Personal Development

This former CEO shares his 8 best productivity tips

As a CEO, executive, or business owner there’s never a shortage of things that need to get done. It’s always easy to stay busy, but it’s much harder to actually be productive with your time in the day.

During any given day, an executive must:

Know what it is they need to get done themselves and what to delegate.

Know exactly what to focus on and what their most important tasks are.

Know how to deal with email overload and meeting management.

And that’s just the beginning…

We asked former CEO and current San Antonio-based Vistage Chair Tom Cuthbert his favorite productivity tips for structuring his days and remaining focused while eliminating distractions. Here are his 8 productivity tips to help structure your daily routines and improve your time management success.

1. Create a morning routine that works for you

I follow the same routine each workday morning and include some “anchor habits.” I wake up at 5:30 a.m., let the dog out, and then no coffee until I read my devotional.

I spend thirty minutes to get to “Inbox Zero” then out the door to the gym at 6:30 a.m. Going to the gym almost every day is a “behavior driver.” Achieving that helps me to accomplish other goals and be at my best during the day.


2. Stay focused on your most important tasks with a journal or to-do list

Focus and presence are the keys to accomplishment. I use a Bullet Journal to keep all my tasks and notes in a single place. This allows me to focus on what is important at the time I planned to work on it. The most important part of my job is to be present with the person in front of me.

Knowing that my tasks and activities are planned and organized enables me to be fully present and engaged.

3. Use productivity tools to manage email overload

Plan and schedule time to work on email. I use Spark and to send emails to myself in the future so I am not distracted. ScheduleOnce allows me to open windows on my calendar that people can schedule when I choose to be available. Guarding my time is a trait I learned from the most productive people.

4. Stay productive with these tools and apps

I calendar everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) using Google calendar.

Other favorite productivity tools include Voxer, a walkie-talkie app for communication with my admin, Evernote for storing notes, images and ideas and Braintoss to remember things on the go.

The key is to eliminate notifications and distractions. This keeps me focused on what’s next.

5. Planning and building processes makes you more productive

Let the work come to you. Spend time planning and building processes that automate the routine parts of your work life. Develop a schedule that builds on behavior drivers to keep you focused. Don’t get frustrated when things fall apart, because they will! 

Trajectory is more important than achievement. Appreciate the progress and begin again.

6. Taking breaks actually makes you more productive

Exercise, sleep and recovery are keys to productivity. I track my sleep using the AutoSleep app on my Apple Watch and plan to get 8 hours a night. I take frequent breaks during the day and often conduct walking one-to-ones with CEOs. I rarely have lunch meetings, and instead use that time to refresh myself by walking, reading or listening to music.


7. Delegate when you need to

My friend Jack Daly says each of us can only do three things well. My three things are plan, facilitate and coach. I am constantly asking myself, “What am I doing that someone else could or should be doing?”

I have a part-time admin and we have built specific processes for the recurring tasks that improve my productivity.

8. Create an “end of day” routine

I have an end of day routine to accomplish multiple things. After a few minutes to get back to Inbox Zero, I take off my Apple Watch and put it and my phone on the charger. This allows me to disengage from the outside world and focus on my family. It also charges my watch before bed so I can track my sleep. 

For more information on Tom’s productivity tips and tools visit

Time is a scarce commodity. As a CEO, how do you manage your time? Post your comment below.

Category: Personal Development

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Over 45,000 high-caliber execu

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