Warren Buffett, when asked to describe what sets successful people apart, once said, "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."

Including most meetings, appointments, and calls.

As Buffett says, 

People are going to want your time. It's the only thing you can't buy. I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can't buy time.

That's why Warren's calendar isn't filled with calls and meetings. Sure, he could easily fill his schedule. 

But he doesn't; many weeks, only a handful of times are penciled in.

Why is that?

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder (and notorious license plate memorizer), explains.

I remember Warren showing me his calendar. I had ever minute packed and I thought that was the only way you could do things....

The fact that he is so careful about his time, he has days that there's nothing on [his schedule]... [I learned] that you control your time, and that sitting and thinking may be a much higher priority than a normal CEO, [where] there's all this demand, and you feel like you need to go and see all these people... 

It's not a proxy of your seriousness that you've filled every minute in your schedule.

That's a great line: Filling your schedule isn't a proxy for seriousness. Or drive. Or effectiveness.

Neither is it an automatic blueprint for success.

Efficient versus effective

Efficient people are organized and competent. They check things off their to-do list. They complete projects. They get things done.

Effective people do all that, but they check the right things off their to-do list. They complete the right projects. They get the right things done.

They execute and produce what makes the biggest difference for their business, and for themselves.

And, most important, they don't let other people impose their will on their time.

They impose their own will on their time.

If you're struggling to achieve what you want to achieve, take a step back. Determine what really matters. Determine what really drives results. In most cases, what really drives results is you. So stop thinking your presence is absolutely necessary in every meeting and on every call.

That's especially true if you're a leader -- because when you're not there, your teams naturally feel a greater sense of freedom, autonomy, and, most important, responsibility.

They'll be more creative. They'll make better decisions. (Research shows that when people feel like a "junior" member of a group, their IQ drops.)

And in the meantime, you'll free up more of your time to think. To have great ideas. To make great decisions.To strategize. To plan. To have great ideas. To make great decisions.


See your calendar not as something to fill, but as something to keep as free as possible

Do what Buffett does: View an open calendar as an opportunity, not a liability. 

Starting today, don't just mindlessly fill in the blanks on your schedule. 

Make thoughtful, smart, logical, conscious decisions about each appointment you set. Make every scheduling decision according to what will make you most successful, especially over the long term.

While you won't -- in fact, you shouldn't -- turn down every meeting or appointment, don't forget:

A full calendar is not a proxy for success. 

In fact, a packed calendar may be holding you back from achieving the success you dream of--and deserve.