20 Time-Management tips from highly successful people

  • Reading time : 10 mn.
  • Time saved : an awesome lot!

When it comes to time management, or as I call it, time optimization, it’s often interesting to look at what works in the field. You know, not on paper, but in reality.

And what’s best than looking at celebrities and famous businessmen for that matter? Brian Tracy, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Dwight Eisenhower, Chris Gaborit, Arianna Huffington, Charles Dickens, Mary Callahan Erdoes, Jack Dorsey, Norman Lear, Vilfredo Pareto, Bill Gates, Koel Thomae, Charles Darwin, Elon Musk, Jack-Groetzinger, Tony Robbins, Liz Wessel, Warren Buffett, Tim Cook, and Richard Branson are all joining forces to help YOU manage your time better. A warm thank you to them 😉

1. Warren Buffett says “no” more than “yes”

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett

That’s right. And more specifically, you should say yes only to what triggers a Hell yeah!” reaction in you, that means say yes to things that deeply motivate you. Discard the rest, life is too short anyway 😉

2. Oprah Winfrey stops worrying and moves on

“I think the hardest part of aging really is recognizing the time that you wasted and the things that you worried about that really didn’t matter…. That’s really the only regret that I have.” — Oprah Winfrey

This one is self-explanatory. “Don’t worry, be happy!” is a disarmingly simple, but great indeed motto to live by.

3. Steve Jobs goes his own route

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs

Lay aside peer / society pressure and do what you feel like doing. Yes, it takes courage but it is always highly rewarding in the end. As a matter of fact, not following one’s heart and intuition is one of the 20 most common regrets people express on their death bed. The good news is I got you covered with this complete guide to build your intuition.

4. Eisenhower sorts out the urgent and the important

“Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent.” Dwight Eisenhower, former U.S. president.

You are probably familiar with this method of sorting out tasks :

But you may not know Eisenhower is the actual creator of this matrix, which was named after him.

This method is both simple and effective : take care of what’s urgent and important, schedule what’s only important (but not urgent), don’t do what’s not important at all, or just delegate what’s urgent but not important. That’s it!

This is actually great in combination with the Pareto principle (see below).

5. Chris Gaborit manages every minute of his time

As we say in French : “small streams make mighty rivers”.

Minutes add up… Big time (pun intended!). And by the end of the day, managing minutes right makes the difference between a successful entrepreneur and one who struggles. So pay close attention to these little details which make time slip away from your fingers!

6. Arianna Huffington : quality over quantity

“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” — Arianna Huffington

Founder of the Huffington Post got it right with a time-management tip very dear to my heart : work less but work better. It all boils down to ensuring your strategy is adapted, first and foremost : working hard is not the answer. Working with a proven strategy is what will get results.

Next, you should make sure your brain works well, your quality of life is good, and the enjoyment you derive from work is enough. It is also vastly subconscious-based : remove the limiting belief according to which you need to work hard to succeed, and you will see unexpected good results coming your way. I’ve experimented this many times, and so have my clients. Feels like Christmas! 🙂

7. Richard Branson works out in the morning

The cute girl is optional.

“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit, it keeps the brain functioning well.” Richard Branson

Working out in the morning every day is the reason why Richard Branson is so efficient at work. And it makes sense : sustained physical effort increases the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in concentration, anxiety (or lack of), and sleep.

But beware! Everyone is different. Probably Richard Branson has subnormal levels of serotonin and therefore needs them to be raised ; but this is not necessarily the case for you. You should also note there is an inverse relationship between serotonin and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in cognition and memory : raising one will lower the other. This is the reason why SSRI can lower acetylcholine levels, resulting in poorer cognitive abilities.

Whenever playing with neurotransmitters, whether it is through sports, nutrition or supplementation, one should be very careful.

For more on neurotransmitter balancing, check out my personal coaching method.

8. Jack Groetzinger turns his to-do list into a game

Source : TechTycoons

“I’ve enjoyed ‘gamifying’ my to-do list. I have an estimated number of minutes for all tasks and have written software to record when I begin and end each item. Each day, I challenge myself to hit an efficiency goal: number of actual minutes divided by expected minutes. The best part of playing a game by myself is that I have every spot on the leader board.” Jack Groetzinger

Gamifying is a great tip to keep yourself motivated, as we already explained on this blog! You could also use apps which reward getting things done, like Habitica (for geeks only, I personally use it and like it).

9. Mary Callahan Erdoes uses her calendar, instead of being used by it

“Calendar management is the single most important thing, especially as you get busy and have more responsibilities,” the CEO of JPMorgan Asset Management tells CNBC.

“You have to be maniacally focused on owning your calendar, on having the lists of what you need from other people and what other people need from you. What are the short-term issues that need to be dealt with? What are the long-term issues?

“Unless you can stay on top of that religiously, it will end up owning you, and that’s not a way to go about staying organized and being on top of things.”

— Mary Callahan Erdoes

10. Jack Dorsey themes his days

Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey, standing out with his quirky looks, and that’s why we love him 🙂

When he was still Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey declared :

“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.”

Having to handle several type of activities is both energy and time consuming. Some choose to multitask… Others, like Jack Dorsey, prefer to group tasks. Which strategy is yours?

