Secrets of greatness: How I work
E-mail and voicemail; yoga and personal assistants; structure and grooving: A dozen accomplished people tell what works for them.
By Cait Murphy, FORTUNE assistant managing editor

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Information everywhere. Connectivity at all hours. A smaller world.

Many of the things that make living in the 21st century so interesting can also be a nightmare for those who have to work in it. With a new store opening up every five hours, Starbucks (Research) Chairman Howard Schultz more or less lives on the phone to attempt to keep track of things.

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And pity poor Carlos Ghosn, who was such a brilliant success with Nissan in Japan, turning the once-tarnished brand around, that he has added two more jobs to his resume -- and on two different continents, no less.

"My normal routine is pretty much putting out fires all day."
-- Vera Wang, designer

But the following 12 interviews are by no means a litany of complaints. These people, ranging from jazz maestro Wynton Marsalis to jurist Richard Posner to Goldman's CEO, Hank Paulson, love what they do.

The challenge is to continue to do it well, when the responsibilities and complexities keep increasing. One common answer is to get up early -- real early. Note to MBA students: If you can't rise at dawn, you might just reconsider your goal of making it as a CEO.

Another answer is the creative use of technology -- bond fund manager Bill Gross would be short-circuited without Bloomberg screens and one suspects that separating Google's (Research) Marissa Mayer from her laptop would be difficult. That said, it is interesting how many of the subjects say they don't use e-mail (but then others spend up to 14 hours at a time on it).

"I'll just sit down and do e-mail for ten to 14 hours straight."
-- Marissa Mayer, Google

If there is a common denominator here, it is that for all the whizz-bang gadgetry that makes it possible to nag people in a dozen time zones in a single day, the human touch still matters. A.G. Lafley stocks his office with funny furniture to make it approachable and wanders about regularly. Amy Schulman turns off her cell phone to give her full attention to her clients.

Technology can help people perform, after all, but it is people who inspire technology -- and each other.

"A key to staying calm is minimizing the information onslaught."
-- A.G. Lafley, chairman, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble

See a gallery of leaders and their secrets.


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