Good time management anecdotes and analogies

Look for things to kill.

“Robert Townsend suggests that every company should have a vice president in charge of killing things. He says, ‘General Foods, the AFL-CIO, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Ford Foundation should make it a practice to wipe out their worst product, service, or activity every so often. And I don’t mean cutting it back or remodeling it–I mean right between the eyes.‘ ”

from Edwin Bliss’s book Getting Things Done, p 90

Read selectively.

“Perhaps the most succinct comment on selectivity in reading is by James McCay, who asks, ‘Would you like to be able to read 50,000 words a minute? There are many time when it is easy to do this if you know how. All you have to be able to do is to recognize within one minute that a 50,000-word book does not suit your purposes, and decide not to read it.‘ ”

from Edwin Bliss’s book Getting Things Done, p 97

Getting things done means finishing what you start.

“In baseball, victory is determined not by hits but by runs. The player who gets to third base and no farther doesn’t get credit for three-quarters of a run.

It’s that way with a task. Getting started is fine, and carrying it forward is fine, but until the task is completed you haven’t done what you set out to do.  Yet many people form the habit of “working for a while” on a project, then  setting it aside, kidding themselves into thinking that they have accomplished something. All  they are doing is leaving men  stranded on base!”

from Edwin Bliss’s book Getting Things Done, p 114

Watch out for upward delegation.

“In a Harvard Business Review article, William Oncken, Jr., and Donald Wass give a perceptive analysis of what they call “subordinate-imposed time”:

“Let us imagine that a manager is walking down the hall and he notices one of his subordinates, Mr. A, coming up the hallway. When they are abreast of one another, Mr. A greets the manager with, “Good morning. By the way, we’ve got a problem. You see. . . .” As Mr. A continues, the manager recognizes in this problem the same two characteristics common to all the problems his subordinates gratuitously bring to his attention. Namely, the manager know (a) enough to get involved, but (b)  not enough to make a on-the-spot decision expected of him. Eventually, the manager says, “So glad you brought this up. I’m in a rush right now. Meanwhile, let me think about it and I’ll let you know.” Then he and Mr. A part company.

Let us analyze what has just happened. Before the two of them met, on whose back was the”monkey”? The subordinate’s. After they parted, on whose back was it? The manager’s. Subordinate-imposed time begins the moment a monkey successfully executes a leap from the back of a subordinate to the back of his superior and does not end until the monkey is returned to its proper owner for care and feeding.

. . .The only way to end upward delegation is to toss the ball right back to your subordinates. When they habitually come to you with problems and ask you to make a decision, simply ask, “Which course do you think would be better?” Force them to  make decisions (or at least firm recommendations) themselves, and unless some very serious mistake is likely, don’t second-guess them.”

from Edwin Bliss’s book Getting Things Done, p 116-7

Memorize these words: Next time. . .

“A famous New York psychiatrist, nearing the end of a long and illustrious career several years ago, said that the most useful concept he had discovered for helping people turn their lives around was what he called his “four little words.” The first two were if only.

“Many of my patients have spent their lives living in the past,” he said, “anguishing about what they should have done in various situations. ‘If only I had prepared better for that interview . . .’ ‘If only I had expressed my true feeling to the boss . . .’  ‘If only I had taken that accounting course . . .’ ”

Wallowing in this sea of regret is a serious emotional drain. The antidote is simple: eliminate those two words from your vocabulary. Substitute the words next time, and tell yourself, ‘Next time I’m going to be prepared . . .Next time I’m going to speak out . . .Next time I have a chance I’m going to take that class . . .’ ”

from Edwin Bliss’s book Getting Things Done, p 44-5

Conquer procrastination with the “Salami Technique”.

“A salami in its original state, before it has been cut, is unwieldy and looks unappetizing. But cut it into thin slices and it takes on quite a different aspect. Now you have something manageable, something you can “get your teeth into.”

When you realize you are procrastinating on a major task, slice it up into as many small, manageable “instant tasks” as possible. Promise yourself that you won’t force yourself to get involved with the main job, provided you do at least one of the small steps on your list.

. . .Remember the first slice–the first instant task–is always to list in writing the small steps involved in getting the job done.

“Divide and conquer” applies to tasks just as it does to armies or enemies.”

from Edwin Bliss’s book Getting Things Done, p 84-5