With a little help from social media, the blogosphere, and our good (imaginary) friend Martha Stewart, most of us are savvy to at least some of the basic tenets of personal and professional productivity, right? Avoid the email addiction, set good work/life boundaries, and delegate like a champ . . . we get it.
But as you cruise into a new year, fresh advice from some untapped sources could be just what the doctor ordered to help you shake up your time-management routine and level up your efficiency quotient. That’s why we’ve sourced some off-the-cuff tips from professionals that might not previously have made your Go-to list. From a surfer to an ex circus performer, these folks are offering up rock(star)-solid advice you just won’t get anywhere else.
1. HIT THE “POWER POINTS”
You don’t get to be the top surfer in the world by slouching on your priorities. Just ask Makua Rothman, who received top honors in the very first World Surf League’s Big Wave tour, which welcomed competitive surfers from across the globe. The 33-year-old Hawaii native balances a grueling training schedule, travel from competition, a burgeoning music carer, and time with his family.
How does he do it all? As Rothman told Men’s Journal, it’s all about priorities. Get clear on a handful of initiatives, set your order of operations, and then stick with it. “There is actually a lot of time in the day,” Rothman says. “A lot of people procrastinate. You have to make sure to just hit the power points, make it efficient, and prioritize.”
Ever wonder about those firefighting heroes battling the burns taking place across globe? Meet Bailey McDade, a 25-year-old, self-described “wild child,” who transitioned from her work as an AmeriCorps volunteer to become a full-time wildland firefighter. She and her hardworking crew are on call 24/7 during the busy fire season, during which they travel the world responding to wild fires, while also staging “controlled burns” to protect dry areas from disasters.
McDade’s schedule is intense—she estimates working an average of 85 hours a week, not counting the time spent camping and living with her coworkers —so she emphasizes the importance of really recharging during the off season. “[Firefighting is] an amazing job,” says McDade, “but you don’t really have any free time … everyone just kind of takes a big chill pill for the Winter.” Even if you’re only burning through paperwork for 50 hours a week at your desk, take a tip from McDade and treat your weekend like a mini “off season,” so you can come back on Monday fresh and ready to respond to whatever comes your way.
3. USE AUTOMATION TOOLS TO KEEP THE “STAGE” FULL
Working as a circus performer means keeping your audience entertained at all times, but no one performer can be the sole focus of attention for an entire two-hour show. Former circus performer Catherine Campbell has translated her career lessons as a former street circus performer into her current work as a marketing strategist and co-founder of Bright Planning.
“Don’t take on so much that you let the spinning plates fall!” she told The Muse. “During an unexpected hiatus from Twitter, I lost an average of five followers (including key influencers) every day. Now, I use automation services such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or IFTTT to keep my LinkedIn articles, blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates spinning on a regular basis and leading people where I want them to go. This also frees up my time to build my brand in other ways.”
4. THE COOLEST KIDS KNOW HOW TO SAY “NO”
Actor, rockstar, and newly minted tech investor Jared Leto has transformed his career from dreamy teen heartthrob to successful start-up nurturer and creative jack of all trades. But despite his success in a range of different pursuits, Leto’s key time-management advice is actually about not putting more on your plate than you can consume. “Get really good at saying no,” Leto told CNBC’s Squawk Box. “You have to be really good with your time…incredibly focused on what’s important, what the priorities are.”
This laserlike concentration on his key initiatives is what allows Leto to move the ball forward, whether it’s method-acting the hell out of his role as the Joker, or discovering the next Uber or Airbnb (both were investments of his). “I hate wasting time,” Leto said at the Wall Street Journal’s D.Luxe Conference. “I’m obsessed with efficiency.”
5. CREATE YOUR OWN SCHEDULE, CREATE YOUR OWN FATE
The work of a private investigator may sound exciting to those of us who spend the majority of our time at desks or in meetings. But the reality of conducting surveillance and gathering intel for a living is that you tend to work odd hours and are in charge of managing your own time.
“The potential is unlimited,” says professional P.I. Michael Miller. “We don’t have the same restrictions and constraints placed on government employees. We make our own hours and to an extent, [we are the] architect of our own fate.” Miller is quick to acknowledge that managing a flexible schedule requires a hefty dose of self-discipline and personal responsibility, as well as “fortitude, desire, perseverance, ambition, passion and motivation.” But he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve always preferred the freedom and ability to write my own ending,” Miller told The Balance. “With risk comes the potential for great reward.”
6. PATIENCE AND FASCINATION GO HAND IN HAND
TV personality and lifelong zoologist Jack Hanna knows a thing or two about staying focused. Says Hanna, “filming animals in the wild teaches you patience.” In many ways similar to a major business deal or a new marketing strategy, the work of observing animals in their natural habitats often takes a lot of prep work before the big payoff.
But how do you stay engaged throughout the planning process and not rush to mediocrity? “I’m fascinated by just about everything,” Hanna says. The takeaway: Find opportunities in life to be more authentically captivated by your own goals, and see if you don’t notice an increase in your capacity for patience, along with an uptick in productivity toward major achievements.
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