You get 1,440 minutes every day, and you’re ultimately in charge of what you do with them.
But those 1,440 minutes go fast, and next thing you know…
It’s bedtime again.
So before you let your minutes and hours drift away into a myriad of little things, wake up to the real purpose of your life.
Time is a resource we can’t get back.
This. is. it.
“Do you love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Want to know one of the keys to success in life?
Effective time management.
So when we’re looking at characteristics of successful people, we need to look at how they manage their time. So let’s get started.
Here are 12 things successful people never waste time on:
1. An Open Schedule
Successful people have a laser-focused plan of what they want to achieve each day.
Because it gives them a shot at the perfect day.
Sure, some things in life – like work and other appointments – are set in stone. But a large majority of your day can still be planned for success.
80% of successful entrepreneurs say they use the top 3 technique to stay productive.
This technique just means you focus on the 3 most important things first. And that doesn’t mean answering phone calls or replying to emails.
Instead, focus on the most important things. The things that will take you where you need to be.
For successful people, this means:
If something needs to get done – they schedule it in. If it can wait- it does. If it can wait and someone else can do it – they delegate.
2. Unproductive Commute Time
If you have a long commute to work each day, I know – it sucks.
Sorry, let me rephrase.
But here’s the thing:
If you can’t change it, then make the most out of it. This means turning unproductive time into productive time.
For people who’ve learned how to achieve success in life, one thing is clear:
They are constantly searching for self-improvement. You see, the average millionaire reads 2 books each month.
How many does the average non-millionaire read?
Only 4 per year.
That tells us that reading is one of the key characteristics of successful people. So instead of listening to music or talking on the phone – listen to a podcast or audiobook instead.
End your day by feeling like you learned something.
“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”
– Miles Davis
Note: The Audible link gives you a 30-day free trial and 2 free audiobooks
We all know that one person who wears multitasking like it’s a badge of honor.
Except, it’s not.
Trying to do more than one thing at the same time actually ruins productivity. The human brain is designed to only focus on one task at a time.
So when the brain is forced to switch back and forth between tasks, it slows down and becomes less efficient.
Why? Because the signals in the brain are trying to comprehend and focus on each task – which means it can’t focus on either one.
So successful people focus on getting more done in less time.
Otherwise called a better return on their investment (ROI). They give each task their full attention until they’ve completed it.
This allows them to work faster since they are building momentum by not breaking their focus.
It also means better results with fewer errors.
4. Saying “Yes” When They Really Want to Say “No”
In life, it’s important to set boundaries.
Do you have a hard time saying no?
Remember that by saying “no” to one thing, you can later end up saying “yes” to something better.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: time is money
…but the truth is, time is more important than money.
You can always get more money. But time is something that once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
So since time is the most valuable resource you’ll ever have, don’t invest it into something that isn’t important to you.
Successful people don’t let their precious time slip through their fingers. So why would you?
Here’s the thing:
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just learn the characteristics of successful people and do what they do. Put those odds in your favor.
5. Not Having Clear Goals
Of all the items on this list, goal setting will do more to guarantee your success than any other single factor.
Several years ago, Harvard University did a study about goal setting. The results were surprising.
Here’s what happened:
Researchers asked Harvard students if they had written goals and plans to achieve them.
- Only 3% of the class had written goals with plans in place.
- 13% said they had goals in their head but hadn’t written them down.
- 84% had no goals at all.
10 years went by, and the same group of students were interviewed again. Can you guess what happened?
The 13% who had goals in their head, but didn’t write them down, were earning twice the amount of the 84% with no goals.
But wait, it gets better:
The 3% that had written goals AND plans to achieve them were earning, on average, 10 times MORE than the other 97% combined. This is a prime example of how proper goal setting will change your life. So what are you waiting for?
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help build theirs.”
– Tony Gaskins
6. Answering the Phone While They’re Busy
If the call can wait, they let it go to voicemail. If a text comes in, they let them wait.
While our phones can be helpful tools – they can also be massive distractions.
In one study, people were given tests that required their full attention. Some of those people were told to set their phones to “silent.”
Others were instructed to keep their phones near them, and some were asked to move their phone to another room.
The participants who had their phone in a separate room “significantly outperformed” everyone else on the test.
This is no coincidence. This is a key characteristic of successful people.
You see, successful business people report being 26% more productive when they put their phone away. They know the texts, calls, and social media updates will be there when they get back.
7. Under Automating
If you do it again and again and again, you really don’t want to be starting over each time.
So automate things that happen weekly, monthly, or yearly.
Lifehack has a great article on the Top 10 Hacks for Automating Your Life which included:
- Make your bills pay themselves.
- Organize important documents and files.
- Get automatic discounts (Rakuten is great for this. It’s free to use and you get cash back and coupons when you shop)
- Maintain your computer without the work.
What can you automate to make your life easier?
Note: The Rakuten link gives you a $10 welcome bonus for signing up and shopping.
I don’t need to tell you how excessive social media usage is a huge waste of time, do I? Probably not.
But let’s talk about something more specific: taking photos.
We’ve all taken pictures of special moments in our lives. Pretty sunsets, vacations, good food, and family pictures.
