Who are the Most Productive People in the World (and what we can learn)

Beside stunning nature, retro cars and friendly people, Cuba is… a mess. Many things don’t work there, despite their propaganda – people live in slums, media gets censored and technology is so 60s. Who would have thought that when it comes to getting work done, Cubans might outperform a whole bunch of productivity gurus?

You would never tell, seeing them lazily lying under palm trees all day long, sipping rum and smoking cigars. But little do tourists know that it’s one of their productivity secrets – they don’t invent things to do just to keep themselves busy, and they don’t put things off for tomorrow what they can avoid doing altogether. Cubans don’t know such first world problems like procrastination and too-much-to-do, and they don’t need any productivity tips and tricks to get stuff done – when they have something to do, they just get it out of their way.

Here are other reasons why Cubans might turn out to be the most productive people on the planet:

They share information smart

The Internet in Cuba might be out of reach, but information there travels faster than wi-fi. Cubans work as a team, passing the valuable information to each other through their inscrutable, yet weirdly efficient channels. At the end of the day, they’ve found out everything about you – where you come from, which hotel you’re staying at, where you’re planning to go and how much money you’re willing to pay for it. Then they appear out of nowhere with ‘mind-reading’ offers you can’t refuse. So yes, they might not know what happens in the rest of the world, but they’re perfectly informed about things that let them do their job more efficiently.

Cubans are living proof that you don’t always need to know everything to get stuff done, as long as you get the information that matters. That’s what the modern, technology stuffed enterprises often lack the most – we receive a lot of information junk we can’t handle, while lacking information that might actually help us get things done faster and more efficiently. According to LexisNexis survey, a majority of workers (59%) admit that the quality of their work suffers at times because they can’t sort through the information they need fast enough.

Lesson learned: avoid useless information and don’t make it a problem for others. Set email filters and unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read. If you need more information to get your task done, start with understanding what exactly you’re looking for – learn to ask concrete questions. And always think twice before you send an email to everyone, if only one person might find it useful. In other words, work as a team like Cubans do, helping each other get things done instead of drowning in information trash.

They know their priorities

Unless you’re a tourist, living in Cuba is very cheap. Cubans earn less than $20 a month in their official jobs, which let them cover housing expenses and live off of bananas, rice and beans. Is it enough? No, it’s not. Therefore, every Cuban has earnings on the side, which sometimes let them make the same amount of money in one day. So when it comes to setting priorities, Cubans don’t need to be lectured – they focus on what lets them earn more money.

Even when at their official jobs, Cubans always keep their eyes open, letting no paying human being pass unnoticed. So don’t be surprised when someone offers you a taxi ride while working in a grocery store, or take a break from sweeping streets to sell you (overpriced) bananas – Cubans know that their routine tasks can wait, while a tourist won’t. They simply focus on tasks that produces the most results, while it seems that for many of us it’s still a challenge.

Lesson learned: understand that you’ll never have enough time to do everything, which is why you have to prioritize. Instead of wasting time on low priority routine tasks and avoid doing things that actually matter in the long term, start with setting priorities – there are many ways to do it, and the first step is picking yours.

They delegate

Having a business is not enough – you also need to sell what you do. Cubans are overall great sellers that could convince the Devil himself to buy their stuff, but the problem is that very few Cubans speak English to approach people with money, aka tourists. So they delegate this task to the pros – chatty Cubans with knowledge of the English language.

Here’s how it usually happens: let’s say you’re looking for a place to have dinner, when a Cuban approaches you with the standard greeting phrase ‘My friend, what are you looking for?’. Before you get your answer out, you’ve already been hooked, have run out of all of your arguments, and find yourself following him to a restaurant down the street. Once you’re there, his job is done and it’s time to leave for the next catch.

Such English speaking Cubans bring tourists to restaurants and hotels, earning commissions for each attracted customer. Of course, owners could go into the  streets and sell their services themselves, keeping all of the revenue, but because of the language barrier it would be more time consuming and less effective. By delegating this task to others, they can focus on other things – such as making sure no customer leaves without spending a decent amount of money on the delicious seafood they serve.

Lesson learned: if you suck, don’t do it – you’ll only waste your time. Do what you do best and delegate tasks you’re not that good at. And even if you are, it doesn’t always mean you have to do everything by yourself – delegating is a powerful skill that can boost productivity and helps you get things done faster.


Krista is a traveling enthusiast and content creator at DeskTime. She blogs about practical productivity tips and office hacks. When she’s not writing, she’s probably planning her next trip to somewhere far, far away.