5 Steps to Great Time Management


Time is one of our most precious resources, and how we manage it can make or break our productivity and success. Chet Holmes, in his book "The Ultimate Sales Machine," shares valuable insights into effective time management. In this article, we'll explore the five steps to great time management, inspired by Holmes' principles, that can help you become more efficient, focused, and successful in both your personal and professional life.

Step 1: One Time Only.

One of the fundamental principles of effective time management is the "Touch It Once" approach. This means that when you encounter a task, email, or message, you should take immediate action rather than postponing it. The key here is to avoid opening emails or messages until you're ready to deal with them. 

To implement this principle effectively, use very descriptive email subject lines. A clear subject line helps you quickly assess the importance and content of the email, allowing you to prioritise your responses. By addressing tasks as they come in and avoiding unnecessary delays, you'll prevent the accumulation of unfinished business and reduce the mental clutter that can hinder your productivity.

Step 2: Lists. Every Day.

Creating lists is a time-tested method for staying organised and focused on your goals. Chet Holmes emphasises the importance of limiting your daily to-do list to the six most important tasks you need to accomplish. This approach ensures that you prioritise your most critical responsibilities and avoid getting bogged down by less important or distracting tasks.

When you have a long list of tasks, you're more likely to tackle the easier, less productive ones just to trim the list down. Unfortunately, this can lead to procrastination on the essential tasks and create negative psychological effects when you never seem to finish your list. By focusing on a shorter, high-priority list, you'll maintain a sense of accomplishment and stay motivated.

Step 3: Give Yourself (Realistic) Time.

To make the most of your time, it's crucial to allocate a realistic amount of time to each task. Avoid the trap of thinking about when you'll complete a task; instead, determine the specific amount of time you'll dedicate to it. If a task will take more than one day, break it down into manageable time blocks and record how much time you'll devote to it each day.

Holmes suggests that your most important tasks should generally take up about six hours of your workday. By allocating your time strategically, you ensure that your top priorities receive the attention they deserve, increasing your overall productivity and effectiveness.

Step 4: Plan

Effective time management requires planning your day with precision. Be specific and assign a dedicated time slot for every task on your list. While there will always be unexpected interruptions and reactive tasks, plan for them by allocating two half-hour slots for reactive time in your schedule. 

The key to success here is discipline. Once your schedule is set, stick to it no matter what. This commitment to your plan will help you maintain focus, avoid procrastination, and make the most of your productive hours.

Step 5: Prioritise

Not all tasks are created equal, and the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) holds true in time management as well. Holmes suggests that only 20% of your effort brings 80% of your results. To maximise your productivity, prioritise your tasks accordingly.

Use time management techniques like the Eisenhower Method to determine which tasks are urgent and important. Place the most critical tasks at the top of your list and tackle them first. This approach ensures that you're consistently working on tasks that have the most significant impact on your goals and outcomes.


In conclusion, effective time management is a cornerstone of personal and professional success. By implementing these five steps inspired by Chet Holmes' insights from "The Ultimate Sales Machine," you can regain control of your time, increase your productivity, and achieve your goals with greater ease. Remember, time is a finite resource, so make the most of it by managing it wisely.


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