Three Executive Productivity Hacks That Any Leader Can Use

Posted 07.10.2014

greenboardOne of the things I love about my work is getting to meet and learn from some very talented top executives. That happened again recently when a senior vice president in a Fortune 500 client company stopped by for a lunch conversation with participants in our Next Level Leadership® development program.

She was one of the clearest thinkers and communicators I’ve met recently. Her organization is responsible for billions of dollars in sales so, as you might imagine, she has a very full plate. Recognizing that her time and attention is a limited resource that she must deploy as effectively as possible, she’s come up with three productivity hacks that help her determine where she needs to focus.

They’re simple, effective and can be applied by leaders at any level in any organization. Here they are:

Three Things on the List: Over the years she’s learned that in any given week she can effectively focus on no more than three big things at once. She carries an old school paper based planner that she uses each week to review what’s on her plate and to boil it down to the big three. She confirms that that’s the right list by running it by her boss and a few trusted colleagues. In the process of doing that, she keeps her key partners in the loop.

Work the Decision Matrix: This executive’s days are filled with requests for her input or decision on dozens of important issues. To help herself sort through things quickly, she asks herself two questions about the issue at hand:

  • Is this easy to do or hard to do?
  • Is this small impact or big impact?

You can map her decision criteria in a matrix that looks like this:


Anything that’s easy to do and will have a big impact is a “do it now.” A lot of the smaller impact and easy to do items can be done by others. The big impact and hard to do items get put into the mix for prioritization against other initiatives.

Oppositional Leadership: This executive feels like she adds the most value when she’s bringing a point of view to the conversation that is somewhat in opposition to the prevailing dynamic. If her team is grooving with the big picture, she’s likely to ask a lot of detailed questions to ground the plans in reality. If her team is sort of into the weeds, she’s likely to inject some big picture perspective into the conversation to keep everyone focused on the overall goals and why they matter. By intentionally interjecting an oppositional perspective, she helps keep her team out of the echo chamber that leads to bad decisions.

Three simple productivity hacks that any leader can use. Which one could you use this coming week and where could you use it? What other leadership productivity hacks work for you?