Secrets of 13 of the world’s most productive people

Ask Janelle Monáe how she gets everything done—the critically acclaimed albums, the world tours, the film roles, the activism—and she’ll answer with a single, slightly unexpected word. “Slack!” she says, with a cheerful laugh. “Email used to stress me out. Now I can organize every conversation, and I go into the channel when I need to—I don’t check it every hour. Like, when I get up, the first thing I do is not look at my phone. The first thing I do is I take at least 10 deep breaths.” She demonstrates, seemingly shifting her mind from the cacophonous, dimly lit restaurant, where she’s occupying a prime corner table, to a mellower internal place: “Inhale . . . exhale; inhale . . . exhale. That really calms you down.”

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2. Beth Ford

CEO, Land O’Lakes

“I work a lot through email and text. I say to my team: ‘Please don’t write me a novel, I won’t read it.’ I just don’t have the time.”

3. Mellody Hobson

President, Ariel Investments

“I [travel with] what I call my utility bag—my pajamas, dopp kit, running shoes, and workout clothes. My suits are sent [via] FedEx to me in each city, in a white box, and then I just send them back. When I open that box, I have shoes, suits, all of those things for that city.”

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