an 8 a.m. meeting supplants a time you would have been motivated to start something big."
For Bezos, the strategy is to schedule "high IQ" meetings starting at 10 a.m. and ending at lunch.
3. He makes just a few decisions a day.
As a senior executive, Bezos says that his primary job is to make a small number of high-quality decisions. "If I have three good decisions a day, that's enough," he said. "They should just be as high quality as I can make them."
That doesn't mean that Bezos makes decisions slowly. In fact, as he wrote in his 2017 letter to shareholders, Bezos believes that for a company to maintain the energy and dynamism of a startup, "you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for startups and very challenging for large organizations. The senior team at Amazon is determined to keep our decision-making velocity high. Speed matters in business--plus a high-velocity decision making environment is more fun, too."
So Bezos works to make a few crucial decisions that will keep Amazon--and his other ventures--moving ahead. "Even though Amazon is a large company, I want it to have the heart and spirit of a small one," he said.