Time Management Tips from the World’s Most Successful People

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Time…it can easily master you if you don’t master it.

Whether you’re architecting the blueprint for Apple’s new “spaceship” Campus in Cupertino, or shuffling your little one-shoed stryker into the Honda Odyssey for the playoff game, getting it all done and showing up prepared requires effective time management.

The most productive people among us–many of whom are our clients–are those who value and protect their time. What does that look like in practice? Funny you should ask. Just for you, dear reader, we’ve compiled sage advice from a few of the world’s busiest and most successful billionaire CEOs. Suffice to say, they’ve got a lot on their plate. Here are the rules they live by.

1. Hire help and delegate.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and owner of 400 companies around the globe, “learned to delegate from a young age.” Branson hires people he trusts to oversee his day-to-day operations. This allows him to stay focused on the big picture and to schedule time for swimming, playing tennis and of course, breaking Guinness World Records kitesurfing with bikini-clad babes. Let’s face it, Richard Branson is having more fun than any of us, but the lesson is still applicable: growth requires dependence on others, and while letting go is hard, doing so will provide you with windows of time to power down your devices and focus on your vision for the future, or just go recharge by having some playtime.

A September 2014 Forbes article titled “How to Move Your Business From 6 to 7 Digits (And Get on the Path to $50M and Beyond)” notes that breaking the one million mark requires humility and help from others–a difficult chasm to cross for entrepreneurs with a perfectionist streak. Will your VA turn in a different work product than you would have? Yes. Will you have to spend time giving feedback and correcting mistakes? Absolutely. But, rest assured that you’re creating the structure that’ll allow your business to grow and give you the freedom to book your next trip to Necker Island.

2. Check your email in bursts.

Another gem from our favorite British magnate, “manage the blackberry, don’t let it manage you.” While the blackberry may have fallen out of favor, the sentiment he expresses hasn’t. Branson manages every minute of his time, and so should you.

Schedule uninterrupted chunks of “do not disturb” time when you need it. Unless you’re in a customer service role, don’t answer the phone every time it rings. Don’t read every email as it flashes up in the right hand corner of your screen. Practice email triage–schedule blocks of time to reply only to matters that require immediate attention. Get clear on what qualifies as something that needs to be addressed now, and what can wait.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, practices similar habits. “Part of the key to time management is carving out time to think, as opposed to constantly reacting. And during that thinking time, you’re not only thinking strategically, thinking proactively, thinking longer-term, but you’re literally thinking about what is urgent versus important, and trying to strike that right balance.”

3. Learn to say no.

This leads us nicely into #4. In 1997, when stock prices had slipped to $4/share, the legendary Steve Jobs came back to the helm of the then failing Apple. During a conference in which he took questions from developers for over an hour, he’s famously quoted as saying “focus is about saying NO…innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Minimizing interruption is a form of saying no. You must be the guardian of your schedule and your brain power.

According to Kevin Roberts, CEO of global advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, the secret to work-life integration is not doing things you know you don’t like. “And that sounds very easy and it sounds like, ‘Well you can say that because you’re the CEO,’ but I’ve been like that ever since I was seven,” Roberts says. That’s where we come in, friends. We’re here to take care of those tasks. Outsource and keep it moving, onto the things you love.

Successful business people have cultivated the ability to simplify their schedule by setting boundaries and establishing healthy habits. Simplicity doesn’t mean that you have to wear the same black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers everyday (although, imagine how much time that’d save?). It means being strategic and selective.

Figure out what repetitive tasks we can take off your plate and send them our way. Not sure what to outsource? Read our blog “18 Tasks to Start Delegating Now.

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