Time Management


Our day creates our life. We mistakenly believe that we will work hard, get lucky and eventually achieve success, not knowing that making each day successful is the key to a successful life.

The daily routines of famous people provide us with key ideas on focusing on what matters, simplicity and decision making.


Time Management

Franz Kafka’ Routine

The writer slept for about three to four hours in the afternoon/evening and then worked on his books till 2:00 am.

He realized that he is more creative at night, and took care of his day job (at an insurance firm) by working about six hours in the day.

David Karp’s Routine

The entrepreneur only checks his email once in the morning and does not touch it again for 24 hours.

He also never takes any work home. This is a lesson for today's hyper-connected world with endless phone notifications and blurred boundaries of work and home.

Winston Churchill’s Routine

The Former Prime Minister stayed in bed until 11:00 a.m., reading newspapers and having breakfast.

He enjoyed his leisure time on a normal work day, with an afternoon nap, plenty of eating and reading books.

Steve Jobs’s Routine

The famous Apple Co-founder used to get up and look in the mirror, asking himself this: If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? If the answer he got was ‘no’ for too long, it would be clear he needs to change something in his life.

This stoic reminder makes us reevaluate our lives and live each day at its best, leading to a more happy and fulfilled existence.

Anna Wintour’ Routine

The British journalist ensures a fitness sports routine for an hour every morning, followed by a beauty routine.

We need to put ourselves first in the morning, rather than being trapped in obligations or the instructions of other people.

Benjamin Franklin’s Routine

Getting up at 4:00 am is an exceptional routine to follow, as implemented by one of the founding fathers of the United States.

The early morning focus is unparalleled, and we can make or break the day by seizing the morning and intentionally focusing on what we want to accomplish for the day before it starts.

Ernest Hemingway’s Routine

The writer/journalist used to write early morning and then stop in the afternoon after reviewing his work, using the downtime from afternoon till night to debate ideas in his head and get ready for the next morning.

The lesson here is that it is important to stop working and letting our mind work on its own.

Joan Didion’s Routine

The writer used to reflect on what she had done during the day during late evenings, before dinner.

This period of incubation makes us a witness, and is a form of meditation, highly crucial for creative professionals.

Susan Sontag’s Routine

The writer, filmmaker and philosopher had specific time zones for work, with no phone calls before noon, and taking the entire Friday to answer letters.

This scheduling routine helps us avoid getting stressed.

Barack Obama’s Routine
  • Barack Obama makes it simple by getting up early, working out, reading newspapers and spending quality time with his family over breakfast.
  • He starts working by 9:00 am and occasionally works late, making sure to attend dinner with his family.
  • He eliminates unnecessary decision making by having a personal uniform, a set of identical suits that let him focus on what’s important.
Henry Miller’s Routine

The writer used to explore unfamiliar terrien on foot or on the bicycle. Apart from walks, he used to go and see friends, read in cafes, sketch, paint, make notes, and finally write when in the mood.

This diverse range of activities minimized writer’s block.

Haruki Murakami’s Routine

The Japanese writer used to wake up at 4:00 am and work for about six hours, then going for a 10 km run or swimming. He used to follow strict discipline and used the technique of mesmerism by conditioning the mind with repeated disciplinary behaviour.

It isn’t easy waking up daily at 4:00 am, so Marukami used his disciplinary behvaiour to go to bed at 9:00 pm sharp.

The to-do list is faulty

Many people run their lives on a faulty operating system, namely the to-do list.

People who use a to-do list keep a running list of all the things they promise to get done, but at the end of the day, the list of uncompleted tasks got longer. Their days and sometimes entire careers are spent in a blur of never getting enough done, even though they use a technique that they thought would make them more productive.

There is nothing wrong with getting tasks onto a piece of paper or app. The problem is running your life with a to-do list.

To-do lists:

  • perpetuate harmful self-stereotypes
  • lead to distraction
  • destroy the fun in life

The best to-do list is one you make with a schedule builder.

It's much easier to fill up our to-do list than to actually do the tasks.

Constantly reminding ourselves that we didn't do what we said we'd do cements a self-stereotype: We begin to see ourselves as someone who doesn't follow through. Eventually and subconsciously, we begin to see ourselves as the problem. The narrative is that we are not good with deadlines; maybe we are no good. In reality, the real culprit is the to-do list methodology.

