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.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.