Full Text of How To Multiply Your Time by Rory Vaden @ TEDxDouglasville conference.
Listen to the MP3 – How To Multiply Your Time by Rory Vaden @ TEDxDouglasville
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.
What we’ve noticed is the emergence of a new type of thinker, somebody that we refer to as a multiplier, and multipliers use what we call, 3-dimensional thinking. While most people only make decisions based on urgency and importance, multipliers are making a third calculation which is based on significance, and if urgency is how soon does something matter, and importance is how much does it matter, then significance is how long is it going to matter. It’s a completely different paradigm, it’s adding on to what is there, it’s in with the old, but it’s also in with the new. Because most of us, if you think about the modern day to-do list, which is one of the key strategies or tools that we have, we ask ourselves, when we assemble our to-do list, we say: “What’s the most important thing I can do today?” But that is not how multipliers think; multipliers instead ask the question: “What can I do today, that would make tomorrow better?” “What can I do right now, that would make the future better?” They’re making the significance calculation.
See, when I say: “Multiply your time,” that might sound a little bit superfluous. It might sound like an over exaggeration, but it really is not.
Now, it is true that we all have the same amount of time inside of 1 day, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. There’s nothing any of us can do to create more time in 1 day, but that’s exactly the problem, that type of thinking is the problem. What we have to do is break out of that paradigm, and instead, think about tomorrow, and that brings us to the premise for how you multiply time.
The way that you multiply time is simple: you multiply your time, by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today, that give you more time tomorrow. That’s the significance calculation. You multiply time, by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today, that create more time tomorrow. The significance calculation changes everything.
The Focus Funnel is our attempt to create a visual depiction that codifies the thought process, that multipliers go through in their head, unconsciously when they are evaluating how to spend their time. It’s why some people create extraordinary, explosive, exponential results, and other people seem to kind of just create linear traction, and it works like this, if your tasks all come into the top of the funnel, the first question a multiplayer asks is: “Can I eliminate this? Is it even worth doing?” It’s another example of how everything you know about time management is wrong, or at least that it has changed, because most of us use to-do lists, and multipliers realize that next generation time management has much more to do with what you don’t do, than what you do do.
Multipliers realize that perfection is achieved not only when nothing more can be added, but when nothing more can be taken away. It is the permission to ignore. Because anything that we say no to today creates more time for us tomorrow. The challenge emotionally is that we struggle with guilt, and we struggle with wanting to say no, but really feeling like we have to say yes, and so we go through life trying to never say no.
In one of the interviews I conducted with a multiplier, they said something that changed my life, they said, “Rory, it’s futile to go through life, trying to never say no. What you have to realize, is that you are always saying no to something.” Because anytime you say yes to one thing, you’re simultaneously saying no to an infinite number of others.
If you can’t eliminate the task, the next question is: “Can I automate the task?” Anything that I create a process for today, saves me time tomorrow. It’s like setting up online bill pay. I never have two hours in my day to set up online bill pay, I just don’t have time, and if I had two hours in my day I would never use it to set up online bill pay. But a multiplier realizes that if I save 30 minutes a month from paying my bills, by setting up online bill pay, then it makes sense to invest those 2 hours, because then after just 4-months time, I will have broken even on that investment, and every month thereafter, I will get something we call ROTI, Return On Time Invested.
Automation is to your time exactly what compounding interest is to your money. Just like compounding interest takes money and it makes money into more money, automation takes time, and it makes it into more time. The way that wealthy people think about money is exactly the same way that Multipliers think about time, and they give themselves the permission to invest, invest the time and energy to automate the process.
If it can’t be automated, then the next question is: “Can it be delegated? Can I teach someone else how to do this?” I’m reminded of a time, when I was 7 years old, and I’ll never forget, I was in the car with my Mom, and I hit her with this question, I said: “Mom, do I have a Dad?” And as you might imagine, that was a pretty difficult question for a single mother, to navigate with her 7-year-old. It was the first time that my mom told me her life story. She was pregnant at 17, divorced a couple of years later. Pregnant again at 22, and then she was divorced from my biological father 6 months after I was born.
So there she was 22 years old, single mom, no high school education, and she explained to me: “Rory, I decided at that point that I would never have a man in my life, because I haven’t had good luck with men, and we may not have a lot, and we may not have a dad, but we’re going to have love.”