11. Norman Lear has a surprising powerful 2-words philosophy

The 93 years-young TV writer and producer is packed with a lifetime of wisdom 🙂

“I think the two least-considered small words in the English language may be ‘over’ and ‘next,’” says the television writer and producer. “When something is over, [it’s] over. We’re onto next. I live in that moment. I mean this is it — this is the best conversation I could possibly be having, and it took me 93 years to get here.” Norman Lear

This is essentially the same idea as ““Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” ― Eckhart Tolle

In a nutshell, carpe diem (“seize the day”), go with the present moment and leave the past where it belongs… 😉

12. Tim Cook rises (and shines) early

“The morning is yours. Or should I say, the early morning is yours” Tim Cook.

Tim gains time… By waking up every day at 4:30. The main reason ? It’s easier to control that part of the day. Less interruptions = more time for focused work.

And this makes perfect sense. But only if you are a morning person. Before you try to implement this routine at home, I suggest you first check what your body chronotype really is. Now, this will save you lots of time and energy, while maximizing your happiness.

13. Pareto suggests 20% of your actions bring 80% of benefits

Pareto originally observed the  80/20 rule, also called the law of the vital few, or principle of factor sparsity, in economics. It is now used broadly when encountering a 80/20 ratio in any field, and it applies beautifully to time-management. When you look closely, you will notice that few of your actions (roughly 20%) are driving the biggest results (80%). Conversely, 80% of what you do… Brings about 20% of the results.

Now you know what to do : simply monitor your results closely and assess which actions you want to keep and which are not worthy of your time 😉

14. Liz Wessel uses her inbox as a to-do list

Source: Liz Wessel

“Like many other CEOs, I use my inbox as my to-do list. I don’t let myself go to sleep unless all of my to-do’s are done, which means that my inbox is empty. If something isn’t urgent, I use the Boomerang extension for Gmail to make sure that I send non-urgent things to be returned to my inbox the next day or week.” Liz Wessel

What a great idea! Having all tasks available on the same spot, making a daily pledge to take care of it 🙂 It sure saves you from the mental clutter usually associated with todo-lists and their growing complexity.

15. Bill Gates writes down his thoughts in a notebook he carries on himself

Even Bill Gates, founder and CEO of the most used Operating System in the world, writes his fleeing thoughts… On a good old paper notebook.

He actually shares this habit with Richard Branson who is very vocal about how important the paper aspect is for him, saying that it prevents him from the common distractions associated with the digital medium.

16. Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens walk

Walking is probably the best light sport (alongside swimming), promoting a better health without exhausting yourself. It is also a great way to enhance creativity : according to a study by Stanford University, walking boosts creative thinking by an average of 60 %.

Steve Jobs used to have his meetings while walking, to kill two birds in one stone. It is akin to the idea of stand-up meetings which will also make you save lots of time!

17. Elon Musk boxes with time

Or better said, he time-boxes (which is more or less the same thing, you will admit). Meaning, he gives ahead a certain amount of time for each task and seeks its completion within that time-frame.

The reason ? The general tendency humans have to linger, as stated brilliantly in the Law of Parkinson : “The amount of time needed to complete a task will expand to fill the time originally allocated to it”.

The solution commonly embraced, blocking specific amounts of time in one’s calendar, is indeed a failproof way to increase productivity.

18. Tony Robbins keeps the focus

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” — Tony Robbins

In a word : Getting dispersed is the best way to fail. So define what you want to do and pour all your efforts into it!

19. Koel Thomae removes all distractions

“It’s very easy to get distracted by your inbox or phone. When I have a big project or when I need to get something done – and done well – I shut down my email, I turn off my phone, and I put on some of my favourite music. I just dig in and get it done.” — Koel Thomae, founder of Noosa Yoghurt

This is a big one. Minimizing interruptions is definitely a good practice (dare I say a required practice) on the road to successful time-management.

Interruptions can be of technological nature, as in the quote above. I want to add that they can also be psychological, in the form of daydreaming or mind-wandering (“I’m wondering what to eat for dinner”, “I feel bad about this thing I did this morning”). So one good idea, on top of minimizing these interruptions, is to actually group them, dedicating time for them at specific moments of the day. You could for instance time-block 10 minutes for checking your social media or for “worrying” from 19:50 to 20:00, everyday. During these 10 minutes you could worry the hell out if you want, but once these are over, you are not allowed to anymore.

20. Brian Tracy eats the frog in the morning

Brian Tracy, legend of Time Management and my personal hero 🙂

Last but not least, here is my personal favourite, because I feel an infinite amount of affection for that character and everything he stands for : Brian Tracy recommends you eat the frog in the morning. Not an actual frog (even the French don’t do that every day, duh 😉 ) but a metaphorical one : start your day with the task which triggers the most repulsion. Things will be easier afterwards.

There, I hope you learnt a thing or two (or more 😉 ) from this list.

If you think it’s useful please share it on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter using the buttons below ! Thanks <3

And if you are any of the aforementioned amazing individuals, feel free to contact me to add some precisions!

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  2. bérénice Magnan says:

    For a great procrastinator like me, the most useful tip has been to eat the frog in the morning. When you work in my field you often have unpleasant tasks to complete and this totally does the trick !!

  3. Pingback:Time-management + hypnosis = uh? - Time Master Freedom

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