15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management

15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management

by Kevin Kruse

In our daily lives, we come across many productivity and time management strategies from various sources. We are bombarded with so many different hacks and best practices that we tend to forget them. This book is the solution. It’s a collection of the best practices and productivity hacks, enabling us to double our productivity and, at the same time, our happiness. Written in 2015, this is probably the best book on this subject available in the modern world.

Summary Notes

The Importance of Time

“Highly successful people feel the passage of time. They know the potential that every minute holds.”

Most people believe they need a list of tools, tips, and systems to manage their time properly.  What you truly need is a shift in mindset: you just need to start looking at time as the most valuable thing you have. Once it is lost, it can never be regained. You cannot buy, rent or borrow it from anywhere.

You only have 1,440 minutes each day. If you narrow this down to an 8-hour workday, it leaves you with only 480 minutes. There is only so much you can do in that period. 

How many distractions can you eliminate? How much more can you accomplish if you count every minute of your day?

Actions to take

The Power of Proper Priorities

“The most important things are to know what to focus on and how you are going to get it done.”

We tend to get distracted when we have a lot of things to do. We prefer to work on easier things and often avoid what’s important. However, real productivity is about doing things that have the greatest impact. 

Your biggest-impact task is your Most Important Task (MIT). It refers to the activity that provides the greatest leverage to achieve your goal. 

For example, the process of publishing a book involves many activities, such as researching topics and assembling information through interviews. But the biggest-impact activity (MIT) is the act of writing itself. You can only identify your MIT after setting a measurable goal and identifying all the necessary activities to achieve that goal.

Remember, it’s not about feeling productive (doing many things at once or doing unimportant but satisfying things). Rather, It’s about actually being productive by doing things that have the greatest impact on your goals.

Actions to take

Stop Making To-Do Lists - Do This Instead

“Highly successful people don’t have a to-do list, but they do have a very well-kept calendar.”

Do you think that Steve Jobs had a to-do list with him and was always thinking, “What’s my next task on the list?” Do you think that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other highly successful people strictly followed their to-do lists?

To-do lists can help you organize your thoughts, but not your activity.  A list without a clear plan of action leaves your day unstructured, and as you find yourself unable to accomplish all the things you wanted, your to-do list keeps growing. You will naturally start to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Your motivation and productivity suffer even more as you start to connect these bad feelings with your unfinished to-do lists.

So, what could you do instead? You could use your calendar! A calendar allows you to schedule time for what you truly want to do. The simple act of scheduling tasks can free your mind, reduce stress and increase your cognitive performance. By relying on an external structure to manage your time, you can take one more burden off your shoulders. 

Actions to take

The Procrastination Cure

“Procrastination is the habit of putting off important, less pleasurable tasks by doing easier, more pleasurable tasks. ”

To manage your time effectively, you must learn how to overcome procrastination. Procrastination refers to the habit of putting off important, less pleasurable tasks and focusing on the easier and more pleasurable ones. 

Procrastination has nothing to do with laziness. There are two possible reasons you may procrastinate:

  1. You lack motivation.
    You are most likely to procrastinate on a task or project if you do not know what you stand to gain from it. For example, you may procrastinate starting a degree program if you don’t fully understand the value it will add to your life.
  2. You underestimate the power of present emotions versus future emotions when you set your goals.
    Most of us think about our future selves as people who are determined to solve all their problems.  We then release our present selves from these same duties we expect our future selves to perform. For example, you may procrastinate starting a small business this year because you feel like you will be financially comfortable enough to start something even bigger next year.

Actions to take

How to Leave the Office at 5:00—Without Guilt

“Super successful people don’t just burn hour after hour trying to cross more items off their task list. Instead, they think through their priorities, schedule time for each, and then enough is enough.”

Nowadays, most people get so busy that they rarely find time to do the things they love. Running a company is very time-consuming, and there will always be more to do and more than can be done. No matter how much you work, you will still not complete everything you would like to. That’s why it’s important not to overwork yourself and ensure you take time for yourself every day. 

