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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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Jose Ramos

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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