While to-do lists are supposed to keep us on task, they don't.

To-do lists lead to more distraction. A distraction is any action that draws us away from what we plan to do. Working on a task can be a distraction if it is not what you committed to doing with your time. For example, instead of working on a big planned project, looking at your to-do list can give you 'permission' to escape into doing something else, thereby putting off the real hard task.

A to-do list is a cruel and oppressive ruler. To-do lists occupy our minds, stress us out and drain enjoyment out of our lives.

Few people know what leisure time is supposed to feel like. Unfinished tasks invade our thoughts when we try to relax and sometimes keep us up at night worrying about the tasks we still have to do.

If you want to stop the tyranny of the to-do list, you must break the habit of letting your list tell you what to do. Build a weekly schedule instead. For example, study from 2-4 pm, exercise from 4-6 pm, work from 6-9 pm, work on the to-do list from 9-10 pm.

  • Being a schedule builder will affirm a better self-image.
  • You are more likely to stay on track by adding a fixed time.
  • You will be freed from feeling you should be doing something else.
Paul J. Meyer
"Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
Frank Sinatra
“Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it.”
Bruce Lee
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Tony Robbins
“It’s not knowing what to do; it’s doing what you know.”
Oprah Winfrey
“The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.”
Coco Chanel
“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
Thomas Sowell
“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”
Peter Drucker
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
Leo Babauta
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest.”
David Allen
“You can do anything, but not everything.”
Seth Godin
“You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.”
Ernest Hemingway
“Never mistake motion for action.”
Pablo Picasso
“Action is the foundational key to all success.”
Stephen King
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Martha Stewart
“Life is too complicated not to be orderly.”
David Allen
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
Nathan W. Morris
“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.”
Steve Jobs
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
“All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.”
Warren Buffett
“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”
Zig Ziglar
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last long. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Theodore Roosevelt
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
Stephen Hawking
“Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.”
Brian Tracy
“Time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends.”
Henry David Thoreau
“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.”
Arthur Schopenhauer
“Ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.”
Stephen Covey
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Benjamin Franklin
“Drive thy business or it will drive thee.”
Albert Einstein
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Henry Ford
“Nothing is particularly hard when you divide it into small jobs.”
Alexander Graham Bell
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
Albert Einstein
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Muhammad Ali
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Michael Jordan
“Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.”
Tim Ferriss
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
Seth Godin
"Soon is not as good as now.”
Productivity hangups

It is quite understandable that not all productivity apps will work for everyone.

You might add a list of tasks to an app, tell yourself you'll use it, and then forget to open the app again. Instead, you might use a sticky note to keep track of your tasks. This means the app did not work for you. You should not feel guilty about using a different system that works for you.

Everyone envisions the ideal, productive version of themselves. That imaginary self uses a to-do list app.

Productivity blogs have done a great job of branding themselves as essential. These apps can be helpful, but if they don't work for you, that's ok.

Productivity is a personal thing, and what works for other people might not work for you. That's not embarrassing. Use the tool that works best for you.

Many productive people use sticky notes to keep track of tasks. Other people use paper as the ultimate productivity tool. Some even use their inbox as a to-do list.

Possibility and Motivation

When we are not interested to take action, and we're feeling no motivation to do a certain a task, it means we are not connected to some possibility in our lives. If we get clear on that possibility, and feel connected to it, we are going to feel much more energized and inspired to take on our tasks.

There are lots of possibilities, but the important thing is to connect to yours, before you even take on a task. And reconnect when you’re feeling like not doing it. Example of possibility: Create an income with your new business to support yourself and your family.

After you've identified and committed to your possibility, it’s important to bring structure into your daily schedule.
This can take many forms:

  • Assign blocks for your meaningful tasks in your schedule
  • Consider taking accountability buddies to make sure you stick to your plan
  • Schedule daily sessions where you write for an hour
  • Schedule video calls every day with your accountability buddies, where you do 2 hours of focused work on the call together
  • Think of a consequence for not doing your commitment.

Connecting to possibility and creating a daily structure are important steps , but then you have to actually put it into action. This step is crucial.

Take on the hard tasks, in small chunks. Check things off your list, while feeling the meaning and possibility you’re creating.

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