"Once you admit to yourself that you can’t manage time and that you can only manage yourself, and you accept that there is more to do than you can ever possibly do, a new strategy emerges: prioritizing."
Rory Vaden, New York Times bestselling author of Take the Stairs, felt overwhelmed with too much to do, similar to most of us. He realized that certain people, whom he calls “multipliers,” were not only successful but never complained about being too busy, even though they had more on their plates than most. He decided to investigate further and Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time is the result.
Spend Time on What Will Help Your Tomorrows
"You multiply your time by spending time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow."
Unlike the rest of the busy world that are trying to be more efficient and effective, which can only get you so far, multipliers also factor in “significance”: will this action bring me the results I want, and if so, for how long; and/or will it free up more time in the future.
Vaden mentions opportunity cost of time as being more than that of money since time is such a finite resource. If that is true, then we need to be even more selective on where and how we choose to spend our time. And while being efficient and effective are still useful, they cannot create more time, so focusing on results—as multipliers do—is something we can all benefit from.
Make Your “No” Count
"You are always saying no to something. Any time you say yes to one thing, you are simultaneously saying no to something else. "
Rory explains that we have to learn to give ourselves five different permissions to get to where the multipliers are. The first of this is permission to ignore things that add no value and eliminate them from our lives. He cites examples such as needless meetings, long e-mails, rethinking decisions, gossip, and many more. Another example of this is saying no to completing other’s work and to what you are not best suited for (e.g., someone else has easier access to that information or skills more suited for that task).
The next two permissions are investing in systems to automate and being okay with imperfect so that you can delegate. At the heart of all this is that by choosing to do a thing you are saying no to something else—something that could perhaps have led to more success or further opportunity. So if you’re already making that choice, why not make that no count? And if your argument is that you don’t have the time or money to invest in systems or staff, consider what your ROTI (return on time investment) would be and compare their MVOT (money value of time; i.e. hourly rate) to yours. Are you really the best one to do that task? If not, then eliminate, automate, or delegate it.
Wait for the Right Time
"And it is not only healthy for the soul, but there is also multiplication power in creating space, time, and margin in your life. It enables your ideas to incubate and for you to get a bit of perspective. It reduces the vulnerability of unexpected change. Sometimes the act of waiting today is the very thing that prevents you from doing something you would have to redo tomorrow. "
The last two permissions Rory discusses are the permission to delay things until the right time and the permission to concentrate only on the next significant thing, while ignoring the small things that could distract you from it.
As a super-organized over-achiever always looking to cross things off my to-do list, the idea of waiting on purpose was mind bending. I have always strived to accomplish things ahead of time, so having Rory demonstrate how this could backfire was not something I could ignore. For example, he explained how placing an order ahead of schedule could mean rework if the customer then changes the order; or how rushing a project could mean rework since you didn’t allow enough time for other’s feedback.
Another aspect of waiting for the right time is waiting to batch small tasks so that they’re more efficient. Instead of running to the bank to deposit each check, wait until you have at least five; or instead of responding to each e-mail, wait until you have several. The latter is something I know I need to work on. Despite having read all the recent studies on how counterproductive multitasking is, I still hate to have something sit in my inbox. I am proud to say that after reading this chapter, and realizing how short-sighted I was being, I have actually turned off all my sound notifications so that I can choose when to check e-mail (i.e., when it’s not distracting me from something more significant).
Will Rory’s five permissions create more time? No. Nothing can. But by realizing that time is finite and no amount of efficiency or effectiveness will create more of it, we can take the next step, ask the right questions, and determine where we should be spending that finite resource.
The five permissions Rory teaches us, put together, serve as a filter and roadmap of sorts. It can help us set-up a personal time audit system to evaluate where to spend our time for the best long-term results.
To recap the five permissions and the questions to be asked—
- Eliminate: Is this task something I can live without?
- Automate: Can this task be systematized?
- Delegate: Can this task be performed by someone else?
- Procrastinate: Can this wait until later?
- Concentrate: Is what I’m doing right now the next most significant use of my time?
And if a task actually makes it through the first four permissions, you should feel good in knowing you are spending your finite time where it can have the most impact, and then be okay in politely ignoring all distractions until you’ve completed that task. Then start the questions all over again to determine your next most significant task.
What is the first thing that pops to mind that you can easily eliminate, automate, or delegate?