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Work Smart

What's On The Paper List That Keeps Aaron Levie So Productive

The CEO of Box offers a peek at the one analog key to staying focused in his digital life.

Aaron Levie
CEO, Box

[Photo by Adam Fedderly]

Aaron Levie

CEO, Box

"A lot of being productive personally is determined by how you organize your entire business. You can't separate those two things. We brought in a COO specifically to solve this balance-and-cadence issue. He thinks about day-to-day operations, while my focus is on new things that will help us—the new marketing plan, new products, new partnerships, new platform capabilities. For the first 20% of a new initiative, there are a million ways it could go. After that, as these things get on a path of success, I back off a bit.

I'm a little ADD, so I have one sheet of paper called '50 Things.' It's a list of all the important initiatives, tasks, and projects at the company. Once every day or two, I run through it and make sure that every one of those things is on track. I used to do this in PowerPoint, but it was hundreds of pages and wasn't concise enough to look at every day. So now it's just a piece of paper. It sounds very 1980s, but it folds nicely; you can put it in any kind of pocket! Ninety-nine percent of my life is digital, but this is my low-tech way of staying focused."


Time he gets up:

10 a.m.

First thing he does each morning:

"I know this is not a best practice, but I read email. I'm in bed for 30 minutes swiping, replying, and deleting. I try to make sure I have no unread messages by the time I get into the office."

Apps and other assists:

"Box Notes is where I spend most of my time. It's like Evernote and Google Docs had a baby." Also: "Coffee, three to four cups a day. I don't discriminate on brands."

Philosophy:

"I don't use many apps. I use naps."

Last thing he does each night:

Read. "I like business nonfiction."

Time he goes to bed:

3 a.m.

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

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