Did you get a chance to read my most recent blog? It was all about the time management strategies that some of the world’s billionaires share, and how many powerful people including Elon Musk and Alan Greenspan schedule their days so carefully that every minute is accounted for. I shared that I think it’s valuable to learn about the systems that successful people use, but I also warned my readers to be careful what they copy. What works for Elon Musk won’t necessarily work for you.

I still believe that, of course. But this week I’m thinking about another billionaire’s approach to time management, and how it might actually make sense to copy it…. at least, in part. You see, I recently read an interesting article about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Buffett was quoted as having once said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

He meant it. When Buffett and Gates later went on “Charlie Rose,” Gates described having seen how empty Buffett’s calendar was. The “Oracle of Omaha” actually handed his pocket calendar over to the show host, who confirmed that entire days were empty. During one week in April, he noted, Buffett only had three things scheduled.

Gates was initially shocked by this. As a fellow CEO, his own schedule was packed. But seeing how Buffett limited his engagements struck a chord with Gates. In that same interview, he said something that I think is really wise:

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

Wow. That’s powerful, isn’t it? We all compare ourselves to others, and so sometimes it feels like we’re competing to see who’s busiest, who’s most in demand. If a stranger were to see your jam-packed schedule, would they assume you were a high-powered person who was at the top of your game? Maybe… but they wouldn’t necessarily be correct. You could have a schedule that’s stuffed with meetings, conference calls, deadlines and reminders and still be really struggling with your time management and with your life/work balance.

But ask yourself this:

  • What if your schedule had big empty pockets, and entire days with nothing penciled in?
  • What could you get done with that time?
  • And what freedom and creativity would that unscheduled time spark in you?

I know what you might be thinking. Warren Buffett gets to say no to requests for his time. Your boss or clients won’t be too thrilled if you start turning down invitations to meetings. Few of us can really say no to the things we’re asked to do. But could you say no to some of the requests that come your way, if it meant giving yourself more space to accomplish the things that really matter?

Be careful what you copy. Again, that’s one of the things I always teach my clients. A lot of the things that work for others won’t work for your life. The flip side is that, sometimes, the things that work for others could also work for you. Saying no to the tasks that you can afford to turn down is a powerful act, and it’s an important part of prioritizing and valuing your time. It also helps you defeat overwhelm.

What’s more overwhelming than staring at a packed schedule and wondering how you’ll ever get it all done?

Beating overwhelm is also what I’ll be talking about during my upcoming webinar. I hope you’ll join me on

April 3rd for:

How to Tame Overwhelm and Get Stuff Done

If just the idea of getting more stuff done fills you with relief, this webinar is for you. To get more information and enroll in this free session, click here!

In the meantime, look for opportunities to say no!



Sarah Reiff-Hekking