The co-founder of Microsoft often acknowledges that Warren Buffett's wisdom has made a big impact on his life. One of the things Gates has openly admitted to learning from Buffett is to value and protect the precious commodity of time. Gates writes:
There are only 24 hours in everyone's day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn't let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings.
Bouncing around from one useless meeting to another is certainly a threat to the sacredness of time. But there are many other threats that could steal our time and rob us of our productivity. A few examples:
- Your email inbox
- Focusing on other people's priorities (people pleasing)
- Phone notifications
- Scrolling social media
- Busy work but not productive work
Successful people are keenly aware of centering their whole day on the things that matter the most. While you may think that the solution is a question of "time management," what the most productive people have actually mastered is their ability to manage themselves.
Here are four additional lessons that may get you closer to your own self-management mastery.
1. Say no to almost everything
That's a tall order. It's also another useful and heavily quoted Buffett advice to the masses. The mega-mogul said:
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.
Most ambitious people are driven by results and doing more, not less. But from a self-help/self-care standpoint, if you think you're taking on too much and you've been labeled a "workaholic," Buffett's "no" advice should be a bull's-eye to your conscience.
We have to simplify our lives. And by doing so, we have to know what to say no to in order to keep our sanity. This may mean saying no many times over to things that don't serve us, and saying yes to the few things that truly matter to advance our cause and keep us balanced.
2. Stick to the things that serve you well
Setting boundaries around what goes into your calendar is very much within your control. Your first order of priority is to walk away from opportunities and things that don't speak to your values or serve your personal or organizational mission. In other words, stop neglecting your deepest wishes and desires for what you want to accomplish in life. Stop accommodating and yielding to others' wishes and desires. It's your life, take control of it, and live your calling.
3. Delegate to the strength of others
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett understand that what leads to overwork and burnout is doing all the work yourself. The better path is to delegate and trust in others' abilities and skills to get the job done.
For leaders and founders, delegating is an important skill to develop to elevate the business to reach the next level. But if they can't trust that the person or team they're delegating to can take the ball and run with it, the business is stuck with one person at the top doing too many things.
4. Find your state of flow
Ever had a few hours go by when you were so absorbed in your work that if felt like minutes? We hear about it often, but do we know what it means and how to pull off a state of "flow"? The integral work of positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who came up with the concept and practice, suggests that we can maximize productivity while rewarding ourselves with pleasure and meaning.
When we experience flow, we benefit from the twin towers of peak experience and peak performance. In other words, we both encounter pleasure and perform at our best.
It's the old adage of "being in the zone." You're distraction-free, utterly focused on the activity at hand, but with future benefit--you learn, grow, improve, and perform at your insanely best.