How do successful people plan their day?

Successful people plan their day in an effort to increase productivity, and this idea is in keeping with the concept of “time management”. Time management is the practice of assigning considered amounts of time to each of your daily activities, in an effort to make the most of your day, and maximize your efficiency.


While most people practice some time management throughout their working week, successful people prioritize this idea, in an effort to completely eradicate any waste or low productivity. In fact, many successful people credit their achievement to good planning and excellent time management; as these skills are necessary to launch a good idea or complement a strong work ethic. So how do successful people plan their day in order to maximize their productivity? And how can you manage your time more efficiently to do so?


1. Start early



Successful people are incredibly busy. In order to complete all of their tasks within a given time frame, entrepreneurs lead a hectic lifestyle. However, despite their busy lives, successful people still find time to socialize; exercise and relax. And they do this by beginning their day early, usually between 6 and 7 a.m. This is because most top tier managers compromise on certain luxuries in order to find time for personal activities.


An additional hour in bed is definitely a pleasure denied to most high-powered bosses, but for good reason. By rising an hour earlier, many successful people find time to workout or socialize, which can improve their mood- and increase their productivity throughout the day. In fact, according to an article by Business Insider, 90% of executives surveyed in a poll stated that their weekdays begin before 6 a.m. This includes Disney CEO Bob Iger, who reportedly rises at 4:30 am, and reads for pleasure before beginning his day.


Many industry leaders also rise early in order to exercise. This is because exercising in the morning can elevate your mood, and increase your energy levels throughout the day. According to an article by American Express:

successful people exercise early in order to “better prepare them[selves] for the everyday struggle to greatness”.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is a prime example. According to American Express, he and his wife bike together at 6am each morning, in an effort to prepare themselves for the day ahead.


2. Commute


There are many benefits to living a commutable distance from your job, and this includes the commute itself. Many successful people choose to commute, because this gives them added time to plan their day, and a moment to further prepare themselves for their upcoming time at the office. If you commute using public transport, then this an excellent opportunity to catch up on your emails, and set your goals for the day. According to an essay by Reader’s Digest, Thomas Oppong (a renowned author) states:

successful people begin with the end in mind they know what they wish to accomplish

he also adds

start your day by working on the projects that inspire you most and you will be more productive and achieve your goal faster whilst minimizing procrastination.


3. Communicate

morning meeting

According to research undertaken by Dr. Henry Mintzberg (a specialist in time management and business strategy), the majority of managers “[spend] much of their time in meetings”, and that their work is mostly “conducted with a strong emphasis and reliance on verbal, rather than written communication”.

Communication is central to a successful person’s day, which is why it’s usually prioritized.

Most influential leaders schedule or attend morning meetings, and begin their day by participating in conference calls or responding to emails. This means that they prioritize the most important work, and complete it first, before spending time on less urgent matters.


However, an article by Forbes warns of the dangers of over communicating. In a detailed report, Forbes consulted with acclaimed business author Laura Vanderkam. Vanderkam has spent years tracking the routines of successful businesspeople, and she argues that there is an important distinction to be made between “work” and “time wasting”. According to Vanderkam, and a study that she examined, “knowledge workers spend 28 percent of their time wading through their inboxes”. This is what sets them apart from successful businesspeople, who dedicate an appropriate amount of time to emailing. Vanderkam argues that “email expands to fill in the available time”. She believes that you should “give email less time, and it will take less time”.


What’s more, Vanderkam also rallies against meetings, claiming that:

The reason you have a meeting is that you want something to change in the world by the end of it.

However, Vanderkam argues that “The problem is that people have meetings to check that everyone is still doing their jobs — but hopefully you hired people good enough where you don’t have to check”. So in essence, you should only schedule meetings when absolutely necessary, and aim to complete them earlier in the day- leaving you time to work on other tasks.


4. Take a lunch break


While it may seem counterproductive, most successful businesspeople actively choose to break for lunch. This is often what distinguishes them from the average worker, who may choose to skip lunch, especially when faced with a large amount of work.

Most influential leaders lunch for two primary reasons.

The first is to refuel, as eating throughout the day is important for your health, and it ensures that you remain focused and attentive. The second reason for lunching is to work at a leisurely pace.

