time management tips for highly productive people

Stephen Covey may be the foremost expert on time management but not everyone has the time (pun intended) or patience to read his wildly successful book the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. In fact if you are reading this article now, you may fall into this population. Don’t worry, you are not alone and the reality is that everyone – yes everyone (including me) is challenged with their relationship to time. There are hundreds of theories around time management and optimizing ones productivity but if you look around at those who are wildly successful, you will find common themes. It doesn’t matter if you are millennial tech tycoon or a retiree traveling the world; to be successful you must adopt certain key traits that will enable you to reach your peak potential and ultimate possibility.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to be born with these genes. Anyone can pick these up starting today and start applying them now to both your personal and professional life. Here are 16 habits worth investing in now:

  1. They allow time for the unexpected.
    “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Mother Teresa

  2. They always have a plan for their time.
    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
  3. They create realistic deadlines.
    “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

  4. They are always working towards a goal.
    “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  5. They develop routines and stick to them.
    “A particular shot or way of moving the ball can be a player’s personal signature, but efficiency of performance is what wins the game for the team.” – Pat Riley

  6. They focus on one thing at a time.
    “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

  7. They outsource tasks or delegate when possible.
    The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

  8. They aim for balance between work and play.
    Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Marthe Troly-Curtin
  9. They focus on the most-important thing at hand.
    “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

  10. They allow for strategic breaks.
    “There is virtue in work and virtue in rest. Use booth and overlook neither.” – Alan Cohen

  11. They remove productivity bandits.
    “Procrastination is the foundation of all disasters.” – Pandora Poikilos

  12. They find and follow their passion.
    “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen
  13. They create and uphold boundaries.
    “It’s not how many hours you put in with a client or on a project. It’s the quantity and quality of your energy – your focus and force – that determine whether that time is valuable.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  14. They learn to optimize their time.
    “The most efficient way to produce anything is to bring together under one management as many as possible of the activities needed to turn out the product.” – Peter Drucker

  15. They don’t over commit.
    It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright.” – Robin Roberts

  16. They take responsibility when needed.
    “Start from wherever you are and with whatever you’ve got.” – Jim Rohm

Okay, for those of you who are curious about Mr. Covey’s theory on the topic, here you go:

1) Be Proactive
As human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. We have the independent will to make our own choices and decisions, and the responsibility (“the ability to respond”) to make the right choices. You have the freedom to choose your own fate and path, so having the independent will, imagination and self-awareness to make the right move makes you a proactive, and not a reactive, person.

2) Begin With The End In Mind
Mental visualization is extremely important. Covey says that all things are created twice: first, the mental conceptualization and visualization and a second physical, actual creation. Becoming your own creator means to plan and visualize what you’re going to do and what you’re setting out to accomplish and then go out and creating it. Identifying your personal statement and your principles will help.

3) Put First Things First
With your power of independent will, you can create the ending you want to have. Part of that comes with effective time management, starting with matters of importance. Then tasks should be completed based on urgency after you deal with all the important matters. If you deal with crises, pressing problems and deadline-driven projects first, your life will be a lot easier.

4) Think Win/Win
If you believe in a better way to accomplish goals that’s mutually beneficial to all sides, that’s a win/win situation. “All parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan,” Covey wrote. “One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.” If you have integrity and maturity, there’s no reason win/win situations can’t happen all the time.

5) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
If you’re a good listener and you take the time to understand a concept, it will help you convey your opinions, plans and goals to others. It starts with communication and strong listening skills, followed by diagnosing the situation and then communicating your solution to others.

6) Synergize
Synergistic communication, according to Covey, is “opening your mind and heart to new possibilities, new alternatives, new options.” This applies to the classroom, the business world and wherever you could apply openness and communication. It’s all about building cooperation and trust.

7) Sharpen The Saw
Sometimes you’re working so hard on the other six habits that you forget about re-energizing and renewing yourself to sharpen yourself for the tasks in front of you. Some sharpening techniques include exercise and nutrition, reading, planning and writing, service and empathy and commitment, study and meditation.

Final Thoughts:
Success is subjective and marginally defined by the masses but as I mentioned in the beginning of the article, there are key common traits or themes that those who have obtained a certain level of success all share. Hopefully upon reading this post, you too are now starting to notice not only the commonalities listed above but which ones you share as well as which ones you can begin to strengthen.