The Art Of Doing Everything

Our complete guide to maximizing your productivity in an increasingly distracting world.

When it comes to being productive, we are a nation obsessed.

Look no further than the launch last February of email-management app Mailbox, which allows users to put off dealing with certain emails until a later date while prioritizing others. Email—that great productivity destroyer—was transformed into a productivity enhancer. Almost immediately, nearly 1 million people joined a waiting list to receive the app, and on March 15, before it was even available to the public, Dropbox acquired Mailbox for a reported $100 million.

Today, the App Store currently features more than 3,700 productivity-related apps. Bowker, which lists nearly all books sold in the U.S., counts close to 5,000 titles released on the topic in the past three years. Productivity experts from the mild-mannered David Allen to the flamboyant Tim Ferriss have achieved celebrity status, with 20,000 other such proselytizers behind them.

The sheer vastness of the field speaks to the unavoidable fact that no one piece of advice fits all. For Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, the secret to being productive is hardly ever taking a vacation, or, for that matter, a bathroom break. For Leo Widrich, cofounder of the social media utility startup Buffer, it's a daily nap in a bunk bed—in his office.

The solutions out there are as varied as we are. The trick is finding out what works for you.

We suggest starting with identifying what kind of creative machine you are. Take our quiz, and get a from-the-hip assessment of characteristics you might identify with, plus ideas and apps to keep yourself running at optimum efficiency, all while keeping your originality—and sanity—intact. Then share your type with friends and get feedback.

Or scroll through the eight types of productive people we've identified and pick and choose which suggestions for each type work for you.


You can also read how the most productive people in business organize their days. Perhaps you'll identify with chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, who does his most important work in the morning. Maybe, like LearnVest's Alexa von Tobel, you'll want to eat the same thing every day. The full league of luminaries is below.

In today's creative workplace, time will inevitably be wasted as we work toward generating new, innovative ideas. We can make ourselves crazy trying to eliminate the waste, or we can embrace the daily chaos and use it to our best advantage. By our calculations, it will take you about 23 minutes to read this entire package. We promise it will be time well spent.

[Illustration by Kyle Bean]

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10 Comments

  • Matt Church

    Drake I love what you are doing creating, curating and aggregating around productivity and life hacks...love it! Matt Church Australia

  • Nicholas Spittal

    December’s “The Art of Doing Everything” has really struck a nerve. Certainly, these are some of the elite professionals of our time. But the very concept of “productivity” is about doing more with less. Working 18 hours with email as the first waking task? Never taking a vacation? Attending 10+ meetings daily? These approaches are about doing MORE with MORE. Where is the balance in these lives of these most productive experts? Not to mention their collective disregard for sleep which flies directly in the face of volumes of modern neuroscience about the health benefits and needs of a good night's rest. The ideas presented here are so twentieth century, and a good argument can be made that they are not only the opposite of productive, but likely unhealthy for the vast majority of us, and perhaps even for many of those profiled. I have come to expect something more progressive from Fast Company.

  • Said Hasan

    I choose to be an early beard, a mono-tasker, a connector, networker, learner, builder or creator, enjoyer, expander, entrepreneur, mentor and difference-maker.
    In the quiz result I was a procrastinator- It is over now!

  • Caro Marsden

    Reading how the higher echelon of leadership manage their day is insightfult but only so far > it really isn't appropo unless you have minions tending your menial chores. My efficiency tool is my netvibes.com personal cloud; it seriously helps me unload and organize mental trivia and life details. The more time I invest in it, the more it pays off.

  • Gertie Ok

    I think this segment should have been titled, "How to live at the edge of a Heart Attack" or "You need a Blood Pressure App, too?" or "Who needs productivity when you've got passion!?"

  • buffgato

    Here's some advice for the average Joe: write up a personal "to do list" every morning and check things off as you accomplish them. Keep that list somewhere on your desk, directly in your line of sight. It only takes 5-10 minutes to do this, and it keeps you laser focused on your goals.

  • buffgato

    That definitely wasn't worth the "estimated 23 minutes" of my evening. Some key takeaways...

    1) Ruthlessly prioritize the tasks and people in your life
    2) Never sleep more than 5-6 hours per night
    3) Hire someone else to do your grunt work (taking calls, checking email, etc)

  • Mohsin Muhyidin

    My personal tip for personal productivity is to start the day with a quick and short personal journal to align the mind with my personal and professional priorities. We think our mind knows our priorities but it forgets quickly; we have to remind frequently what we stand for