How Highly Successful People Manage Their Time
We all have 24 hours in the day—some just use it more efficiently than others. Learn how successul people structure their time to get their most important work done.
"My best tip is schedule your priorities. If something is important, schedule it in your calendar ASAP. That way the important issues get dealt with first." - Nilli Donner, founder of VCforU.
"I use Todoist for task management and knowing which hour I’m going to do things during the day. I set up a Zapier so that whenever a task is added to Trello in my team’s sprint planning or sprint boards, it’s imported into my inbox in Todoist. Then I can easily set exactly when I’m doing these discrete tasks and I have today, tomorrow, and the whole week planned out. I’ve also set it up so that if I click ‘done’ in Todoist, it marks it as ‘done’ in Trello so I’m not bouncing around between software." - Matt Swulinski, growth hacker and director of marketing and client services at Klyxx Creative.
"Do the most important or difficult task of the day first thing in the morning, when you’re most rested and least distracted. Unfortunately, 90 percent of people check their email as soon as they get to work. That turns his or her agenda and time over to someone else. They do it because it’s easy, and they feel more effective in a shorter time by answering emails. Focus first on the hardest task of the day. This will allow you to apply your best to the most important jobs. Resist the temptation to do mindless or easy things to gain a brief sense of accomplishment." - Michael Dermer, founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur, from lonelyentrepreneur.com.
"Not all meetings have to be 30 minutes, especially for an entrepreneur. There are many meetings and calls that only require 15 minutes but we naturally default to 30 minutes, mostly because of the way our calendars are set up. In fact, using shorter meetings will often make you be more efficient in the way that you organize or prepare. Use the 15-minute meeting whenever you can." - Michael Dermer, founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur, from lonelyentrepreneur.com.
"I use the Pomodoro technique. I do 25 minutes of work, then take a 5-minute break for my sanity, and based on when I start tasks and how long it takes, it gives me a better sense moving forward of how long a given task will take me." - Matt Swulinski, growth hacker and director of marketing and client services at Klyxx Creative.
"Entrepreneurial ventures are characterized by an ongoing flurry of activity. But instead of thinking of this flurry as something we have to fix to be more efficient, we tend to chalk it up to being ‘the nature of the beast.’ Instead embrace the use of of process to organize your efforts. If items occur regularly, set a weekly meeting to check in. For example, if pricing issues come up all the time, wouldn’t it be great to say, ‘we’ll discuss that in the Tuesday pricing meeting,’ and avoid all of the back and forth? For anything that occurs repeatedly, define and stick to a regular process." - Michael Dermer, founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur, from lonelyentrepreneur.com.
"Integrate everything into one calendar. I import the calendars from work, personal, and even my wife on to one Google calendar and I live and die by it. I'll block off buffer time if I need to travel somewhere or if I think meetings are likely going to go over. I'll even block off time in my calendar if I need to sit alone and just focus on one task for a couple hours." - Neil Shah, head of strategy and innovation at UrbanStems.
"I meditate first thing. I then spend at least an hour thinking about big-picture strategies and catch up on emails before I do any meetings or into the office. It is really important for me to use those first few hours of my day to get aligned with what I need to focus on." - Jen Rubio, cofounder of Away Travel, from Entrepreneur.
"Whether you use Asana or something else, I find it critical to keep every little tiny detail, of every part of my life, in one place. I’ve got a project for each part of my work (product, management, culture, recruiting, marketing...) and then a project for each part of my personal life (health, community, spirituality, philanthropy, fun...). I use Google Calendar to block out big chunks of time to work on different areas, so that I’m not frantically context switching between unrelated kinds of work, and so that when I sit down to work on an area, I can choose the highest priority things from that particular project. And I keep a master schedule that’s like “I want to spend four hours per week on management, four hours per week on recruiting, a solid week every six months on strategy." - Justin Rosenstein, cofounder and head of product at Asana, from Lifehacker.
"I can’t stress this enough—protect your attention like you protect your friends, family, money, etc. It’s among the most valuable things you have.
Saying no. Techniques and hacks are all about managing what happens when you say yes to too many things. All the techniques and hacks in the world never add up to the power of no. Having fewer things to do is the best way to get things done. I’m very careful with my time and attention—it’s my most precious resource. If you don’t have that, you can’t do what you want to do. And if you can’t do what you want to do, what’s the point?" - Jason Fried, cofounder and CEO of Basecamp, from Lifehacker.
"It’s easy to let your inbox become your to-do list, but I think that’s ridiculous because you didn’t create that to-do list—it was sent to you by other people. So I actively avoid making that a habit...This is going to sound socially offensive, but I don’t check my email on a daily basis. Instead, I do it in batches every two to three days. During work hours, I focus on the actual work so I avoid looking at emails. I evaluate the ROI between answering emails or figuring out a solution to a problem, and in most cases it benefits the consumer, company and team if I work on the solution (one of NerdWallet’s core values)." - Tim Chen, cofounder of NerdWallet, from Lifehacker.
"My Google calendar is my lifeline. Not only are all of my meetings and travel time scheduled, but I also block off time to respond to emails everyday and focus on big projects. It’s just as important to set aside time for yourself as it is to set aside time to meet with other people." - Shan-Lyn Mah, founder of Zola, from Lifehacker.
"The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week." - Jack Dorsey, cofounder and CEO of Twitter and founder of Square, from Forbes.
"My number one rule for time management is schedule myself. And giving as much respect and priority to the schedule I have with myself as I do to external meetings. It’s also been a really interesting period of learning to say no, to push certain things back, because not everything is urgent." - Lauren Weiniger, cofounder of Safe Group, from Forbes.
"Don’t take any meetings before noon. I use the morning to take care of everything my team needs from me so they’re not waiting on me all day. Tune out unnecessary communications. Since I trust that people who need me urgently will reach me over email, I avoid checking Slack when I have something to get done. It’s OK to ignore things that aren’t your top priority." - Ajay Yadav, founder and CEO of Roomi, from Huff Post.