Sunrise running womanHow well do you manage your time? Do the things you spend time on each day align with your values and priorities? Or, is your time spent “doing things,” even if they’re not priorities to you?

Best-selling author Kevin Kruse’s new book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management features the best productivity habits of entrepreneurs, straight-A students, and a few billionaires.

Kevin conducted original research and interviewed over 250 productive people to hone in on how these people manage their time. What he found was that they don’t think in terms of time – they think in terms of values, priorities, and consistent habits.

I love learning. It excites me to try new approaches or applications or tools. I’ve read a number of time management books and taken more than one time management course over the years. I have, of course, crafted an approach that works pretty well for me. I keep nearly all my commitments, which is a huge value of mine. My system isn’t perfect, but it works, mostly.

The problem is that my approach is cemented in my habits. The more embedded my habits, the harder it is for me to change or adapt my approach!

My habits are really embedded. I use a to-do list, religiously. Nozbe is a terrific cloud-based task management system. I also use Evernote, a brilliant cloud-based note system, to track notes, details, and working drafts of my writing projects – books, posts, etc. Evernote and Nozbe interact beautifully together. Both sync tasks and notes on my Macs and iDevices (so long as I have an internet connection).

Kevin’s book provides proof that systems used by many people – including me – need revision if they’re not helping you stay productive and stress-free.

My system’s main flaw is that a to-do item can be easily moved to a different day. Even if I prioritize the task, it’s a simple matter to shift it. But if I move a to-do item, it must not be a priority that day.

Here’s a perfect example. I am a heart patient (I had a myocardial infarction in December 1993). I take meds daily. To be my healthiest self, I have to watch my weight and food intake. I have to exercise daily. And, I still suffer from blood pressure that’s higher than I and my doctor like.

I need to check my blood pressure weekly. It’s best to do it in the morning, before I’ve eaten breakfast, taken any meds, or started drinking coffee. Yet if I didn’t check my to-do list upon awaking (which I don’t do very often), I’d eat, drink my coffee, take my meds – and then see my to-to item to check my blood pressure before all that. Rats.

I didn’t test my blood pressure for weeks at a time, because I saw the to-do item too late in my morning.

Then I learned one of Kevin’s 15 secrets – to work from a calendar, not a to-do list. In other words, when highly productive people want to get something done, they schedule time for it.

So, I scheduled my blood pressure testing for Friday mornings at 7:30am. I’ve missed only a few over the last two months, entirely because I was traveling.

That tip shifted me from “meaning to do something important” to consistently doing that important thing.

I think that I’m on the right track to improving my effectiveness and productivity by embracing some of the 15 secrets Kevin shares. You might, as well.

What is your basic time management approach? Do you use to-do lists or calendarize key activities? Does your system keep you productive and stress-free? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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