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3 quick and easy ways to get more done in less time

/ 04:04 AM January 17, 2022

ILLUSTRATION BY ALBERT RODRIGUEZ

Growing up, I had always wondered how the world’s top achievers manage their time. After all, we all have the same amount of time available, 24 hours on any given day. So, what do they do differently from the rest of us?

Later in my life, as I started to work and interact with many of the world’s most prominent high achievers, including self-made billionaire entrepreneurs, I experienced firsthand that what sets them apart from the rest is their focus and a clear sense of priority. What are some of their secrets and how can we use them to achieve our full potential?

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Take Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group. He is not only an outstanding business leader who constantly defies the impossible but he also manages to include loads of fun activities in his life. When I got on my first phone call with Richard, in 15 minutes he decided on a number of actions that would have taken most other people hours or even days.

His secret? His focus and ability to make fast decisions.

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The power of zero inbox

I have also been impressed by how fast Richard reacts to emails. This is something I have found true for most of the top CEOs, business leaders and billionaires I have had the fortune to interact with. They clean out their inbox as fast as possible.

I recall one of my conversations with the former CEO of Puma who shared his golden rule: every three days, he cleans out his entire email inbox.

In the words of Eric Schmidt, the multibillionaire former CEO of Google: “Most of the best—and busiest—people we know act quickly on their emails, not just to us or to a select few senders, but to everyone,” he wrote in his 2014 book “How Google Works.”

How to achieve laserlike focus

Most people squander their time and wonder why they never reach their goals, or why their business keeps failing to hit its targets. The answer is simple: lack of focus.

Traditional kind of time management becomes almost obsolete with proper focus. As Tony Robbins said: “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus.”

Focus means knowing what you want to do, by when you want to do it and why you want to do it.

Trying to cram more into a day becomes counterproductive if we are just focused on being busy and ticking off items without being conscious of their real value.

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I will share three different tools with you that you can use to achieve laserlike focus and clarity.

Tool 1: Your most valuable minute

The first tool comes from author and entrepreneur Dan Kennedy.

Step 1: Determine how much money or profit you intend to make this year for yourself or for your business.

Step 2: Determine the total number of working days you will have this year after subtracting public holidays, vacations, etc.

Step 3: Ask yourself: “How many hours per working day will be productive?” Hint: Dan Kennedy suggests no more than a third of your working hours per day. That means: if you plan to work nine hours, only count three.

Step 4: Calculate how many total productive working hours you will have this year.

Step 5: Divide the sum you came up with in step 1 by the total number of productive hours per year. Voila! There is your magic number: how much you should be making per hour.

Step 6: Go even one step further and divide this by 60, then you will know how much each minute should be worth.

Step 7: Put your calculated per hour and per minute earnings on a sticky note where you can always see it. You will be amazed by the drastic increase in focus it will provide you with.

In one of my earlier columns, I was describing the endless stream of unproductive and unnecessary meetings most top executives, CEOs and business owners put themselves through. With that sticky note as your constant reminder, time wasters like these will no longer stand between you and your goals.

Tool 2: The top 3 for hyperfocus

The second tool is one that we apply in my own organization and that of many of our clients. We call it the “top 3.”

Determine your top 3 priorities or key results for this year, month, week and day. This ensures ruthless focus on what matters most. It also builds accountability and makes for ease of measurement. Remember: only what gets measured gets done. And the more frequently you measure, the faster you can correct your course.

This is why I recommend applying the top 3 to each day, not just each week.

The sad crown prince

He was sitting in the corner of his big new office. His neck and shoulders curved forward and his head looking down, he was feeling slightly depressed, overwhelmed by the huge task that lay before him. He was the son of a wealthy family and being groomed to take over the family’s empire. The patriarch of the family had called on me to make their group of companies future-proof. That included me coaching the son, so that one day he could fill his father’s shoes.

I soon realized that he needed a fast, reliable and easy-to-implement system to help him determine the most urgent things in the endless demands on his time.

Tool 3: Instant prioritization made easy

One of the first things I taught him was a simple but very powerful technique for prioritizing the daily influx of tasks so that he could operate calmly and with a supreme sense of focus.

I learned this third tool from Ray Dalio, an American billionaire investor and founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Even if you are already running a highly successful business, this technique will help you to find out which tasks are the most important, where you should spend your time and become much more effective.

First, divide your to-dos into “must-dos” and “like to-dos.” Separate your must-dos from your like-to-dos and don’t put any like-to-dos onto the first list. Second, focus on getting the must-dos “above the bar.” That means: good enough to pass. Third, and only if you have enough time, you tackle the like-to-dos, but never get them to be excellent. If you ever find yourself making them excellent, you have definitely lost focus.

Solutions and next steps

Regularly track your time. Then, analyze where you spend it and how you can optimize the allocation of your most precious resource: the only thing you will never get back.

Learn from Richard Branson: push yourself to make fast decisions. Adopt a zero inbox policy for your emails. Set target dates and an ideal frequency for regular clean outs. Calculate the value of each one of your minutes so you will reach your profit or earnings target for the year. Apply the top 3 and make them a habit in your business. Divide your to-dos into must-dos and like to-dos. Focus on getting the must-dos “above the bar” first.

See you next week! INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: www.TomOliverGroup.com or email

[email protected]

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