The Productivity Giants Series with Jon Levy, Behavioral Scientist


Welcome to The Productivity Giants Series 2!


In case you missed it, this series includes interviews with some of the top leaders in the tech industry and beyond, and we’re continuing on with a new batch of inspiring people. We hope you’ll be inspired by their productivity wisdom, as well as their fascinating career learnings thus far. Catch up on Series 1 here.


First up in this new season is Jon Levy!


Jon is a human behavioral scientist, specializing in understanding influence and decision-making. He’s the founder of The Influencers, a community of over 1,200 thought leaders, tastemakers, and celebrities ranging from Nobel Laureates and Olympic medalists to award-winning actors and musicians. He’s also the author of The 2 AM Principle: The Science of Adventure. So yeah, he’s a pretty busy guy!


We talked with Jon to find out his essential productivity tips and the life hacks he swears by. Read on:


What does the first 90 minutes of your day look like?


When I’m writing a book, before I even brush my teeth, I throw everything that I have on the page. After I brush my teeth, I do 20 minutes of transcendental meditation. Then I review today’s critical objectives. I outline 3 things I must get done during the day, make breakfast and look over my inbox to see how quickly I can be at inbox zero. In the process, I assign tasks to my team and dive into work.


What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?


If it’s not necessary to do it – it’s necessary not to do it. The first step to productivity is knowing what needs to get done and the things that you don’t need to do at all.


Any favorite tools?


Gmail, but I install a series of extensions. I use Streak for lead management, snoozing conversations, and to let me know if a sent message was viewed. Boomerang Calendar is for sending calendar invites for meetings. I use UpWork to hire and manage my team of VAs in every topic ranging from research assistants for science to virtual assistants and editors.


Do you have a pre-bed/nightly routine?


By the time the end of the day comes, I want to do something that takes as little focus as possible. My objective is to do something that allows me to relax. It might be watching an episode of Rick and Morty, or catch up with a friend on the phone or Skype. When you travel and are on a flight every 3 or 4 days, it’s hard to have an effective routine.


How often do you check your inbox?


Continuously throughout the day. As someone who runs a private community, communication is at the heart of what I do.


What’s the biggest hindrance to your productivity? How do you combat it?


Hiring good talent. I recommend outsourcing, but finding the right talent is hard. I offer many positions on UpWork and interview a lot. It’s a process.


What have you learned from your failures? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?


Humility. There’s a great talk by Brene Brown. People from the audience say they feel terrible, but as she points out, that’s not what feeling wrong feels like. Being wrong feels identical to feeling right. No matter how smart I think I am, it doesn’t make me right. Be willing to reevaluate everything if you want to be extraordinary at anything.


What bad advice do you hear often?


Any time someone tells you something will be easy, don’t believe them. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Every project I have ever worked on has taken significantly longer, required more effort and investment of resources than predicted. It doesn’t mean they weren’t worth doing – it means work is in fact work.


What book has changed your life and why?


A shameless plug would be writing my book The 2 AM Principle – that was life-altering, I traveled around the world on a flight every few days trying to understand what causes people to live exciting lives.


A book I didn’t write would be The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.


Every book about business tells you how they overcame a challenge and became a huge success, but in The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben shares the continued struggles and minute success – and when you put them all together, he was barely able to squeeze by as a success. Certain parts are heartbreaking – others are heartwarming. Anything worth doing, there’s a struggle involved. It was the first book I have ever seen that took this head-on in an honest and unadulterated way. When I go through something tough in business, I remember the stories in that book and that we all go through difficult times.


What is the most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?


Changing my philosophical approach of being money-focused to being people-focused. Anything I want in life is a byproduct of who I know and who they know. It was an investment in people that made the biggest impact in my career.


What’s your definition of productivity?


Ask yourself: What’s your intention? If your objective while on vacation is to lounge and read a book and you answer a few work emails, you were not productive. Your intention was to relax, and what you did was work. If your intention was to create a presentation and you outsource it in a way that takes 1/10 the time, you are incredibly productive. Productivity comes down to what your intention is, not what you get done.



Follow Jon on Twitter.