Full Text of How To Multiply Your Time by Rory Vaden @ TEDxDouglasville
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Rory Vaden – Author, Procrastinate on Purpose
You may have thought that we started late, but it is ironic that the first speaker would be the author of the book, “Procrastinate on Purpose”.
How is it, that we have more tips and tricks, tools and technology, calendars and checklists than ever before, and yet, we still always seem to be behind?
How is it that we work longer hours, we’re moving faster than we’ve ever moved in history, and yet we never seem to be caught up?
How is it that we know more about time management today, and yet stress is at an all-time high?
The reason why is because everything you know about time management is wrong.
I first started to realize this a couple of years ago. It was early on a Saturday morning, I was at my business partner’s house, and I was picking him up for a very important international leader planning retreat, and he has a 2-year-old baby girl name Haven, and she is the sweetest little thing you can imagine. She has curly brown hair, and these sweet, soft, brown eyes, and we live in Nashville, so she has a little southern accent that’s developing and as I’m picking up Dustin, and we’re about to leave, Haven come sprinting down the hallway and she leaps, and she latches on to Dustin’s leg, and she says: “Daddy where you going?” And he looks down at her and he says: “Oh, I’m sorry baby Haven, Daddy actually has to go to work today.” And she looks up at him, and her eyes well up with tears, and she says: “No Daddy, please, no work today. No work Daddy.”
And in that moment, I realized two things: The first is that I myself am not ready to have kids just yet.
The second is that even though everything that you’ve ever heard about time management is all logical, tips and tricks, tools and technology, calendars and check lists, its apps, it’s all logic. What I realized in that moment from a 2-year-old is that today, time management is no longer just logical. Today, time management is emotional, and how our feelings of guilt, and fear, and worry, and anxiety, and frustration, those things dictate how we choose to spend our time, as much as anything that’s in our calendar, on our to-do list.
In fact, there is no such thing as time management. You can’t manage time, time continues on whether we like it or not. So there is no such thing as time management. Really, there is only self-management. That was the first big realization that I had.
In order for you to understand the second, I want to take you on a quick history of time management theory, and that really began in the late fifties, and sixties, and it came during the industrial revolution, and an early time management thought was all about — it was one-dimensional, and it was all based on efficiency, and the idea with efficiency, was that if we could develop tools and technology to help us do things faster, then theoretically, that would give us more time.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with efficiency. All things being equal, efficiency is better, and yet there is an unfortunate limitation to efficiency as a strategy for time management, and it’s evidenced very well by the fact that we all carry around miniature computers in our pockets, and yet, somehow we’re still never caught up.
Well, in the late eighties, era 2 time management thinking emerged. I feel like it was pretty much single-handedly ushered in by the late, great Dr. Stephen Covey. And Dr. Covey introduced what we’re referring to as 2-dimensional thinking. He gave us something called the Time Management Matrix, where the X-axis was urgency, and the Y-axis was importance, and the beauty about this was that it gave us a system for scoring our tasks, and then based on how they scored in these two areas, we could prioritize tasks, one in front of the other.
Prioritizing is all about focusing first on what matters most, and for the last 20 years, this has really been the pervasive mode of thinking as it relates to time management theory. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with prioritizing. In fact, prioritizing is as valuable a skill today as it ever has been in history. And yet even though we throw that word around, like it’s the end-all and be-all, to time management theory, right? We say: “Get your priorities in order.” Or “You don’t have the right priorities.”
Well, unfortunately, maybe that’s not really the case, because there is a massive limitation to prioritizing that nobody ever talks about and that is this: there’s nothing about prioritizing that creates more time. All prioritizing does is take item number 7 on your to do list, and it bumps it up to number 1, which is valuable in and of itself, but it doesn’t do anything inherently to create more time, and it does nothing to help you accomplish the other items on your to-do list.
If you think about efficiency, efficiency is kind of like running on a hamster wheel, and if you think of prioritizing, it’s really about borrowing time. Borrowing time from one activity to spend on another, it’s kind of like juggling, and that really describes the way that we even talk about time. I’m juggling a lot, or I’m trying to balance a lot. And in that paradigm there’s only two strategies: one is to do things faster, or to do more things, and that is what the world kind of feels like, right? How does it feel to know that really all we are is a bunch of juggling hamsters, sprinting towards an inevitable crash landing? You cannot solve today’s time management problems, with yesterday’s time management thinking.