Whenever that picture perfect moment hits, out comes the camera and up goes the Instagram post.
But here’s the problem:
This generational obsession with sharing our lives sucks up more time than we think. Recent research suggested that the average selfie takes up to 12 minutes to create.
Consider all the things you have to do to get it social media ready:
Planning, staging, picture taking, finding the best one, editing, typing a caption, and sharing.
It’s no surprise this takes so long.
But here’s the crappy part:
The average lifespan of an Instagram photo is between 6 and 48 hours – from the time it’s shared until the time people stop engaging with it.
So people spend an excessive amount of time creating photos, while very few people actually interact with them for very long.
Does the engagement they receive (or lack of) warrant the excessive amount of time spent on it? Snap the picture and preserve the memory, but be more mindful of the endless consumption of social media.
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
– William Penn
Last year I read the book: A Complaint Free World – and it changed my life forever.
The funny thing is, I never really thought of myself as a complainer in the first place. I just thought the book title was interesting.
But, I was actually able to use the rubber band method to change my way of thinking – and become a more positive person.
I learned that one of the characteristics of successful people is that they make sh-t happen. They don’t complain about things they can’t change.
So now before I speak, I ask myself:
Is it useful?
Does it help anyone?
Does it help ME?
Does it need to be shared?
Nothing positive comes from complaining. It wastes time, and most importantly, it makes you (and the people around you) feel worse.
10. Waiting for “the Perfect Time.”
I love hearing what successful people have to say.
One time I was listening to a successful CEO share her best piece of advice. Want to know what she said?
Start before you feel ready.
And if you summarize the habits of successful people into one phrase, it’s this:
Successful people start before they feel ready.
We all start in the same boat: no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference, though, is that winners start now – with no guarantee of success.
Because when you actually get started and turn your emotion into energy, your energy into action, and your action into something meaningful – momentum steps in and lends a hand.
So start before you feel ready or you risk not starting at all.
11. Making and Canceling Plans
These days, our technology makes it so easy to make plans and cancel them.
The benefit of technology is that we can communicate and organize events in a matter of seconds. But by doing so, we risk committing to plans that we have no intention of keeping in the first place.
43% of people regularly cancel plans through social media, email, and texts. This not only harms relationships, but it also wastes time.
As we rely more on digital communication, we become detached from the people who truly matter.
Productive people know their schedule. They know exactly what plans they can and can’t make.
So they focus more on things they’re actually interested in. If they have to cancel, they give advance notice.
A small amount of responsibility and dependability go a long way when it comes to saving time.
12. Putting Themselves Last
You are your biggest asset, but do you treat yourself that way?
If you want to adopt the characteristics of successful people, then learn to put yourself first. We ALL have times where we fail to get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, or practice self-care.
…but, if we want to ensure our long-term success (and happiness) we have to prioritize ourselves.
Here’s a prime example:
What comes to mind when you think about health?
Eating healthy food and exercising, right?
But how many people consider sleep as a part of being healthy? Or having some much needed “me time”?
The truth is, many things make up a healthy and happy individual. You might think that spending more time on yourself would be wasteful, but the opposite is true.
I’ve followed leadership expert, Michael Hyatt, for years. One of the things Michael talks about is self-care used as a leadership discipline.
“Self-care is the activities that make for a meaningful life outside of work, while contributing to better performance at work.”
Read that sentence again.
Self-care actually improves and enhances our productivity.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”
So now that you’ve read this article, then you probably want to be more productive.
Here are some tips to be successful in life and manage your time better:
LIMIT YOUR TO-DO LIST
Instead of writing 10 things on your to-do list and only getting 3-4 things finished – shorten your list.
Pick your TOP three priorities and focus on those.
If you have time left over, then you can find other things to work on.
If you can get those three things done, then your day is deemed a success.
USE THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.
The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually about 25 minutes long, separated by short breaks.
These 25-minute intervals are known as “pomodoros.”
The goal is to focus on ONE task for 25 minutes, then have a 5-minute break afterward.
After you’ve finished four pomodoros, take a longer break between 15 and 30 minutes.
This technique enhances concentration and avoids the pitfalls of multitasking.
The breaks are great for refreshing and resetting your brain.
SCHEDULE SPACE FOR TIME WASTERS
Instead of allowing yourself to get sidetracked several times each hour – just set aside time later to scroll through your newsfeed or check emails.
By doing so, you won’t feel deprived and you’ll give your brain a mental break from whatever task you’ve been working on.
IMPLEMENT THE 2-MINUTE RULE
“Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do — you have the talent and skills to accomplish them — you just avoid starting them for one reason or another,” said author James Clear.
“The 2–Minute Rule overcomes procrastination and laziness by making it so easy to start taking action that you can’t say no.”
The rule is: if something takes two minutes or less to finish, then do it right away.
Examples could be taking out the trash, sorting junk mail, or responding to an email.
This rule knocks out two birds with one stone:
1. You knock a lot of small things off your list
2. It encourages you to get started
Procrastination is the thief of time, so the two-minute rule may be just the boost you need to get stuff done.
I hope you learned something from these characteristics of successful people.
Let us know in the comments, what can you do to be more productive with your time?
And as always, thanks for reading.