These successful men are given the same 1440 minutes we receive every day — and here’s how they make the most of it.
It’s the easiest trick in the book: write out what you’ve got to do, and tick it off task by task, refusing to move on to the next assignment until your finish the last. As Aussie software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes (below) says, “Do one thing at once. Stop multitasking!” To-do lists also help you make the most of your procrastination — instead of avoiding that whopper of a task on the bottom of your list by mindlessly surfing the web or checking your emails, you can slash bite-sized errands off the top of your agenda.
It’s no good having a comprehensive to-do list if you get bogged down in item no.1 like quicksand. Estimating how long everything forces you to prioritise tasks — you’re not going to chew up 90 minutes on an insignificant chore when an urgent matter only takes 30 — and stick to a timeline. Airbnb founder Nathan Blecharczyk (below) suggests tackling your most important jobs first thing; “I try to reserve the morning for doing ‘real work.’ I find I can focus more in the morning, whereas it’s harder to get focused after having been bombarded by meetings.” Speaking of those dreaded time burglars . . .
Mix up your meetings
Everyone knows the pain of sitting through a snoozefest so slow the hands on the clock actually look like they’re crawling backwards, so Virgin magnate Richard Branson (below) takes a novel approach to cutting all that time wasted in the meeting room: have meetings standing up, or even walking. “I find it to be a much quicker way of getting down to business, making a decision,” Branson says, “And sealing the deal.”
Get to the point
You don’t need to be a tech whiz to know emails should be short and sharp — but it also pays to respond quickly, according to ex-Google chief executive Eric Schmidt (below) . This sets up a positive feedback loop where everyone understands you’re checking your emails frequently and a non-reply means “Got it and proceed,” explains Schmidt, “Which is better than what a non-response means from most people: ‘I’m overwhelmed and don’t know when or if I’ll get to your note, so if you needed my feedback you’ll just have to wait in limbo a while longer. Plus I don’t like you’.”
Form good habits
These techniques are more easily practiced when they’re cemented by routine — discipline that takes months and even years to forge, but saves plenty of time down the track. Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason (below) believes that “Actually being disciplined about adopting these habits is, in my experience, a huge differentiator of successful people . . . if I was building a character in a business video game and I had 10 character points to distribute, I’d put three of them into intelligence and seven of them into self-discipline.”