Randy Pausch Lecture on Time Management (Transcript)

Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, the late Carnegie Mellon Professor, gave the following lecture on Time Management at the University of Virginia in November 2007. Below is the full transcript of the talk…


Randy Pausch

Thank you. That’s very kind but never tip the waiter before the meal arrives. Thank you Gabe and Jim. I couldn’t imagine being more grateful for an introduction. These are two people that I’ve known a long long time. I taught here at University Virginia, I love the school. It’s just an incredible place filled with tradition and history and respect, the kind of qualities that I really admire that I want to see preserved in American society. And this is one of the places that I just love for preserving that. I think the Honor Code alone at the University of Virginia just is something that every university administrator should study and look at and say you know why can’t we do that too. So I think there are lot of things about this place to love.

I’m going to talk today on the topic of time management. The circumstances are as you probably know a little bit unusual. I think at this point I’m an authority to talk about what to do with limited time. My battle with pancreatic cancer started about a year and a half ago, fought, did all the right things but it’s, you know, as my oncologist said if you could pick off a list that’s not the one you’d want to pick. So on August 15th, these were my CAT scans, you can see that if you scroll through all of them there, there were about a dozen tumors in my liver. And the doctors at that time said you are likely to have three – I love the way they say — you have three to six months of good health left. Optimism and positive phrasing, it’s for like when you’re in Disney, what time does the park close? The park is open until 8. So I have three to six months of good health.

Well let’s do the math. Today is three months and 12 days. So what I had on my day timer for today was not necessarily being at the University of Virginia. I’m pleased to say that we do treat with palliative chemo. They’re going to buy me a little bit of time on the order of a few months if it continues to work. I’m still in perfectly good health. With Gaffe in the audience I’m not going to do push ups because I’m not going to be shown up. Gabe is purely in good shape. But I continue to be in relatively good health. I had chemotherapy yesterday, you should all try it, it’s great.

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But it does sort of beg the question I have finite time. Some people had said, why are you going and giving a talk. Well, there are lot of reasons I’m coming here and giving a talk. One of them is that I said I would. That’s a pretty simple reason and I’m physically able to.

Another one is that going to the University of Virginia is not like going to some foreign place. People say aren’t you spending all your time with family and by coming back here for a day, I’m spending my time with family both metaphorically and literally because it turns out that many of you have probably seen this picture rom talk that I gave. These are my niece and nephew Chris and Laura and my niece Laura is actually a senior – a 4th year here at Mr Jefferson’s University. So Laura, could you stand up so they see what you’ve gotten taller. There we are. And I couldn’t be happier to have her here at this university and the other person — so that’s Laura– the other person in this picture is Chris. And Chris, if you could stand up so they see you’ve got much taller? And they have grown in so many ways, not just in height and it’s been wonderful to see that and be an uncle to them.

Is there anybody here on the faculty or PhD students of the history department. Anybody here is from history, find Chris right after the talk, because he’s currently in his sophomore year at William and Mary and he’s interested in going into a PhD program in history down the road. And there aren’t many better PhD programs in history than this one. So I’m pimping for my nephew here. Let’s be clear.

So what are we going to talk about today?

We’re going to talk about — this is not like the lecture that you may have seen me give before. This is a very pragmatic lecture and one of the reasons that I had agreed to come back and give this is because Gabe had told me that and many other faculty members had told me that they had gotten so much tangible value about how to get more done and I truly do believe that time is the only commodity that matters. So this is a very pragmatic talk and it is inspirational in the sense that will inspire you by giving you some concrete things you might do to be able to get more time — more things done in your finite time.

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So I am going to talk specifically about how to set goals, how to avoid wasting time, how to deal with the boss. Originally this talk was how to deal with your advisor, but I have tried to broaden it, so it’s not quite so academically focused, and how to delegate to people, some specific skills and tools that I might recommend to help you get more out of the day and to deal with the real problems and like which are stress and procrastination. And if you can lick that last one, you’re probably in good shape.

And really you don’t need to take any notes, or I will presume if I see any laptops open, you’re actually just doing IM or mail or something, if you’re listening to music, please at least wear headphones I’d say. But all of this will be posted on my website and just to make it really easy, if you want to know when to look up — any slides that have a red star on are the points that I think you should really make sure that you got that one.

And 1conversely if it doesn’t have a red star, well…

So the first thing I want to say is that Americans are very very bad at dealing with time as a commodity. We’re really good at dealing with money as a commodity. We are, as a culture, very interested in money, how much somebody earns is a status thing and so on and so forth, but we don’t really have time elevated to that. People waste their time and it always fascinates me.

And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that very few people equate time and money and they are very, very equatable. So the first thing I started doing when I was a teacher was asking my graduate students: “Well, how much is your time worth an hour?” Or if you work at a company: “How much is your time worth to the company?” What most people don’t realize is that if you have a salary, let’s say you make $50,000 a year, you probably cost that company twice that in order to have you as an employee because there’s heating and lighting and other staff members and so forth, so if you get paid 50,000 a year, you are costing that company – they have to raise $100,000 in revenue! And if you divide that by your hourly rate, you begin to get some sense of what you are worth an hour. When you have to make trade-offs of “Should I do something like write software or should I just buy it or should I outsource this?”, having in your head what you cost your organization an hour is really a staggering thing to change your behavior. Because you start realizing that, wow, if I free up three hours of my time and I’m thinking in that in terms of dollars, that’s a big savings!

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