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What's the Secret? How Do You Have Time To Do All That?


Time Management

A very common, and I mean very common question I get is where do I find all the time to do everything I do. How am I able to run my company LandlordMax, write for this blog, write a book, and so on. Honestly I have just as much time as everyone else, I just choose to prioritize my time differently. I’m a big fan of Paul Graham’s, especially the following quote from his article How to Start a Startup which I use very often when talking to people:

“My final test may be the most restrictive. Do you actually want to start a startup? What it amounts to, economically, is compressing your working life into the smallest possible space. Instead of working at an ordinary rate for 40 years, you work like hell for four. And maybe end up with nothing– though in that case it probably won’t take four years.”

So what’s my secret to be able to do all the things I do in a normal day? It’s simple. Prioritization. What does that mean? I decide to use my time right now differently than most people.

Let’s take an example. Let’s assume you’re a sports fan and you want to watch every game of your favorite team. Or maybe you watch a daily TV soap opera. Maybe you just watch an hour of TV every day. Whatever the case the numbers are about the same so let’s use the sports example since it’s the easiest to calculate.

For our example let’s say you watch hockey. Your favorite team will play at least 80 games a year for about 3 hours each game. It’s probably a little less, but we didn’t include all the games or the playoffs (and the season is a little more than 80 games anyways). If we do the math we get:

  • 80 games * 3 hours = 240 hours

Breaking it down further:

  • 240 hours / 8 hours a day = 30 days

Breaking that even further:

  • 30 days / 5 days a week = 6 full time weeks (or 1.5 months full time).

By just eliminating one activity I’ve added one and a half months of full-time time. Wow! What can you do in one and a half months full-time? I suspect a lot!

Do you have to completely eliminate this activity? No. Almost anything you take to that extreme will generally not work. You’ll probably experience some binging if you do that. Rather I recommend you do it in moderation. I still watch the occasional game. Maybe once a month. But by only watching the occasional game, I’m still at least a full-time month ahead of many of my peers who watch all the games (or tv every night, etc.). And I can tell you there are many, I personally know of over a dozen people who watch at least 2-3 sports games a week. That adds up, and it adds up quickly. Quicker than you think.

So the next time you decide to sit down and watch TV you should conscientiously decide that it’s what you want to do. Don’t just plop down on your couch because it’s the easiest thing to do, conscientiously decide that it’s what you want to do. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as you actively decided it’s the best use of your time. We all need down time after all. But if you continue to consistently choose the easiest path, then please don’t ask me how I manage to find all this time to do the things I do. You can to, there’s no secret. You just need to choose to.

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  •     Mark Gladding
    · January 22nd, 2008  · 5:30 pm  · Permalink

    Hello Steph,

    Great post! When I started my microISV, I cut out just about all TV which immediately freed up a few hours a night.

    One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately is the difference between a producer and a consumer.

    Today’s modern world has become one giant honeypot, designed to turn everyone into a perpetual consumer. Consuming is the path of least resistance, the default option.

    As soon as you decide to substitute passive, consumer-based activities (e.g. watching TV, playing video games, surfing the web) with productive, creative activities (e.g. starting a business, writing a blog, book, music, woodworking, etc), then you will notice that you begin to achieve more.

    Keep this up for a year and you’ll end up with a long list of achievements. It requires discipline but is ultimately a lot more exciting and satisfying.

  •     Steph
    · January 23rd, 2008  · 12:22 am  · Permalink

    Hi Mark,


    And I really like your perspective of producer versus consumer. That’s a great way of looking at it. It’s absolutely true! I never thought of it in those terms before, but it’s very accurate.

    And you couldn’t be more right about discipline, it does indeed require a lot of discipline. To give an example, today was actually a hard day for me. It would have been so easy for me to just veg out in front of the TV, I almost did. But instead I spent the time focusing on the book I’m writing. It wasn’t easy but I got a lot done. You can do a lot in a few hours.

    To be honest though, after finishing this comment, I probably will veg out in front of the TV finally, but as I said before, it’s also 11:30pm here. More importantly is that I’ve done as much as I can for the day, I’m conscientiously deciding to veg out. It’s worth it. I deserve it 🙂

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