Ideas Leadership Videos

10 Videos That Will Increase Your Productivity

productivity videos

1. First, let’s start with the science behind productivity.

2. Getting things done is sometimes about saying, “NO!” thinks Steve Jobs.

3. Eddie Obeng tells us productivity is about…failure

4. To be productive, focus on happiness.

5. Productivity may mean ending you social life.

6. Merlin Mann tells Google how to get things done.

7. To be productive, master the “Pomodoro Technique.”

8. Tim Ferris of 4-Hour Workweek fame discusses productivity and introduces the 4 hour day.

9. Take advice from Nick Cave’s creative process and productive work habits.

10. Ray Bradbury’s persistence boosts productivity.

Features Leadership On the Edge Managerial Competence Political Competence Proactive Leaders

Have You Re-Read Giants of Enterprise?

In a recent class at Cornell I heard a group of students demythologize famous leaders as part of an exercise. One of my students concluded, “I wouldn’t have wanted to work for Steve Jobs, he seemed like an S.O.B.”

Another student even took Washington down a peg and questioned how bright our founding father really was. He asked weather or not Washington’s silence hinted at tactical stoicism or if his quiet demeanor implied that he often missed the point?

Richard S. Tedlow’s book, Giants of Enterprise, is an exercise in demythologizing leadership.

“Look kiddy,” said Charles Revson, president of the Revlon Corporation, “I built this business by being a bastard. I run it by being a bastard. I’ll always be a bastard…don’t try to change me.”

Revson was speaking to a talented brand manager who he had brought to tears after he demolished a pitch she’d spent months working on.

If Revson was so cruel, then how did he manage to bring the Revlon Corporation to such great heights?

Thomas J. Watson Sr., founder of IBM, didn’t know much about computing. He could understand how a cash register worked, but he didn’t know the mechanics behind building one.

If he didn’t have the technical skill, how did Watson turn IBM into a global force?

No one demythologizes leadership better than Richard S. Tedlow in his still enlightening, entertaining, and engrossing book. It’s a work that must be kept on the shelves of all high potential leaders, current leaders, and those who hope to train leaders.

Tedlow, professor at the Harvard Business School, profiles seven American business innovators and explores what made them successful, what made them tick, and what made them work so hard.

With a keen eye Tedlow writes about, Andrew Carnegie, George Eastman, Thomas J. Watson Sr., Henry Ford, Charles Revson, Sam Walton, Sam Noyce and all the periphery  characters that made these men’s businesses so successful.

It’s easy to look at these business titans and assume they are endowed with something special, something rarefied, that the normal person can’t quite put his finger on.

But Tedlow doesn’t portray these giants of enterprise as larger-than-life men who stomp around palatial offices having nothing but brilliant ideas. He presents these leaders as human beings who, more often than not, had to pick themselves off the floor and brush the dirt off their knees.

The underlying lesson in Tedlow’s book is that leaders aren’t figures that descend from the heavens, but rise through the ranks and make just as many mistakes as the next guy.

And it’s not like each of these men had brilliant, ground-breaking, ideas. They were each knee-deep in competition, surrounded my players who were doing exactly what they were—and in some cases, doing it better. Sam Walton wasn’t the only retailer that discounted–he had to compete with Kmart, Woolworths, and Target. Andrew Carnegie had to compete with other rivals in the steel business—and had to work aggressively to buy them out.  The list goes on. The difference maker for the men illustrated by Tedlow was their leadership ability and how they managed teams, campaigns, agendas, and moments of great upheaval and change.

What Tedlow excels in doing is showing the micro-skills of execution these leaders employed. In many ways he is a biographer of tactics. He shows us how each of these leaders succeeded because they knew how to get things done, push agendas, and politically survive. And, yes, even manage.

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Execution in the World of Make Believe

In the realm of film and television, one would assume that ideas, concepts, premises and visions fantasies are the key element, the backbone, of the business model. While ideas may be the spark that fuels the fire, they aren’t enough to put money in anyone’s pocket without follow-through, hard work, tweaking, and the collaboration of a small army of professionals.

