Kevin M. Kruse is an American professor of history at Princeton University. His research interests include the political, social, and urban/suburban history of 20th century America, with a focus on the making of modern conservatism. Kevin recently researched successful people to find out the secret of their success.

If you were to meet Bill Gates and had one question to ask it would probably be “What is the secret of your success?” Kevin Kruse recently interviewed over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and many accomplished entrepreneurs. One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question: “What is your number one secret to productivity?”

Number one was a focus on minutes, not hours. Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller said, “You must master your minutes to master your life.” Successful people know that there are 1,440 minutes in every day and there is nothing more valuable than time. Money can be lost and made again, but time spent can never be reclaimed. Number two is to focus on only one thing; productive people know what their most important task is and work on it for one to two hours each morning, without interruptions. Number three… don’t use to-do lists. Only 41% of items on to-do lists ever get done. Schedule everything on your calendar and live by that calendar, undone items lead to stress. Number four is to figure out what they can do now to make certain their future selves will do the right thing. Anticipate how you will procrastinate in the future and come up with a solution today to defeat your future self. Number five is to know what you value in life. Make it home for dinner, include family time, exercise, and give back to the community.

Number six is to use a notebook. Richard Branson said that he wouldn’t have been able to build Virgin without a notebook. Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis said, “Always carry a notebook, write everything down.” Number seven is to check your e-mails only a few times a day. Don’t respond to every ding, schedule time to process your e-mails quickly and efficiently. Number eight is to avoid meetings at all costs. Mark Cuban is one of the main ‘shark’ investors on the ABC reality television series, Shark Tank. Mark said, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a cheque. They start late, have the wrong people in them, meander around their topics, and run long.” Number nine is to say ‘no’ to almost everything. Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” And number ten is to follow the 80/20 rule. Known as the Pareto Principle, in most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of activities. Ultra-productive people know which activities drive the greatest results. Focus on those and ignore the rest. Other tips for success include delegating almost everything; touching a task only once and practice a consistent morning routine. These tips might help you to get more done in less time and assist you to stop feeling so overworked and overwhelmed.