Leaders of big companies take time to spend with their families, read books, or just do things they enjoy. Even former President Bush had time to read 95 books a year. If the president of the United States has time, surely you do, too. 

To make time for yourself, you need to think through your priorities and schedule time for each task. Accept that you cannot do everything, and understand that scheduling time off will help you be more productive in the long run.

Actions to take

Always carry a notebook with you, and take handwritten notes

“Using paper-based bound notebooks for notes is better than taking notes on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.”

Most successful people, including Richard Branson, Aristotle Onassis, and Jim Roth, emphasize the value of always having something to write on. If you have a thought and don’t write it down, it might be gone forever by the following day.

It’s better to write notes by hand than on gadgets like tablets and laptops. Studies showed that people who take notes by hand are able to conceptualize the practical implementation of ideas much better than those who use gadgets. The act of writing involves active listening, cognitive processing, and recalling to record, whereas taking notes with a gadget is more about robotically recording spoken words without the mental work. 

When choosing notebooks, you need to go for durable ones to keep your ideas safe and protected.

Actions to take

Master your email inbox With 321-Zero

“According to a survey conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, office workers spend 2.6 hours per day reading and answering emails, which equates to 33 percent of a 40-hour workweek.”

Most of us spend a great proportion of our work hours reading and answering emails instead of being productive. According to studies, office workers spend an average of 2.6 hours per day reading and answering emails. This is one-third of their office time! That’s much more time than it should be.

Emails are a dominant form of professional communication, but you need to master how to use them to avoid distractions.

One of the best ways to control your email is to use the 321-zero approach, which involves checking your email three times a day (preferably, mornings, noon, and evenings), taking 21 minutes to clear it to zero, and ignoring your emails at all other times. 

This system will help you stay focused: the time pressure will ensure you respond quickly, and you’ll be able to navigate your inbox in a less distracted manner.  

Actions to take

Meeting Hacks from Google, Apple, and Virgin

“Most meetings are poorly organized, poorly facilitated, and highly inefficient.”

Most meetings are a great time stealer. Most of us spend a lot of time we could have been used on more productive tasks instead of attending poorly organized meetings. To manage your time effectively, you need to limit the number of meetings you schedule and attend.  Only attend meetings as a last resort when all other forms of communication have proven ineffective.

A powerful agenda is crucial for the success of every meeting as it provides a clear structure for everyone to follow. Your team members will also be able to organize their thoughts in advance, and the meeting will proceed much more smoothly. 

The three biggest problems with meetings are:

  1. They start late: This only means you waste some valuable time waiting for the meeting to start.
  2. The wrong people participate and dominate: This delays decision-making and result in a waste of valuable time.
  3. Time is spent on trivial issues instead of important ones.

Actions to take

One little word that multiplies success

“Email, social media, and text messaging have not only increased the overall amount of information we must deal with, but it has also made it far too easy for other people to ask us for things. ”

Nowadays, we have many avenues of communication which is causing a lot of distractions. It has become much easier to invite a friend for lunch or ask someone for a quick call. 

We live in a world full of opportunities. If we don’t learn to say no to most of them, we will not get our important work done. You only have 1440 minutes every day - consider which activities take the biggest toll on your time. 

When saying “no,” you have to consider how busy you will be in the future. We tend to mistakenly think we will be less busy in the future than we are in the present, and we start accepting proposals that do not align with our goals. This is unhelpful at best.

Remember, each time you say yes, you say no to something else. Some successful people like James Altucher have this rule: “If something is not a ‘hell YEAH!’ then it's a ‘no!’”

Actions to take

Understanding the Pareto principle

“80 percent of results will come from just 20 percent of the action.”

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto discovered that 80% of the wealth in Italy is owned by 20 percent of the people. Similarly, 80% of the production comes from 20% of the companies. This led him to come up with the Pareto principle, which states that roughly 80% of results will come from 20% of causes for many outcomes. 

