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8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

“People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” Leonardo da Vinci

Highly successful people don’t wait and hope for desired results. Success is never accidental for them. It’s the direct result of preparing, planning, and aligning their time with their most important goals. Here are eight ways that successful people make the most of their time:

1. They save their decision-making muscles for important stuff

Obama only wears blue or gray suits. Zuckerberg’s uniform is a gray shirt and jeans. Steve Jobs wore blue jeans and a black turtleneck almost every day. Highly successful people simplify their wardrobe. They minimize the amount of decisions they make on trivial matters.

Only a few decisions truly matter. They’ve internalized that every decision doesn’t have to be optimal or perfect. This frees them to make quick decisions most of the time. They automate and simplify decisions.

They don’t think about whether they will go to the gym. They don’t deliberate about what they will eat for breakfast. They workout at the same time every day. They eat the same breakfast every day. They use their willpower and flex their decision making muscles on the highest impact decisions they face each day.

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2. They have a consistent morning routine

They create momentum at the start of the day through consistent morning routines. Successful complete a combination of the following activities in the morning: meditate, read, journal, exercise, prioritize their day, envision a successful day, and eat a nutritious breakfast to fuel their day.

For example, motivational speaker Tony Robbins takes a cold plunge to reset his system and reduce inflammation in the morning. He also does breathing exercises and expresses gratitude during a ten minute priming exercise. What we focus on expands in our minds. Through his morning routine, he chooses to expand gratefulness over fear and anxiety.

A precise formula that produces an effective morning routine doesn’t exist. Highly successful people experiment with different activities until they find the morning routine that fits their lifestyle and sets them up for a successful day. They also create routines for the end of the day…

3. They have a consistent nightly routine

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

Successful people don’t wait until the morning to prepare for a successful day. They start the night before. They unplug from their devices, read, meditate, and plan for the next day. They wake up relaxed and stress-free because they have already designed the blueprint for a productive day. However, they don’t start planning the night before.

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4. They plan ahead thoroughly

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

One of the major differences between highly successful people and average performers is detailed and strategic planning. Successful people spend more time thinking about their big picture goals and ideas. They zoom out regularly to analyze their lives from a 50,000 foot view.

This enables them to make key decisions deliberately, methodically, and strategically. Average performers make those decisions in a reactive mode while they’re in the thick of the forest of their lives. Successful people plan thoroughly and reap the rewards down the road.

Their detailed planning provides clarity on what they should be working on at any given time. They produce at high levels because they separate the planning and creation processes. They don’t plan when they feel like it.

5. They have a system for planning

While Bill Gates was the Chairman at Microsoft, he secluded himself from the distractions of daily life twice a year during Think Week. Visitors were banned during the week. He read many papers (his record was 112) about Microsoft as well as new ideas in technology during Think Week. The space and time he carved out during the week allowed him to take a step back to review the projects and ideas at Microsoft.

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Greg Mckeown, the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, advocates conducting a quarterly personal review to define your most important objectives for the next three months.

What doesn’t get scheduled, doesn’t get done. Successful people regularly schedule time to review their priorities, goals, and road maps to achieve them. They schedule time to monitor their progress on key objectives and iterate their plans based on results and lessons learned. They schedule their projects on a daily and weekly basis. They set aside time to plan and strategize as well as time to execute those plans.

6. They prioritize

Successful people understand that if they don’t prioritize their projects, they will be swayed and pushed around by the agendas of others. They consistently evaluate their priorities and re-organize the order as circumstances change.

Since their priorities are crystal clear, they quickly assess whether a request fits into their big picture plans. They cultivate the habit of turning down requests that don’t align with their most valued goals. They learn to say no in a firm and graceful manner to requests that don’t fit their plans.

Effectiveness trumps efficiency for them. They focus on working on the right things over getting more done. They strive to produce at their highest quality for their highest priorities.

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7. They focus on important projects

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Stephen R. Covey

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey lays out a quadrant with the following categories: urgent and important, not urgent and important, urgent and not important, and not urgent and not important. The quadrant where you spend the majority of your time determines your life’s destiny.Average performers live in the urgent quadrants. They are constantly putting out fires.

On the other hand, highly successful people focus on activities that are important and not urgent. These activities don’t yield instant results. However, they produce massive long-term results.

8. They work on the most important project first

Willpower is a limited resource. As we make decisions, run errands, and work on various projects throughout the day, our willpower is depleted. Successful people leverage the full tank of willpower in the morning by working on their most important project first.

In the morning, the stresses and obstacles that arise throughout the day haven’t cluttered their mind yet. They take advantage of their fresh and clear mind. In addition, they take advantage of the lack of distractions in the early morning. They get a head start on the world by making progress towards their most valued goal in the morning.

Featured photo credit: TechCrunch via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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