“Successful people take immediate action on almost every item they encounter. They know that to be efficient, they want to expend the least possible amount of time and mental energy processing things.”
1. “Time Is Your Most Valuable and Scarcest Resource”
As a CEO irked by constant interruptions, author Kevin Kruse posted a large sign reading, “1440.” He discovered that viewing his day as 1,440 minutes of potential success helped him focus on essential tasks. His employees began emulating his 1,440-minute mind-set, thus increasing productivity throughout his company. They recognise time as their most valuable asset. The loss of money, even the failure of a business, still leaves future opportunities to regain ground, but lost time is irreplaceable.
2. “Identify Your Most Important Task” and Do It First
Successful people focus on their top priority, long-term goals and identify meaningful, specific short-term goals they must accomplish first. Breaking short-term goals down into measurable steps guides high achievers to their “most important tasks” (MIT). They concentrate on completing all or part of their MITs before they go on to other activities.
3. “Work from Your Calendar, Not a To-Do List”
“Every yes will be a no to something else when the time comes. Understanding that there is always an opportunity cost will make you hesitate and really be careful about what you are agreeing to put on your calendar.”
A to-do list can become a monster. Vanquishing one problem only creates many more to add to the list. Research indicates that most list-makers never complete 41% of their planned jobs. Daily lists tend to randomise the order of importance among your tasks, thus muddling your focus. Sticking to a schedule allows time for you to focus first on your MITs. Deciding what tasks deserve calendar space or blocks of time keeps you from wasting time. Entrepreneurs report that tightly organised calendars reduce stress.
4. “There Will Always Be More to Do”
Successful people accept their limitations. From a mountain of tasks, they choose their daily priorities, try to achieve them and leave the rest at the office for another day. While work may be never-ending, they know they must set reasonable boundaries. Overcoming the onus of constant responsibility will help you lead a normal life and care for yourself and your family without guilt.
5. “Always Carry a Notebook”
Some of the world’s most famous billionaires, including Sir Richard Branson, attribute their success to keeping a notebook handy. Jotting down stray thoughts, meeting notes and great ideas creates indelible impressions, both on paper and in your mind. Research shows the brain uses several intertwined functions to process handwritten information. This results in more active, accurate recall than typing. Once you capture your ideas, notes or lessons on paper, transfer them to a computer for permanent future reference. Date your notebooks so you can refer back to them.
6. “Control Your Inbox”
A survey by the McKinsey Global Institute indicates that office workers spend up to one third of their days reading and replying to emails. Be aware that “email is a great way for other people to put their priorities into your life.” Use the “321-Zero” system to keep email in its place: Three times a day, spend 21 minutes reviewing your messages. Your goal is an inbox with no new mail.
This arbitrary time limit will force you to reply with clear, succinct answers. Act on each email when you open it. Decide if you should work on it immediately, enter it on your calendar for later action, delegate it or file it. Frugal use of the Copy and Forward commands help you avoid snowballing responses that clog your inbox. Clever use of the subject line can alert the recipient as to whether your email requires urgent action or a later response or is simply an FYI note.
7. “Schedule and Attend Meetings as a Last Resort”
Eliminating formal meetings can save everyone wasted time. Don’t set up or go to meetings unless “all other forms of communication won’t work.” Many entrepreneurs use a brief daily huddle as a more efficient, informative and unifying way to get their team moving.
The late Steve Jobs famously avoided meetings by substituting a short, eminently escapable stroll. Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban advises, “Never do meetings unless someone is writing a check.”
8. “Say No to Everything that Doesn’t Support Your Immediate Goals”
Business magnate Warren Buffett advises that, “very successful people say no to almost everything.” They realize that each commitment of their time may result in the loss of other opportunities. They protect their most valuable asset, time, from any request that doesn’t further their long-term priorities.
9. Follow the “Powerful Pareto Principle”
The Pareto principle holds that 20% of your effort accounts for 80% of your results. Aspiring billionaires apply this economic principle to identify the most efficient ways to deploy their exceptional skills or to complete important tasks. Use this principle to identify the 20% of your activities that will provide 80% of the reward for your efforts.
10. If You Can Do a Task in “Less Than Five Minute, Do It Immediately”
Top achievers seek immediate return on their time. To expedite incoming work, they enforce a “touch it once” principle:
- Handle email immediately – Delegate as much of it as you can. Complete instantly anything you can handle in just a few minutes. If you can’t resolve an email request quickly, add it to your calendar.
- Update your calendar as needed – Move time-consuming tasks from email to your calendar as a reminder to act on them as soon as possible. Create weekly time blocks to deal with routine tasks, such as paying bills.
- Constantly clear clutter – Be mindful of time wasted searching for mislaid items. Maintain order in your surroundings. A messy environment can cause stress.
Take enough down time to build the energy you need to perform. Consistently healthful food, fun, rest and recreation renew your physical stamina and mental focus. This fosters greater productivity and enhances your life at play and at work. Successful people build the energy and focus to make each minute count.