Consider the concept of a pitch meeting: a writer walks into an office armed solely with his an idea. In a best-case scenario, the producer or developmental person likes the idea, and, assuming this person is in a position to make decisions, asks them to do a treatment or a short narrative detailing the project.

A friend of mine recently pitched an idea to a major cable network. The network liked it and asked him to present a more-developed presentation and submit a treatment.

So how did my friend handle the preparation for the pitch meeting/ treatment?

He worked for hours laying out possibilities for exactly how the show would be structured. He looked at other shows on this particular network. He studied the number of commercial breaks during similar shows. He learned how many segments their shows were broken up into. He figured out how many locations the network used per episode. He went through sample scenarios for various episodes, writing jokes, and key phrases crafted to seem like off-the-cuff, improvisational comments during the meeting. It wasn’t enough to simply see the show in his head, he needed to convey it in a concrete manner that the network could understand.

His entire approach to the meeting was, for the most part, pragmatic and calculated.

My friend didn’t depend on his great idea carrying him through the meeting. At the end of the day, he realized he would have to transform his idea into something concrete. If his idea gets picked up as a pilot, his focus will move further away from the world of ideas and more into the world of executing.

A pitch or a treatment is an early step in the developmental process, but these things are not in and of themselves, a commodity. The difference between a pitch and a TV show, or even a treatment and a TV show is the difference between a crudely-drawn sketch of the Empire State Building and the building itself.

But it doesn’t stop at a well received pitch and treatment. The writer has to next jump through a few more hoops. They have to present an outline for a script and receive, respond to, and incorporate notes from numerous sources into a revised treatment. Then and only then will the writer be finally asked to submit a script.

If the script is good and liked by the right people and it undergoes another process or re-writing and feedback an order to produce a pilot may be issued. The tweaking and feedback sessions become more frequent and the intensity increases during this period.

Let’s say my friend’s pilot gets picked up and the show becomes a series. He’ll next have to focus on getting things done and delivering results.

My friend was smart. He realized that although he may be a creative person in a creative industry, creativity alone is not enough.  Even in the world of make believe, you still have to translate vision into action.

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How to Have a 3 Hour Work Day! Lessons from Eugene Schwartz

(Above Picture: A Sample of Eugene Schwartz’s Work)

Eugene Schwartz, one of advertising’s greatest copywriters, only worked three hours a day for five days week.

Yet he called himself “the world’s hardest-working copywriter.”

How to Work for Three Hours a Day

Schwartz accomplished this feat by breaking up his day into small chunks. He’d set a timer for 33.33 minutes and force himself to write, read, and think without any coffee breaks, thumb-twiddling, or vacant staring. When his timer buzzed, he’d stop what he was doing, take a 10 minute break, and repeat the process until he finished his three-hour-day.

The routine paid dividends for Schwartz and he managed to write successful direct mail copy while authoring 10 books.

But Schwartz’s legacy has been hijacked by the people in his own field. If you Google Schwartz you get a slew of sites trying to sell his interviews, ideas, and writing strategies and they all employ the same sensationalist, ‘act-now’, language Schwartz helped pioneer. We don’t get to know Schwartz, we’re just told to spend $297 to learn how you to can become a “master copywriter.”

Still, it’s worth exploring Schwartz’s work ethic to see how we can learn from it. He was, after all, the best in his field.

Copywriting is a mix of writing, analysis, and design and Schwartz believed the only way to master all of these elements was to be prepared. He put it simply, “the person who is more prepared…makes the most money.”

Schwartz’s Work Strategy

Schwartz would get five weeks to write copy for a product. Here’s how he did it:

1. He’d take two weeks and get to know the product better than it’s creator. Schwartz routinely got manuscripts that were over 1,000 pages long explaining the product or service he was charged with selling. Schwartz would read through the manuscripts and underline any and all statements that made significant claims. He read every word and skipped the table of contents. He wanted to read every sentence without knowing what might come next. He said, “I’d get the guts, the heart, the meat, and the gist of [any] manuscript.”