The Pareto principle can be applied to many areas of our lives, including our productivity. 20% of your tasks will produce 80% of your results, so focus your efforts more on that 20%. 

You don’t always need to go around with a calculator to figure out percentages in different areas of your life; instead, you need to be vigilant enough to identify the few things and activities that will give you outsized returns.

Actions to take

The “3 Harvard Questions” That Save Eight Hours a Week

“You need to start paying other people to do stuff for you even before you feel you are ready.”

We all have many different things we must do every day but lack time to do them all.  To make the best use of your time, you must focus your efforts only on the things that utilize your unique strengths and passion. Everything else can be dropped, delegated, or redesigned. 

People who actively look for things to delegate report higher productivity and happiness levels and are less likely to feel overwhelmed and overworked. So instead of trying to handle everything, outsource what you can to others.  

Make it a principle to outsource everything you can unless;

  1. You enjoy doing it, and it’s part of your rest and recharging process.
  2. It’s part of your values to continue doing the task.
  3. It costs you more per hour to outsource it.

Actions to take

Why Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey Themes His Days

“Renowned entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan suggests that we theme every week around three different kinds of days.”

If you have a lot of different responsibilities that require your time, think about theming your week. This means batching your tasks and focusing on only one aspect of the company for the whole day.  This results in efficiency and higher levels of productivity. For example, you could focus on general management on Mondays, products on Tuesdays, marketing on Wednesdays, and so on. 

Having a clear structure for the week will ensure that no responsibilities are omitted. The CEO of Twitter presents the best example of this principle. For each day of the week, he has a different focus; Mondays for Management, Tuesdays for products, Wednesdays for marketing, communication & growth, Thursdays for developers and partnerships, Fridays for company culture and recruiting, Saturdays for hiking and relaxation, and Sundays for reflection.

You can theme every week around three different kinds of days;

  1. Focus days. These days should be dedicated to your most important activities, preferably revenue-producing activities.
  2. Buffer days: These are days to catch up on emails and calls, hold internal meetings, delegate tasks, catch up on paperwork, and complete any training or educational activities related to work.
  3. Free Days: These are days for vacation, fun, or a charity activity. It’s simply time to rejuvenate.

Actions to take

Don’t Touch it! (Until You’re Ready)

“Highly successful people take immediate action on almost every item they encounter.”

Most people love to postpone tasks for no justifiable reasons. One of the secrets to managing your time effectively is to do things immediately. To be efficient, you need to expend the least possible amount of time and mental energy processing things. In short, you need to learn to take immediate action on every item you encounter as long as it does not interfere with a pre-scheduled task. 

When you take immediate action, it helps you to:

  1. Save energy and time, which would have later been used in doing the task all over.
  2. Increase your willpower so you can keep working on your goals.

Actions to take

Change Your Morning, Change Your Life

“Highly successful people design an empowering and energizing morning routine and stick with it.”

A good morning routine is essential in time management and productivity as it improves your creativity and ability to think strategically.  For most people, it is easier to get up and start responding to emails and texts than to start their day with a positive and empowering routine. Investing in yourself in the initial minutes of each day will propel you to a greater level of success. You need to be intentional about your morning routine by waking up early to perform rituals that strengthen your mind, body, and spirit. 

Pretty much everyone has their own routine; however, some of the elements are the same. For example, highly successful people wake up very early, eat a healthy breakfast, and do some exercise.

Actions to take

Energy is everything

“When people talk about “time management,” what they really want is to get more stuff done with less stress.”

Time management is more about energy maximization. If your energy levels are high, you’ll be more productive and less stressed: productivity is about focus and energy and not about time.

Energy starts with health, and the best way to improve your overall energy level is to take care of your health by eating healthy meals, sleeping well, and exercising. The most productive people usually take short breaks to improve their energy levels. One of the most popular methods is the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break or 50 minutes followed by a 10 minutes break.

Actions to take

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