By Harvey Mackay

Many years ago, a management consultant named Ivy Lee was called in by Charles Schwab, chairman of Bethlehem Steel Company, to give him advice on how to better manage his time.  After observing Schwab for several hours, Lee gave this advice:  “Every evening write down the six most important things that must get done the next day, and list them in order of importance.  Don’t begin item two until item one is complete.”

Schwab asked Lee how much he wanted for this advice.  Lee replied, “Use the plan for six months and send me a check for how much you think it is worth.”

Schwab realized the value of this timely advice, as well as the importance of time.  How you spend your time can be as important as how you spend your money.

After six months, Lee received a check from Schwab for $25,000, which was a lot of money in the 1920s.

I would submit that time is an organization’s most valuable commodity.  Waste it, and you are throwing away an irreplaceable resource.  Time is not an enemy unless you try to kill it.  An hour lost is never found.

We all start out in life with one thing in common – the same number of minutes and hours in each day.  That remains constant whether we live 50 years or 100 years.  So why is it that some people accomplish so much, and others, very little?

Do you complain that you never have enough time?  The reason may be that you’re wasting it, because you haven’t figured out how to use it well.  Here are some ideas to get time on your side:

  • Begin your day with a plan.  If you have no plan on how you’ll tackle your workload, you’ll end up battered by competing demands.  Manage your time better by doing the right things, not by doing the wrong things faster.  At the end of your day, make a to-do list for the next day, so you can be productive immediately in the morning.
  • Prioritize, don’t procrastinate.  Many people like doing the easy things first and saving the harder things until the end.  But what if those harder things never get done, or there are emergencies that come up.  Your plan should be prioritized by order of importance.  Bottom line, make sure the important things are getting done.
  • Take on what you can reasonably handle.  Sometimes it’s hard to say no, but be careful not to let your work pile up, causing you to miss deadlines.  This can lead to poor performance and unnecessary stress.
  • Tidy up your workspace.  Studies show the average American worker is a disorganized mess.  A minute here, a minute there spent looking for stuff can add up fast.  A messy desk wastes time and adds to your distractions.  Organize and get rid of the clutter.
  • Focus.  People lose so much production because they can’t stay focused or they are continuously distracted and interrupted.  If you are able to maintain your concentration, you will be amazed at the amount of work you can accomplish.
  • Get adequate sleep.  Lack of sleep increases your stress level and intensifies feelings of lack of control.  You’ll spend time at work wishing you weren’t so tired.  You also have a harder time focusing on the task at hand, which leads to a major time-waster:  having to redo projects.
  • Take a break.  Get away from work.  Eat lunch away from your desk. Take a walk around the block.  A brief breather recharges your batteries and keeps you more productive, as evidenced in this story:

Two men were engaged in chopping wood.  One of the men worked hard all day, seldom took a break, and took only 20 minutes for lunch.  The other man took several breaks a day, spent 45 minutes for lunch, and even took a 15-minute nap before going back to work.

The first man became increasingly frustrated because, no matter how hard he worked, the other man’s pile of chopped wood was always much bigger than his at the end of the day.

“I don’t understand how you do it,” said the first man one day.  “Every time I look around, you are sitting down, and yet you cut more wood than I do.  Why is that?”

With a smile, the second man replied, “Did you also notice that while I was sitting down, I was sharpening my ax?”


Mackay’s Moral:  Killing time isn’t murder, it’s suicide. 

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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