While it’s important that you take some time to relax and unplug throughout the day, you can also do so while remaining productive. For example, you can use your lunch hour to network with potential clients and customers, by meeting them at a restaurant for example.

You can also use your time to catch up on some reading while you eat, or keep up excellent relationships with employees and colleagues. In fact, according to

Staying connected with others is vital for success and offers health benefits.

In their article titled Instead of Skipping Lunch Do What Successful People Do, they suggest that “what distinguishes highly successful people is the way they use the power of relationships – so that everyone wins”.


5. Manage interruptions


According to CMOE’s infographic, influential leaders encounter an average of 12 interruptions per day. However, in reality, lower level workers probably encounter this much more frequently. What this means, is that in order to be successful, you need to be able to effectively manage your interruptions. According to Business Insider, the best way to avoid interruptions is to work on top priority projects earlier in the morning, preferably before work.

The quiet hours of the morning can be the ideal time to focus on an important work project without being interrupted.


However, this isn’t to say that interruptions won’t arise throughout the day, when your less important yet equally demanding projects require your full attention. In this case, you should plan a strategy to help you manage interruptions. The strategy you choose will depend on your personality and the nature of your work, although most experts recommend that you begin by allotting yourself a period of time spent alone and uninterrupted.


According to Mind Tools, this means that “If you are on a deadline or your focus needs to be intense (and not interrupted), use your voice mail to screen calls, or have an assistant deal with messages for you”. They claim that “A little bit of planning can go a long way in working to control telephone interruptions, which many people experience all day long”- and this applies to a variety of professions.


6. Decide when to go home


On your path to success, it can be tempting to overwork. And while some influential leaders never truly switch off, most agree that learning when to stop is key to becoming and remaining successful. When planning your day, you should decide how long you intend to work for, and stick to it. This means that even if your hours are determined for you, you should carefully plan how much extra work you intend to put into your day, and leave as soon as you’ve completed this.


LifeHack reinforces this idea in their article “10 things successful people do before they leave their offices”. In this article, they discuss how successful leaders “dictate when they will stop working”. To reiterate the importance of planning, LifeHack also attributes their ability to leave on time to their meticulous planning by saying that “The reason they can do this is because they always get the important stuff done at the beginning of the day – often before the average person’s workday even begins”.


However, just because the work day is over, this doesn’t mean that the day should be completely dismissed.

Most successful people strategizing on their commute home, and consider what successes and what failures arose from today.

In fact, in an article for Business Insider, workplace expert Lynn Taylor explains that what differentiates successful people from everyone else is their ability to be “strategic about the next day”; and that most influential managers and leaders “have a routine in which they use those last 10 minutes to mitigate tasks that will linger and deter them from being completely focused for the next morning’s events.”


7. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of time management

Time management

While many people have found success through planning, this isn’t a universal technique that will work as effectively for everyone. For some, meticulous planning can be stressful and time consuming. This is primarily because

time management doesn’t apply to every type of person or profession

and sometimes, you can’t plan a day spent dealing with jobs that rely primarily on unpredictability and managing unexpected crises.


For example, if your job is based around being ‘on call’, then it’s difficult to plan your time- because you could be unexpectedly called into work at any moment. In these instances, learning to manage yourself is arguably more important than learning how to manage your time. Learning your limits, and managing your stress will help you achieve more in your life than time management- as planning your day is virtually impossible without an established routine.


It’s also important to consider that time management often fails for those who don’t plan effectively. While there is a loose template for the ideal daily plan (as we’ve outlined above), there is no one-type-fits-all plan that guarantees success. This means that while you should follow the guidance put forward by the experts, when planning your day, you should also tailor your schedule to fit you and your needs.


An article by reinforces this idea by reminding readers that you need to focus on what works best for you, and what you feel will benefit you the most. In their article 5 More Time Management Mistakes You May Be Making, they write that “in the long run it’s more effective to focus first on filling your time with the good stuff”.

Time management is the best way to maximize your productivity and increase your efficiency.

As we’ve established, successful people lead a planned life, as this is perhaps the only way to deal with the fast paced and hectic lifestyle that accompanies widespread success. However, regardless of your profession or your own personal achievement, you can definitely benefit from time management- and plan your day in the same way as the worlds most influential leaders do.

Bonus infographic:
How do successful people plan their day?

successful people day planning

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