2. He would type all of the important claims into one document and organize them for two weeks. Usually, this document would be around 60 pages. He’d take great care to separate what statements moved him the most.

3. Finally, Schwartz would begin writing copy–leaving the title and subtitles for last. He’d also begin his search for the right illustrations for the ad.

4. During the last few days Schwartz would edit and re-edit all of his copy to make sure it was perfect. He said, “I want to be more accurate and more knowledgeable than anyone I come up against.” Schwartz reasoned that if he took the extra time, he’d always do better than his younger, brighter, counterparts.


When you glance at Schwartz’s old direct mail ads, you don’t think they took five weeks of labor. They look crammed, busy, and ripped out of a cheap comic-book. But on closer inspection, you can tell each word is there for a reason and there aren’t any extraneous phrases sticking around to fill space. It’s all good, lean, prose that informs.

It’s hard to see the beauty of Schwartz’s work when we have websites with vibrant colors, video, and pictures–but if you look close enough you can see it. Schwartz’s ads were proven to consistently get people to buy and it was because he worked hard to understand what he was talking about, instead of splashing together catch-phrases and intriguing pictures.

And he did this all without working “impossible hours.”

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6 Non-Yogi Berra Baseball Quotes That Will Teach You About Leadership

6. I don’t care how long you’ve been around, you’ll never see it all.  ~Bob Lemon, 1977

When we reach a position of leadership we like to think that we have learned a thing or two. But one of the ways to remain proactive is always remember that you don’t know it all. If you look at each day as a day you might just see, learn, or experience something new, you are ready to be a proactive and engaged leader.

5. You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.  ~Jim Bouton, Ball Four, 1970

Don’t forget that no matter how much you think you’re in control, no matter how much you think you can dictate the future, you must stay flexible. Every time you sit back and say “I’m in control of this situation” there is a good chance that it’s the other way around. There is always a new leadership challenge around the corner that will force you to re-evaluate every aspect of how you do business.

4. You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow.  Tomorrow it may rain.  ~Leo Durocher, in New York Times, 16 May 1965

In leadership, you can get into a world of trouble if you don’t give each day 100% of your effort and focus. Being a proactive leader means that you must execute each task with your best tools and ideas. You can’t save your best for the next project because if you don’t get things done now there may not be a next project.

3. A game of great charm in the adoption of mathematical measurements to the timing of human movements, the exactitudes and adjustments of physical ability to hazardous chance.  The speed of the legs, the dexterity of the body, the grace of the swing, the elusiveness of the slide – these are the features that make Americans everywhere forget the last syllable of a man’s last name or the pigmentation of his skin.  ~Branch Rickey, May 1960

This isn’t your typical brain-dead baseball quote, but it does prove a point: Leadership, like baseball, isn’t about fancy clothes, Ivy League colleges, pretty faces, or skin color. It’s simply about getting things done. If you have all the skills necessary, if you have learned which tools are needed to execute, then you have the ability to become a proactive leader.

2. Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini.  They show a lot, but not everything.  ~Toby Harrah, 1983

Being a successful leader is more than just spreadsheets and bottom lines. If you don’t cultivate those you lead, if you don’t understand how their success is attained, you are heading towards trouble. When people in your team or organization stop achieving success, you need to know exactly how they got to where they are. Otherwise helping them recover will be close to impossible. Take the time to learn what motivates each employee. Learn about their strengths and weaknesses. This way if their numbers slip, you won’t just say “Work harder” or “Sell more or you’re fired”, you will be able to give constructive comments on how they can get things done again.

1. Always play a game with somebody, never against them. Always win a game, never beat an opponent. ~Andrew Bailey

It’s important as a leader to encourage those you lead to be competitive. But nothing good can come of playing people off one another. Don’t make groups fight each other for supremacy. These internecine battles might work in the short term to raise productivity, but in the end it will do nothing but build resentment and destroy any trust you have with your team.