It certainly would be wonderful to relive our fondest memories, to undo past mistakes, to halt time in order to get ahead, or somehow to foresee and prevent future disasters. Yet in actuality, we’re stuck plodding through life second by second. We don’t get any do-overs, we cannot peer into the future, and we can neither speed up nor slow down how quickly the day passes. Though we have no control over the flow of time, we can become smarter about how we spend the hours in each day. However, before we can learn to manage time more effectively, we must adopt a realistic perspective of it.


1) Recognize that “Spending Time” Is Not a Metaphor.

Time is more valuable than money, because time is irreplaceable.  “You don’t really pay for things with money,” says author Charles Spezzano in What to Do Between Birth and Death. “You pay for them with time.”  We exchange our time for dollars when we go to work and then trade our dollars for everything we purchase and accumulate. In essence, all we possess can be traced back to a payment of time.  Time stewardship is perhaps a leader’s greatest responsibility.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “Nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”

2) Understand the Power of Compounding

With time, as with finances, investments made early in life accrue the most interest. When we poorly manage our time, we go into debt by establishing bad habits. Later, we not only must make up for wasted time, but we also must pay interest—spending extra to repair the damage of our negative patterns of behavior. On the flip side, when we invest our time wisely from a young age, we reap the benefits of compounding interest in our leadership.

3) Realize That Lost Time Is Never Found Again.

Clayton C. Barbeau in his book Joy of Marriage writes, “Again and again, I meet marriage situations in which the couple speaks of ‘not finding time’ [to be together]. I’ve never yet stumbled across 20 minutes lying on the sidewalk, though once I found a $20 bill. Nor have I ever met anyone who just happened across two weeks of time somebody had left in the park. I doubt that anyone else has done so either, for the simple reason that time is not found. Time is created by us for the things we want to do. It often requires conscious planning to create those chunks of time we can devote totally to the other.”

4) Appreciate How a Thankful and Hopeful Attitude Makes the Most of Time

In Martin Seligman’s twenty-two year study at the University of Pennsylvania, summarized in his book Learned Optimism, he determined that optimism is the most important quality you can develop for personal and professional success and happiness. Optimistic people are more effective in almost every area of life. Why? Because they approach the world with gratitude and hope rather than fear and regret.

Optimists have four special behaviors, all learned through conscious practice and repetition. First, optimists look for the good in every situation. They always find blessings for which to be grateful. Second, optimists always seek the valuable lesson in every setback. They’re thankful even for hardships, interpreting difficulty as instruction rather than obstruction. Third, optimists always look for the solution to every problem. Instead of blaming or complaining when things go wrong, they take action in the hopes of improving their situation. They ask questions like, “What’s the solution? What can we do now? What’s the next step?” Fourth, optimists think and talk continually about their goals. Hopeful tomorrow will be better than today, they are future-oriented rather than backward-looking.

Knowing Your Purpose

Clarity is the most important concept in personal productivity. To illuminate your purpose on the job, ask yourself: “Why am I on the payroll?” Ask and answer this question over and over again throughout the year. Surprisingly, most people are not sure exactly why they are on the payroll. They cannot give a compelling account of the value they add to the organization. Gaining clarity about the results you’ve been hired to accomplish allows you to perform at your best, qualifies you for pay raises, and puts you in line for promotion.

Setting Your Priorities

Let Your Long Term Perspective Determine Your Short Term Priorities.

Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard University, after more than fifty years of research, concluded that “long-term perspective” is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America. Long-term perspective turns out to be more important than family background, education, race, intelligence, connections, or virtually any other single factor in determining your success in life and at work.

Apply the 80/20 Principle in Everything

There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing. In general, 20 percent of your activities generate 80 percent of your results, 20 percent of your customers account for 80 percent of your sales, 20 percent of your products services bring in 80 percent of your profits, and 20 percent of your tasks are responsible for 80 percent of the value of what you do. If you have a list of ten things to do, two of those activities are usually more important than all of the others combined. The same logic holds true for your relationships. Therefore, spend your greatest amount of time with in the smallest amount of people. You’ll have more influence investing heavily into two or three people than in dividing your time equally among a dozen people on your team.

Developing Efficient Practices

Never Begin the Day Until It Is Finished on Paper.

As playwright Victor Hugo wrote, “He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out the plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.“ Every minute spent in planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution. It takes only 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan your day. However, this small investment can prevent up to two hours (100 to 120 minutes) of wasted time and fruitless effort throughout the day.

Just Say No

Don’t let your mouth overload your back. When you frequently overcommit; you routinely underperform. Using time efficiently necessitates choosing your involvements selectively and with extreme care.

Create Large Chunks of Time

The most important work you do requires large chunks of unbroken time to complete. Your ability to carve out and use these blocks of high-value, highly productive time is central to your ability to make a significant contribution to your work and to your life. Be sure to schedule your day so that you have significant time free from distractions in which to take care of your biggest responsibilities.

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