We save it. We shave it. But we can’t store it, speed it up, or slow it down. It’s the same for all of us. Time.

I learned time management skills at a ripe young age by following my Associated Press correspondent-father around. He lived by deadlines. And aphorisms. “Miss a deadline, miss a headline.” “Time is the only thing you’ve got as much of to spend every day as any Rockefeller.”

When Jack Mackay said to his 10-year-old fishing partner, “Be at the dock at 2:13,” there was no built-in fudge factor. If you got there at 2:14, you were holding your fishing pole in one hand and waving bon voyage with the other. Tough love, kid, but it worked.

My first job after I graduated from college was with Brown & Bigelow. They made advertising and promotional novelties, like calendars and playing cards. I was in the executive training program . . . I pushed a broom in the factory.

When the realization dawned that my future at b&B didn’t extend beyond the handle of my broom, I left, and got the second and last job of my life. Selling envelopes. Not wanting to return to broomwork, I asked my father for some career advice. “What do you want to accomplish?” he asked. My dream was to make twice as much money as my fellow envelope salespeople had made their first year of selling.

“How many sales calls are you going to make in the next 12 months?” Hmmm. My peers made about five calls a day. I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t match them call for call. “No good,” he said. “Do what they do and you’ll make what they make. The answer’s easy. Figure out how you can make 10 calls a day and your income will double.” So we figured it out. We worked out a game plan. It turned out to be a life plan.

  • I poked around and learned that some of the buyers’ working hours were not the usual 9 to 5 of the typical envelope flogger. Some buyers came in at 6 A.M. Some worked until 7P.M. Some came in Saturday mornings. For three hours every morning, two hours every afternoon, and four hours on Saturday, I had no competition.
  • I stopped making cold calls. I called ahead to make sure the buyer was in… and that I had an appointment.
  • I was the first kid on my block to get a car phone. Driving is every salesperson’s number one time waster. I’ll do anything to make the time more productive.
  • Telephone tag is the number two time waster. I never leave my name for a return phone call without a designated time I can be reached.
  • Ah, those magic moments swapping war stories with the bull-pen gang. Forget it. Another wasted hour every morning.

Mackay’s Moral: Time is precious. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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