Careers

Samantha Bee: Want to be more productive? Work less

As the host of "Full Frontal," Samantha Bee has found that the key to productivity is working less, not more.

"I'm very focused," she told CNBC Make It at OZY Fest. "You can get a lot done in eight hours that other people take 12 hours to do."

Research supports Bee's intuition. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that "working longer hours results in a reduction of labor output" and Harvard Business Review explains that "overwork is literally a story of diminishing returns."

This means that the longer you work, the less productive you become.

Bee says that having kids helped her learn this lesson. "I do have kids and honestly, they help me focus my life to its purest essence," she says. "I just literally don't have time to tap into things that are outside of my work world and my family world."

Samantha Bee speaks onstage during the Full Frontal With Samantha Bee's Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Dimitrios Kambouris | Getty Images
Samantha Bee speaks onstage during the Full Frontal With Samantha Bee's Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Bee rejects the idea that having a career and a family are incompatible. For her, having responsibilities outside of her professional life has helped her stay focused and determined. The same, she says, is true for her co-workers: "The people in my life who are like me, and kind of have stuff to do at home, are often extremely extraordinarily focused at work."

By keeping her professional life and her personal life separate, Bee is able to optimize her time.

"Those two aspects of my life are very tight ships and I don't like to mix those worlds and I don't like things to distract me," she says. "So when I'm at work I am very much at work, and when I am at home I am very much at home. "

Many other famous figures have found that keeping a tight schedule is essential to their success.

In order to keep focused, Warren Buffett says 'no' often. He told Investment News' Brad Johnson, "I no longer try any ideas that are merely good." Late Apple founder Steve Jobs was also an advocate for saying 'no' — in a Q&A in 1997 he advised that "Focus is about saying 'no.'"

In order to keep her life balanced, writer and television producer Shonda Rimes sets boundaries for when she is and is not working. "I do not answer phone calls or emails after 7 p.m. I do not work on the weekends, which I have to tell you is incredibly difficult," she tells Fast Company.

Having limited time is a constraint that forces you to be more productive, more creative, and more focused on what is important argues Bee. "It's important for me to have constraints. I actually work very well on deadlines and constraints," she explains. "Like a terrarium! I need you to place a terrarium around me and I'll work really hard."

In order to stay focused at work, Bee suggests that you narrow in on your personal goals and ignore distractions. "The only thing that you really need to care about is what your own vision is," says Bee. "People will distract you from that, and that's not prudent. It's not healthy."

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