Time, or lack of it, is the most convenient excuse. Not creative at all, but convenient. A lot of people do not seem to have time to exercise, prepare home-cooked meals, read, take out the trash, and so on. Meanwhile, in the world of the highly successful, people run companies, make billions, and change the world one innovation and crazy idea at a time.
Time management sounds a lot like a tired cliché. It takes the credit for a lot of things — productivity, balance, happiness, and success. But while we all acknowledge the importance of effective time management in our personal and professional lives, why does it seem like an impossible undertaking? A recent survey showed that 36% of students find time management the top challenge in finishing their degrees. Clearly, managing a day’s 24 hours is something both the young and old struggle with.
What can we learn from successful people? In a world where people hustle 24/7, how do you make sure that you spend your time wisely? Here are time management tips from the pros to inspire you.
Start the day early
“Early bird catches the worm.” Have you not been hearing this all your life? Highly successful people seem to have taken this advice to heart, because if we are to believe reports, some of them start their day at the crack of dawn.
A study revealed that 90% of executives wake up before 6 AM, while the rest of the world is hitting the snooze button. Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 AM to go through emails and exercise, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is up by 5 AM to exercise and meditate, while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is already at the gym by 4 AM. Call it force of habit or good motivation, but the fact is they have already accomplished many things while you are in dreamland.
Learn to prioritize
Can you imagine the daily to-do list of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg? It’s probably safe to say that he is busier than most. But he does know a thing or two about setting priorities. He said: “The question I ask myself every day is, Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’ Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time.”
Only you, and you alone, have the power on how to use your time. Other people will try to tell you what’s important, and there will be distractions along the way. But ultimately, you decide on what’s important. Learning how to prioritize is one of the most important time management skills you need to master. You don’t have to answer each of the 100 emails you get every day. Focus on an important work subject right off the bat, and without interruptions. Decide on what’s important, delegate, and prioritize.
Time to exercise
If the world’s richest and most successful people find time to exercise, then it must truly be important. It is advised that you get this out of your to-do list early in the day, because you’ll surely make an excuse that you are out of time if you do it later.
Exercise is said to help reduce stress, improve focus, increase productivity, improve sleep quality, and of course, keep you healthy.
Live close to work
No one needs to be reminded that traffic is terrible. How many hours do you spend on the road every day? This is why condo living is now preferred by many because condo communities are strategically located at the heart of the city and where the action is–letting you to attain work life balance.
Living close to work will aid in the pursuit of effective time management of young professionals because this will help them save time, which they can use to be productive in something else.
Time in a box
Ever heard of time boxing? This is a time management strategy wherein you allocate a fixed time period to get a certain task done.
Structure your time to ensure that you get things done fast and on schedule. For example, set 30 minutes to answer emails, 20 minutes to make important phone calls, 15 minutes to exercise, 45 minutes for a slow breakfast with family, etc. With this strategy, you are able to spread your time throughout the day and use it as intended.
One task at a time
There’s an assumption that multitasking means you accomplish more tasks in less time. This may be true for some, but not for a good majority. Instead of saving time doing multiple tasks, they actually end up wasting more time.
According to neuroscientist Earl Miller, people who think they can multitask very well are deluding themselves. “Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not. You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly,” he said.
Focus on one task at a time. Multitasking is a hype not everyone can live up to.
Don’t waste time on small stuff
Apple founder Steve Jobs wears his black turtleneck all the time, while Mark Zuckerberg has somehow patented the gray t-shirt. Have you ever wondered why successful people wear the same thing every day? Simple: They are so busy changing the world, they don’t have the time nor the energy to think of what to wear.
Former US President Barack Obama said its either gray or blue suits for him because he already has “too many decisions to make.” These guys definitely understand what it means by not sweating the small stuff. If you want to use your time wisely, avoid decision fatigue or that feeling of exhaustion by making so many irrelevant decisions.
Don’t keep postponing minor tasks
If you open your email and you found something there that needed a “yes or no” answer from you, don’t hit the back key and then tell yourself you’ll get back to it later. You will just be finding yet another time to finish what has already taken your time previously. So if you can easily finish a certain task in 10 or 15 minutes, get it out of the way immediately. Effective time management means using your time wisely instead of wasting it. You shouldn’t be looking back at minor tasks you ignored the first time, only to get back to them.
Keep meetings short
If you are in a position to call meetings, do yourself and your team a favor and keep them short. Mark Cuban, businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has an advice: “Never do meetings unless someone is writing a check.” Jobs and Zuckerberg are famous for “walking meetings” while other successful people swear by “standing meetings.” Keep it short, because single topics should not take over 10 minutes of your life. Also, if the only thing that you decide on in a meeting is the schedule for your next meeting, might as well put a ban on meetings.
Strike a balance
You’d be surprised that Bill Gates sits down for family dinner and even washes the dishes when he is at home. Not bad for one of the world’s richest men.
They call it work-life balance. Do not delay your personal life because you wasted so much time at work doing practically nothing. When you are at work, give it your best and work. When you are at home, be truly at home. Working overtime do not really say you are hardworking. Most of the time, it’s just because you weren’t able to finish the job on time.
This is where condo living in a prime location comes in handy. If you live close to work, you have more time for your social activities and personal relationships.
Learn to say “no”
How can one say “no” to the boss? That’s not the only scenario. Every day, we do things that are not necessary. We say “yes” to everything, and then you realize that you are spreading yourself too thin. Ask yourself: Is this something that I really have to do? If not, say “no” and move on.
Take time to pause
Do you have the impression that rich and successful people do not know how to stop? They do, and for good reason. Arianna Huffington said it is important to take breaks during the day and pay attention to your meals. Huffington, obviously not a believer of working lunches, said 20-minute pauses like going to the cafeteria or talking to a friend are very recharging. These “pauses” reduce stress and increases productivity. “It just makes a difference to how the rest of the day goes,” she said. Yes, it isn’t a sin to stop a while and take it easy.
Do successful people look at their time differently than the rest of the world? Sure looks like that. But remember: billionaire or not, we all work the same 24 hours a day. There shouldn’t be much of a difference.