I had lunch with an acquaintance earlier this week. He called me two weeks ago and said, “I’m amazed at all the things you’re able to accomplish and would like to take you to lunch so I can pick your brain.” I told him, “I’m not really sure my life and schedule is something to envy but I’ll certainly let you buy me lunch.”

When we met today, I mentioned to him I was out of town on Thursday and Friday last week as I was the keynote speaker at a Gideons Pastor Appreciation Banquet on Thursday evening in Joplin, Missouri, and another one in Clinton, Missouri, on Friday night. He said to me, “See that’s what I’m talking about. How do you have the time to write speeches and go out of town like that? Last year you coordinated the metropolitan scripture blitz here in Kansas City (which I spent a full year on), you ran your real estate business, and you still found plenty of time for family and your church. I can’t seem to fit it all in.”

I told him, “It’s not really magic but there are a few things that I feel are key to accomplishing everything I need to do.” I obviously didn’t share this information with him in the form of a “top 10” list but I thought it’s easier to read it here that way.

1) Get good, consistent sleep. I hear so many people say, “I didn’t get to bed until late last night.” I’m one of those people who needs a consistent seven and a half hours of sleep every night. I typically go to bed right at 10:00 PM and rarely need to set an alarm because I wake up every morning very close to 5:30 AM.

2) Exercise regularly. I’ve enjoyed going to the gym for about 20 years now. I never get in great shape because I don’t work out hard enough, but I sure notice the difference on the days that I don’t go to the gym. I get tired in the middle of the afternoon. I know some people run or walk in the evening. That’s great too, but I’m a morning person so if I don’t work out first thing in the morning, it’s never going to happen after that.

3) Know what’s important in every day. There’s always that one thing that I absolutely, positively need to accomplish that day. If it’s critical, then I try to knock that out first. Otherwise my day can (and will) blow up and I won’t get that one thing completed. Every day before I get started, I ask myself, “What’s the one thing that must get done today to make this a successful day?” Even if everything else blows up, at least I moved that one thing forward by doing it first.

4) Critical thinking should be done first. For me, and for most other people, I’m most alert earlier in the morning. If I have to write a speech or something that takes critical thinking, I have to do that earlier in the morning. Sometimes I like to get up very early in the morning and get started on it before I even leave the house. If I wait until after 3:00 PM, I’m shot and it takes three times the mental effort to accomplish the task.

5) Learn to say NO! For most people, it’s actually hard to say no to someone needing a favor, but learning to say no to some things has allowed me to focus on the most important things in my week. I have my priorities and I know what I’m good at. I’m not good at construction or working with tools, so if someone asks me to help them build something, it’s easy for me to say no to that. The hard part is when someone asks me to help them with something I know I am good at. If I’m going to be a productive person, I need to know what I can say yes to and what I must say no to.

6) Is there someone else that is better at this task? Sometimes I’ve agreed to help with something and then realized there are probably other people better suited to the task than I. When someone asks me for a favor, I begin by asking them, “Who else have you asked to help you with this?” Are they asking me because I’m the best person for the job or is it because they think I am the most available? My next question is, “How long to you think this will take?” or “Is this task absolutely critical?” Sometimes it may not be all that important or even worse, they may not have thought through all the time this will take and are not fully prepared to begin the project. I don’t have time to waste so I make sure they’ve thought this through before agreeing to help.

7) Plan out your day the night before. I commonly look at tomorrow’s schedule and many times I realize I’ve put too many things on my calendar. Moving some lower priority things to another day will give me more time to properly focus on the important projects.

8) Never be afraid to just delete it. I’m sure some of you just cringed at reading that last sentence, but sometimes things get on my schedule and then I think to myself, “Why I am working on that?” Before deleting it completely though, I ask myself, if there is someone else who can do that for me.

9) Outsource it. This is almost always the very best option. Outsourcing it to an administrative assistant, or someone else frees up my time and still gets the task done. If you don’t have an admin available to you like I do, then use one of the hundreds of online outsourcing companies like Upwork or Guru.com. If you need a professional designer to put together some marketing pieces or design a new company logo, then use Fiverr.com or 99designs.com and let multiple designers compete for your business. You can outsource anything and everything today.

10) Fit in “flexible” time. After I have my obligations worked into my schedule, I look for pockets of time that do not require specific activities. These are considered “flex” time. The flex time can also be used for unforeseen obligations or other activities that come up last-minute. If I have my whole day planned out every hour back to back with no flex time, it’s going to frustrate me when something runs over time and now my whole schedule is thrown off.

And that’s it. Ten ways I get the most out of each and every day. Have I left anything out that works for you and you’d like to share?