11 things successful time-managers don’t do

Success at work isn’t just about all the things we pack into a busy day; it’s also about what else we make time for—our family and well-being.

Trinette Reed | Stocksy United

It can be overwhelming to hear everything that highly productive people do with their days. Their discipline and the sheer volume of the things they participate in is intimidating: big ideas, business meetings, school PTAs … and they still have family dinners and coach little league. Do they ever sleep? Are they machines? How do some people seem to balance their real lives (marriages, kids, faith, community) and bring home the bacon?

What we often fail to notice when we admire these people and their full lives is that they are removing certain things from their to-do lists in order to make it all work (without turning into a little ball of stress). That’s because they understand what success actually means: being passionate about your work isn’t driven by the rat race of money and fame. What grounds success in any area of life is being well-rounded in your capacity for kindness, family life, and making time for others, too.

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So shoot for the stars, yes, but take a tip from these busy CEOs and do-it-all parents, and remember that you can have success without sacrificing healthy habits for yourself and your family. And maybe even take a few things off your giant to-do list. We turned to life coaches, CEOs, high-level managers, and other leaders to find out. Here are 11 things that well-rounded, successful people don’t do.

1. They don’t skip breakfast

Mornings are hectic, but no matter how busy successful people are, they don’t sacrifice their breakfasts. Brew that coffee, get in your apple a day, and maybe throw in some protein, too. You have a full day ahead of you, so you might as well kickstart it with a full stomach. And maybe, just maybe, even prep your breakfast the night before so you don’t need to bother with it in the morning.

“Every night, I set the table for breakfast the next morning, ” says Keri Gassman, nutritionist and founder of The Nutrition School. “It’s important to me to have a sit-down meal with my family—not one of those eating while standing or running out the door ordeals. It’s nothing too fancy or over the top, just placemats, plates, napkins, and cups. Sitting down for breakfast sets the tone for the day, and it’s time that I’m able to spend with my kids.”

You may think you don’t have time for this. If that’s the case, make the time. Because it’s not just successful people who believe in setting aside AM time to eat, science has told us time and time again that breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. Don’t skimp in favor of work emails!

2. They don’t think inspiring quotes are silly

You know those inspirational quotes everyone loves to share on Facebook, doodle onto their calendars, or pin to their fridges? Successful people do that, too. But they take time to really let the words sink in, and find the real-world application that goes beyond the aesthetic of script words on a pretty picture.

“I open a quote book to a random page … and reflect on the message,” says Tami Halton Pardee, founder and CEO of the real estate firm Halton, Pardee + Partners. “In some ways I think there is a bit of fate involved in the selection of the quote and what I should be focusing on in life. I do this with my kids as well; it’s a thought-provoking way to reflect on the day and calm the mind.”

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Do this at night before you go to sleep and you might wake up brimming with new ideas, energy, and even a healthy sense of urgency.

3. They don’t let work trump family time

Don’t get us wrong, successful people are often super organized and fit a lot of hard work and meetings into their days. So you should still pull out that calendar and pencil all those work appointments in, folks.

“I’m old school: I carry around a physical calendar,” says Dr. Andrew Ordon, a physician and co-host of the syndicated daytime series, The Doctors. “It’s color-coded, and I stick pieces of paper with reminders in it. It is my life-bible, and I probably look like a crazy person with it, but it works for me.” But what’s key about his organization is that it lets him create time to focus on his family and spouse: “At night I figure out the next day. I juggle the TV show, two different offices in different cities, charity events, family, marriage, and so on. I need it all in one place—the big picture at my fingertips.”

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While you’re thinking of that bigger picture, remember that you can still be successful and take time out to focus on family life, too. Even if that means rescheduling some work around it. The CEO and founder of Toms shoes, Blake Mycoskie, decided to take a 12-week break from work to be a dad: “So much of our strength comes from our families, and if we’re not investing in our families, we’re not going to be strong in business or in culture,” Mycoskie said. He also said that he came back after the break with even more great ideas for the company. That logic applies to creative types, too: the very successful singer Adele has made similar decisions to spend more time with her young family.

4. They don’t spend a ton of time on social media

Social media has the advantage of bringing people together, but it also has an ugly side: it brings out people’s competitiveness and creates rivalries. But why should you compare your real, everyday life to someone’s very filtered, perfect-looking existence on Instagram? Most people post their life highlights on social media, not their anxieties and failures. It’s important to remember that you’re not seeing the full picture—and even if you were, your life is your own. There’s no reason to compare.

Sandra Bullock, for example, says she stays away from social media because, “We’re not representing our lives truthfully,” she told U.K.’s The Times. And Keira Knightley, who joined Twitter for a day before deactivating her account, feels the same way: “It made me feel a little bit like being in a school playground and not being popular and standing on the sidelines kind of going, ‘Argh,'” she told Harper’s Bazaar. Limiting your time on social media may help you focus on the positives in your life rather than the negatives … and we all know success requires a little positive thinking.

“Successful people don’t get hung up or discouraged by the accomplishments of others, but rather celebrate them,” Mandie Mutchie, a healthy lifestyle coach, tells For Her. “They want to see other people succeed because they know that someone else’s success doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing the right things and aren’t going to also succeed. To a successful person, when other people succeed, it is a sign of hope and proof that they can succeed, too!

5. They don’t feel guilty about relaxing with TV

“I light a few candles, pour some wine, and turn on some trashy television,” Bree Branker, master instructor and director of creative integration at IMAXShift, a popular cycling studio in New York City, says. “I teach several intense cycling classes a week … when I get home, I put on ‘Real Housewives’ or ‘Dance Moms’ or something equally horrific and I detach from my day.”