And so we went back and forth for a little while, and I said: “You know Mom, I love our family, I really do, I love our family, but I think it would be really cool to have a Dad.”
And so she said: “Well, I’ll tell you what honey, if you want a Dad, then why don’t you go out, and find yourself a good Dad.” What kind of crap is that? It just so happened that that was my first day at a new Shaolin Kung Fu center. I had been studying martial arts since I was 5. So they put me in this all-adult school, to be a little more advanced. And there was another gentleman who walked in, it was his first day, also. But this guy was much older than me. He had long hair, and tattoos all up and down his arm, and a leather jacket, and he came in on a motorcycle, and this guy was about the scariest dude you can imagine, if you’re 7 years old, and he gets paired up as my sparring partner.
His name was Kevin. He turned out to be pretty nice. Well we started to advance through the belt levels together, and so Kevin started bringing me home from class, every once in a while. Then before you know it, Kevin came over on the weekends, and we would practice our forms. And then we caught a movie, and then before long, Mom came with us to the movies. And so it was the three of us that were going to movies together, and I’ll never forget the first time the two of them went to a movie without me.
As it turns out, Kevin and I tested for our black belts together on the same day when I was 10 years old. They got married 2 weeks later. A couple of years after that Kevin adopted me, and I change my last name, from Rory MacLachlan, to Rory Vaden, and they have been married for 20 years, ever since.
And the point of that story is that you can delegate anything. But if you ask the average person you said: “Are there things you know you could be delegating to somebody else?” We would say: “Yes.” But then you say: “Why don’t you train someone else to do it?” What most of us would say: “Well, because they just can’t do it as well as I can.” And that may be true once, maybe twice, but it is only true absent the significance calculation. Because if you think longer term, you realize they’ll be able to master the task, just like you were. Significance changes everything. It’s how you multiply your time. It’s giving yourself the permission of imperfect, for a little while. Because over time, they’ll be able to figure it out.
Now if you can’t eliminate, automate, or delegate a task, that task drops out the bottom of the funnel, and at that point, there’s only one remaining question, and that question is: Should I do this task now? Must it be done now, or can it wait until later? If the task must be done now, then that’s what we call “concentrate”. It’s the permission to protect. All right, the permission to protect. It’s all about focus, and eliminating distractions. And honestly, there’s nothing all that exciting, or new there.
However, if you ask the question: “Can this wait until later?”, and you decide that the answer is yes, then that’s not eliminate, automate or delegate, that is what we call “procrastinate on purpose“. Now, you’re not going to procrastinate on it forever, you’re going to pop that activity back to the top of the funnel, at which point, it will enter into a holding pattern where it will cycle through the focus funnel, until inevitably, one day, eventually one of the other four strategies will be executed on whenever that task is. And what you find, is that if something can continually wait, often what happens is you eventually develop the courage to do what you should have done in the first place, which was eliminate it. Or you discover a system for how to automate it. Or someone rises up to the call of leadership. They rise up to the occasion, and it ends up being delegated. Or it ends up becoming something that is significant enough for you to spend your time on.
A lot people say: “Well Rory, wait a minute, in the Take The Stairs book you said: ‘Procrastination was the killer of all success.’ You said ‘Procrastination was the most expensive, invisible cost in business today.’ You said ‘Procrastination is the foundation of all mediocrity.’ and now you’re telling us to procrastinate on purpose?”
And yes, that is what I said, and it’s exactly true how I said it. But there’s a major distinction to realize and that is there’s a difference in waiting to do something that we know we should be doing that we don’t feel like doing, versus waiting to do something because we’re deciding that now is not the right time.
Waiting to do something we know we should do, but don’t feel like doing, that’s procrastination, that’s the killer of all success. But waiting to do something, because we’re deciding intentionally that now is not the right time, that isn’t procrastination, that isn’t the killer of success, that’s a virtue, and it’s an art form that the world really needs, which is patience. The patience to put off the insignificant things. Like checking email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You multiply your time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today, that create more time tomorrow. And regardless of your religious affiliation, or your spiritual beliefs, hopefully you’ll have an appreciation for the way that scripture says the world was created. And in Genesis, God has created this perfect world, and it says something amazing that we’re created in His image, and then in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 28, he gives the first command to all of humanity, and what is that command? “Thou shall have no other gods before me?” No. Is it, “Love thy neighbor as thyself?” No. God’s first command to all of humanity, “Be fruitful, and multiply.”
Thank you very much.