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7 Time Management Lessons from 3 of the Busiest Business Leaders

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Managing crises, getting the best output from employees and beating stock market expectations are all everyday things for some of the most successful business leaders in the world. However, just like you and me, they too are slaves to the same 24 hours that we get. How is it that they manage to have such startlingly different trajectories in life as compared to the average Joe on the street?

Thanks to some serious time management skills and a single minded focus on productivity.

Let’s take a quick look at five of the best in the business and find out what makes them tick.

Elon Musk

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Musk splits his time managing three different multi-million dollar companies. One has made electric cars a real, viable option on the road. The other is one the first private companies to put spaceships into orbit. And the last is the second largest solar energy installer in the United States. Juggling such high technology companies in such varied industries, while still managing to make a success out of them definitely deserves some mad time management skills. However, as he admits himself “I’ve actually not read any books on time management.”

So how does maximize his 24 hours on the planet every day? Through sheer discipline.

Musk leads a highly planned life, with a strictly regimented schedule. He spends Mondays, Thursdays and part of Fridays at Space X, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Tesla Motors and the last half of Friday at the Tesla Design Studio.

He prides himself on this email prowess and uses email as his one-stop shop for getting things done.

Musk has five children from his first marriage, whose custody he shares with his ex-wife. With a large family, Musk makes it a point to keep his weekends free and devotes his weekends to chilling out with his family. Even though he works 14 hours a day, it does not mean giving up on family time. With a clear demarcation between work and life, Musk is proof that you can make everyone happy.

Takeaways:

  1. Don’t let your work life overtake your personal priorities.
  2. Defend personal time zealously while you put in the best you can at work in the five working days of the week.
  3. Discipline and a good tool that suits your work style are two essential aspects that help your work flow smoothly and on time.

Jeff Bezos

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The brains behind the largest (and first) e-commerce site in the world, Jeff Bezos is not just another techpreneur. This is a guy who is, like his company, is obsessed with the customer. A large part of his day is spent in observing people shopping and adapting insights from his observations onto Amazon.

Some professionals spend their entire day being sent out on random errands from the emails. Not Jeff Bezos.

While Bezos does read and reply to his emails, he makes sure he has what he calls “proactive” days. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he takes a break from emails and meetings and planned life. He spends these days at malls or shopping centers gaining new customer behavior insights or checking out every inch of Amazon.com with an objective of making continuous improvements to it.

As a founder and CEO, Bezos is often invited to speaking events and industry conferences to share his wisdom. Instead of flying into a small town equipped with just your ideas and a fresh suit. At events where you are not even a speaker, there still a ton of things to do, such as speaking with interesting people for a possible hire and enticing them to come to Amazon, getting a gist of what ecommerce trends are catching the fascination of the masses, and so on.

Travel is an inevitable part of Bezos’ life. But he manages to maximize his travel time in true Bezos style. Instead of watching movies or simply chilling on his flights, he brainstorms new ideas, reads up on world affairs and maybe catches some well-deserved shuteye.

Amazon and Bezos both believe in the value of saving time very deeply. This means every new idea for Amazon, is A/B tested live on the site and results can be had in just about an hour after it passes Amazon’s stringent requirements. “You get to accelerate time incredibly with that kind of testing,” Jeff likes to say.

Takeaways:

  1. Dictate your own time, if not every day then at least for two days in the week. Not only will your brain thank you for the welcome change, it will actively work more efficiently on your ‘non-proactive’ days.
  2. Don’t waste precious time – your daily commute, business travel and more – offer key chunks of time that can be usefully applied to tasks that need some deep thought.

Richard Branson

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Richard Branson is nearly a universal favorite as the flamboyant serial entrepreneur who began life with a jointly owned record company called Virgin Records.

Branson is surprisingly fit for a sixty plus year old corporate suit. He actually wakes up early at 6:00 a.m. to go running and work out. He claims that his morning workout leaves him feeling recharged and raring to go.

After that heart thumping workout, Branson creates a list of things that need doing for the day and gets going on those. This list does not just include official things to do, but also new business ideas, people to speak to, potential new companies waiting to be set up and more on those lines. While making those lists of things to do, Branson makes sure that he includes as many things as can humanly possible to be achieved. In his words, “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them.”

Finally, he does not let email overwhelm himself. After going through his daily list of 300-400 emails every day, he personally replies to a few immediately. Being a CEO a few times over gives him the option of dictating answers to emails to his assistants and delegate the rest of his emails to the right members on his team.

Takeaway:

  1. Branson’s lists can translate into tasks on a collaboration tool like Wrike and be shared easily with team members to whom you want to delegate tasks.
  2. Spend some time working out those muscles and your brain ticking each morning. A healthy body harbors a healthy mind. Invest in a fitness band like Fitbit or even one of those watches to keep track of your overall health as well as the calories you burn each day.

Over to You

As Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Managing time is a matter of taking charge of your time instead of being at the mercy of the clock and endless timewasters like email and meetings. Take your pick among the business wisdom from each of these leaders and tell us which one will work best for you!




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