Whether it's getting up at 4 a.m. or going to bed at dawn, entrepreneurs have their own trusted productivity rituals. To get a sense for what the leaders of fast-growth private companies do, we asked the CEOs of several 2018 Inc. 5000 companies. Here are their top productivity habits.

1. "Do everything you can to avoid meetings. Most meetings are called not out of necessity but out of laziness." -David Barnett, PopSockets, No. 2 on the Inc. 5000

"You can either solve the problem now over email or Slack, or you can postpone it and take 30 seconds to set up a meeting and say, eh, I'll figure it out then," says Barnett, the founder of the Boulder, Colorado-based phone-accessories maker

2. "Start your morning with a workout." -Eric Garrett, The Garrett Companies, No. 10 on the Inc. 5000

Despite the grind that comes with running the Greenwood, Indiana, company, which booked $82 million in 2017 revenue, the real estate developer CEO still makes time to work out, which many studies show has a direct link to mood improvement and good health. Garrett's routine starts every day--even on the weekends--at 5:30 a.m.

3. "One of the things we try to tell everyone is never leave the office unless you've got a plan for the next day." - Mark Gallagher, GForce Life Sciences, No. 8 on the Inc. 5000

"People in our company don't come in and chit-chat. They get to work because they're prepared," says the Chicago-based biotechnology company founder. It helps, Gallagher adds, that "you're not wasting time as far as what I'm going to do first, second, third."

4. "Segment your to-dos into two lists by drawing a line, with sh*t that matters above the line, and stuff that does not under." -Justin Quinn, Natural Force, No. 431 on the Inc. 5000 

At Natural Force, the Jacksonville, Florida, company has developed a large product-line of organic protein powders, oils, and teas--some that promise higher energy and mental clarity--so perhaps Quinn can speak to optimizing productivity better than most. His to-do list suggestion helps him "focus on the things up top--even if they are hard--and ignore everything else."

5. "Do something everyday that can't be undone." -Kilee Nickels, Nickel & Suede, No.127 on the Inc. 5000

"As an employer, as a business owner, and as a mom, you have things you have to do over and over and over again. They get undone everyday, and they just have to be maintained." That sense of progress is never apparent, adds the Liberty, Missouri-based jewelry maker. When you do something that's permanent that can't be easily undone--for instance, booking a photo shoot or meeting with a developer--that feeling of accomplishment kicks in. "It feels exciting, it gets you started on something, and it moves you forward everyday." 

6. "Stay single, close your personal social media accounts, and brush your teeth while showering." -Brent Oxley, Ox Ranch, No. 246 on the Inc. 5000

The Uvalde, Texas, hunting ranch founder is being tongue-in-cheek about staying single, though his advice to nix social media may be worth considering. Studies show that the average American spends about 11 hours a day engaging with social media channels and other media. Without the constant status updates and check-in interruptions, imagine the time you'd get back.

Published on: Mar 8, 2019