Life and Success coach Jose Siandre agrees that successful people acknowledge that they need time to decompress and space out, too. “You have to manage your time by getting the things you don’t want to do first and then reward yourself with watching TV or doing something else, like playing music, reading a sci-fi book, playing video games, etc.”

6. They don’t “move on and never look back”

A strong sense of nostalgia is something many successful people share. There’s no shame in pulling out your wedding album, high school yearbook, past awards, or other souvenirs from an era different than the life you live now. When you reminisce every now and then, it can help you appreciate your journey and the people who have shared it with you.

“I pull up YouTube videos of songs that bring back good memories, like ‘More Than a Feeling’ by Boston (freshman year of college) or ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson (the birth of my first child),” says David Givens, general manager at Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii. “It helps me reconnect to friends, family, and good memories; settles me down mentally and physically; and leaves me with a soothing feeling of nostalgia.”

Of course, there’s a difference between indulging in some healthy nostalgia and living in the past. Successful people don’t do the latter.

“Successful people do not spend time worrying about the past and telling other people what didn’t happen for them,” Erica McCurdy tells For Her. “They tend to shrug off the setbacks or personal slights and focus more on what their best next steps should be. They are very aware that they cannot change what has happened before and are open-minded and open handed about the future.”

7. They don’t fritter away time with gossip

“Why waste time on talking about others? It not only brings you down but it makes you look petty,” Jen Coken, a life coach and comedian, tells For Her. “Successful people always listen for the gold in what people are saying, and when talking to others stay positive and focused.”

So what if you’re surrounded by gossipmongers at work or online? Try to distance yourself.

“Successful people do not surround themselves with negative people,” Dr. Carolyn Dean, a physician and life coach, tells For Her. “Negative people bring down morale and add to stress levels. Whether they are angry or antagonistic people or apathetic people, they equally can affect mood and health.”

8. They don’t interrupt others

A real leader doesn’t just sit back and bark orders. A real leader engages their team by truly listening to their ideas and concerns. Listening isn’t a passive role; when done right, it’s definitely an active one.

“I would say that one thing successful people don’t do is interrupt whomever it is they are talking with, especially in a business setting,” Martin Zotta, CEO of a wealth management company, tells For Her. “Give full attention to whomever it is you are speaking with, really listen, and give yourself time to absorb and come up with an appropriate response before talking. It sounds simple but I see professionals not do this every day.”

So no talking over people (unless it’s really necessary). There’s a lot to observe and learn from if you’re willing to open up your eyes and ears.

9. They don’t take blessings for granted

Everyday is a new gift, but it can be hard to remember gratitude when you’re tired, frustrated, or hurting. Successful people try to look past their pain and exhaustion and thank the universe for what they have. Yes, that’s the case even when the line at the supermarket is monstrous or they didn’t close the deal at work.

“Successful people also don’t take things for granted,” Mutchie tells For Her. “They are grateful for their experiences—whether they are obvious blessings, or learning experiences and blessings disguised as setbacks.”

Maybe you didn’t get the promotion or admission into a certain program. It’s possible you can try again, but it’s also possible that curvevball brought you clarity. Maybe you didn’t get the promotion because you’re meant to find a new job or found your own company. Step back for a moment and pull yourself out of your emotional storm for some rational reflection.

10. They don’t watch in-flight movies on planes

If your go-to activity on planes is conking out, zoning out to in-flight entertainment, or beating your Candy Crush score, you should reconsider how you spend that time. True, sometimes you really do need the rest, but if you’re all caught up on your sleep, you’re better off maximizing those hours on your commute or while traveling. Whip out a book, notepad, calendar, or laptop, and get cracking.

“A successful person is usually an in-demand person, meaning their families, coworkers, employees, teams, churches really depend on them,” Jade Simmons, motivational speaker and concert pianist, tells For Her. “An airplane represents that one pocket of space where they are untouchable and finally alone with their many, many thoughts, goals and plans. Instead of sleeping or playing a mindless game (which is sometimes good for the soul, too!), you’ll usually find them working on a pet project, writing a book, or chomping down a to-do list.”

So let your mind process thoughts that require a serious time commitment, or start plowing through that to-do list. Constant phone calls and text messages can’t reach you here.

11. They don’t fall asleep in a work mindset

Successful people loosen up before bed. They make a ritual of eating a snack and putting on their PJs, so they’re not trying to fall asleep on an empty stomach or feeling constricted in their office or workout clothes. They also shut off their computer and put their phone away.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution, bans all electronics from her bedroom, saying it stresses her out and keeps her from getting the rest she needs to be successful. “I only have real books by my bed,” she told The Atlantic. “Not even Kindle editions. No iPad. Nothing.”

She also admits that she used to be a workaholic who slept in her workout clothes. “I did it for a long time because I wanted to have zero excuses for exercise—if my leggings and sports bra were on, it was a cue I had to go. But I realized that was a confusing message to be sending my brain before bed: workout gear is on, but it’s time to wind down? I switched to pajamas, nightdresses, or just T-shirts—ones that are only used for sleep—and my brain now gets the message that it’s time to rest.”

You want your mind and body to be at peace when you tuck yourself in at night. That way you will get a peaceful night’s sleep and wake up refreshed, ready to make tomorrow a successful day.

So next time you get overwhelmed by all the things you think you should be doing to gain success, take a minute to remember that sometimes success is about what you decide not to do and the time you allow yourself to recharge and grow.

Natalie van der Meer
Natalie van der Meer

Senior Editor Natalie van der Meer is a former editor for Redbook, Woman’s Day, Reader’s Digest and Allure, covering fashion, beauty, travel, family, book reviews, and much more. She lives in New York City.

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