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Secrets of 10 of the World’s Most Productive People

How some of 2020’s most industrious figures are squeezing the most out of every day, no matter where they’re working from.

Secrets of 10 of the World’s Most Productive People
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[Photo: Djeneba Aduayom; hair: Angela Meadows; makeup: Natasha Gross]

1. Serena Williams

Professional tennis player and founder, Serena Ventures and S by Serena

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“Morning time is tennis time. Afternoon time is business time. I’m really, really organized with my time.”

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[Photo: Shayan Asgharnia/August]

2. Daniel Dae Kim

Actor and producer

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“My workday spans 24 hours: I take early-morning calls with people in Europe, and I’m on calls late at night about projects in Asia. I’ve actually been busier during this pandemic than I was before, because one of the parts of my industry that has stayed active is development.”

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[Illustration: Tim McDonagh]

3. Jacqueline Guichelaar

Group chief information officer, Cisco

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“We’re a global company. Every individual on the team is important, regardless of what time zone they’re in. We’re in the middle of producing a new governance model [with] meeting times that we can share between regions so that people don’t have to work crazy hours
just to stay in sync.”

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[Photo: Daniel Dorsa]

4. N.K. Jemisin

Author and 2020 MacArthur fellow

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“I basically had a midlife crisis. I was in a city I didn’t like, had not reached various milestones I wanted to reach, and was in student loan debt up to my eyeballs. I actually liked my job [as a career counselor for at-risk populations]. But I’d always written as a hobby, [and] I decided to see if I could make money doing it. I would make sure I wrote one page, or even just 250 words, every day.”

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[Illustration: Tim McDonagh]

5. Roz Brewer

COO and group president, Starbucks

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“When I look at the combination of my personal and professional life, I often feel like a traffic cop, trying to get
everyone in their lane. . . . As the COO for Starbucks, it is a lot about creating the operational plan for the workweek, and setting the strategy and vision for the largest part of the company.”

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[Photo: Barry Cantrell/Richard Petty Motorsports]

6. Bubba Wallace

Nascar driver

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“When
I decided to say something about racism in this country, I didn’t know if my sponsors were going to like it. It’s been good to see that
people actually want to be part of the journey—we’ve been getting more phone calls than ever before. I haven’t put my phone down from all the interviews, but it seems like the more stressed out I am, the better we do on the racetrack. I’m not complaining.”

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[Illustration: Tim McDonagh]

7. Florian Krammer

Professor of vaccinology at Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai

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“Tonight I need to finish slides for a presentation, I need to finish a budget, and I need to finish some communication with the NIH. [But] science is not a job. It’s somewhere between a hobby and a passion.”

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[Photo: Shin Sun Hye/Big Hit Entertainment]

8. Pdogg (Kang Hyo-Won)

Chief producer, Big Hit Entertainment (home to Korean hitmakers BTS)

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“Whether it’s BTS or [fellow Big Hit group] Tomorrow x Together or even our trainees, we communicate a lot with the artist before their debut, when they’re still training. This builds trust over time and motivates them from a very early period of their career.”

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[Illustration: Tim McDonagh]

9. Gina McCarthy

President and CEO, National Resources Defense Council

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“The one habit that I’ve always had is that I don’t talk about work when I’m at home, period. Through eight years [as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency] in the Obama administration, I just didn’t. I don’t think my husband knew what I was doing for a living until I was in the Obama administration, because then he could read some things in the news, and it’d be like, “Oh, you’re doing this?” ”

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[Photo: Gioncarlo Valentine]

10. Brandy Zadrozny

Reporter, NBC News

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“The pandemic has made everything crazy in terms of disinformation and conspiracy theories, so what was an all-encompassing beat has now become somehow worse. Everybody’s lost their minds. There’s always something that is desperately in need of someone to shine a light on. So it’s been good in that way, because my work is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I feel fulfilled. But, the stakes are so high.”

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