You may not agree with every decision the big business leaders of our time make, but you have to admit there is one thing they all know: how to get things done.

Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs have all made smart business choices. They've all benefited from being in the right place with the right idea at the right time. And they've all made moral choices that perhaps some of us would have navigated less unscrupulously.

But none of it would have got them anywhere if they didn't have mechanisms in place to get them working hard, working smart, and working consistently. These are productive people.

Resume.io analyzed interviews, biographies, and blogs written by the world's most successful founders in the lookout for actionable quotes about what makes these people more productive than most.

In addition to capturing 50 other memorable tips, let's take a look at some of the hints Zuck, Bezos, Musk, and Jobs have dropped about how they maximize productivity.

1. Learn to prioritize.

"The question I ask myself like almost every day," says Zuckerberg, "is 'Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?'"

Zuck knows a thing or two about procrastinating. He invented the most fiendish procrastination device known to humankind: Facebook. We are wired to err towards instant gratification and sometimes that is as simple as choosing an easier lower pressure task over what deep down you know you should be doing. 

A useful alternative to Zuckerberg's probing self-question is the Ivy Lee method. When you finish work each day make a list of the top 5 or 6 most important things that you need to do tomorrow. Then, when you get back to work the next day, nail that list one item at a time --without deviation.

Elon Musk likewise values the power of prioritizing:

"Get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter," Musk suggested in an email he sent to all Tesla employees last year.

Indeed, in one Harvard Business School survey two-thirds of business managers said that they believe meetings stand in the way of them completing their work.

One no-nonsense solution is to hold a "meetings purge" twice a year. Cancel all regular meetings and only reinstall them as necessary. You may find it is possible, in the time that has passed, to combine or completely eliminate certain meeting functions.

2. Move fast to avoid decision paralysis.

"Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had," recommended Amazon's Jeff Bezos. "If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you're probably being slow."

Experts agree that the longer you wait to make a decision, the riskier it becomes. When you wait until you have 90 percent of the information, it can lead to "analysis paralysis" -- or the state of over-analyzing a situation to the point where a decision or an action is never taken.

A good way to help you overcome this issue is to set a deadline to make the decision at hand as this will force you to take action.

3. Manage your mistakes.

When those errors do crop up, you have two equally-valid options: forget about it or learn from it.

If you don't have a strategy to guide yourself through this process you will likely find yourself caught in the middle, dwelling on your mistake, letting it hold you back but failing to truly understand how it happened and how you might use it to improve.

"Sometimes when you innovate you make mistakes," Steve Jobs once said. "It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations."

When you're not learning, you're moving backward. Adapt these top leader tips to the daily reality of your business to make the best of your hard work.

Published on: Sep 17, 2019
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