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Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford has one rule about email

Make it useful.

Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford has one rule about email
[Photo: Ackerman + Gruber]

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our feature, “Secrets of 13 of the most productive people.” See the complete 2018 list here.

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I have a list of priorities that I make for myself. Every day when I get to the office, I write down the top three or four things that I have to really focus on. This way, I know what I want to achieve that day.

I work a lot through email and text. I make it my goal to review what has come in and separate those that I can answer. I also always say to my team: “Please don’t write me a novel, I won’t read it.” I just don’t have the time. Instead, write in the subject line what it is that this is about. And tell me up front–is a decision needed, or do you need me to look at something, or is it a “When you have time, take a look at this”?–so I can prioritize effectively and be responsive when I need to be.

But the best tool for productivity is to have the best talent. You’re never really doing it yourself.

Time she gets up

5 a.m.

First thing she does in the morning

“Coffee and water, and I’ll take a quick look at my emails. Then Jill, my spouse, and I feed the dog, the cat, the guinea pigs. We’ve got the animal kingdom.”

Place she can be most productive

“Airplanes. Nobody’s talking to you, and you’re not expected at a meeting.”

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Skill she’s still working on

“Being a better listener. I come from a family of seven other children–I was the middle child. If you wanted to not eat a gizzard or neck for dinner, you best be heard right away. Now, I have to be mindful about telling myself to listen more. Because–and especially when you step into bigger roles–if you say something too quickly and don’t listen, it shuts down conversation.”

Last thing she does at night

“I try to [turn off] all the technology and grab a magazine, or something, to read.”

Time she goes to bed

Between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

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