About a year ago I threw my back out. And voila, my body forced me to lay down and rest to take care of my "L5-S1?. No that's not a cool new battleship from Star Wars, it's the location for my slipped disc (for those of you with back issues, you know of what I speak).

My back issues made me realize I wasn't managing my time correctly. I was killing myself on a daily basis burning the candle at both ends trying to do everything. It took my back giving way and several weeks of lying on it to make me realize how much I was putting our company, Radiate, my job and my family at risk.

As I started talking to other busy people, I realized that the best time-management tool is not the latest new fancy app or a bizarre scheduling system. It's actually using your mouth to say "no."

Before that, I was always saying yes. I didn't want to hurt people's feelings. I was afraid I was missing out on some big opportunity. Or I wanted to just feel like I was productive and doing things by meeting as many people as possible.

By telling people I was on a deadline or referring them on to other capable members of my team, I managed to start saying no without sounding dismissive or offensive. I'm not perfect at it but I'm working on making "no" sound good.

Below are several ways highly successful people save time:

  1. Use apps. It may sound simple but founder of Zuckerberg Media Randi Zuckerberg has clawed back a lot of time using apps like Seamless and Lyft. "We live in an incredible world today where you can do almost anything with the touch of a button on your phone... so I think that's a wonderful pro tip that's been democratized, that's there for everyone."
  2. Short emails. If you email Caroline Ghosn, founder and CEO of Levo, you will receive short and perfectly polite emails back. Caroline is "promoting a culture of communication and clarity" within her company because plenty of time is saved by not "spend(ing) four paragraphs explaining your perspective."
  3. No laces. For years Nick Taranto, co-founder of Plated, did not wear shoes with laces. "that saved 30 to 60 seconds each day, multiply that out by a year and you're talking about six or seven hours."
  4. Stop being cheap. "I think a lot of people overvalue money and undervalue time," says Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments. Mellody is a big believer in leveraging your own time on what truly matters and bringing value to you. "I have been willing to spend money, even when I had very, very little, on people helping me, so that I could maximize my time."
  5. Hiring staff. "Other human beings are the way I scale time efficiency," says Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. With his time becoming ever more valuable, Gary prioritizes by having a solid team around him. "I have two assistants. I have somebody who follows me around and films me. I have a full time health coach, which means he's my nutrition and working out. He's 100% on my schedule."
  6. Varied commute times. "So I either leave really, really early in the morning, or I'll leave after the commute starts, or I'll stay at work a little bit later until commuting hours die down a little bit," Oath CEO Tim Armstrong said. He tries to avoid traveling into work at the same time as everyone else because it "allows me to essentially have more quality time overall, and even when I don't have quality time, if I get caught in commute, I tend to do a lot of learning and some of that thinking time during that. So I have a lot of productive time, either avoiding the commute, or if I'm in the commute, making sure I use that time really valuably."