I worked for a man who was dedicated to planning and organizing. He kept note pads and sticky notes for personal and professional use. He kept an ongoing grocery list. He liked order. The first day I went to clean his home, he went over a detailed list of what he expected me to accomplish each week. I recall looking at the list and listening to him speak and wondering what I had gotten myself into.
There was small tattered book which lay on his bedroom desk week after week. It always seemed out of place to me, alongside the other nice, neat looking items on the desk. I dusted around it and on top of it (as I did the other items) and nearly every time I did, I would wonder why Ernie kept this ragged looking book. Each week my curiosity increased and…
One day I decided to satisfy my nosiness. I looked inside the book (I was wrong to pry and thankfully my moral character has grown since then) and quickly realized this was a journal. Memories and jottings from his boyhood. He had recorded certain things he had done at school and after school. I did not read too far, just a couple of entries and a I flipped through the book and saw that many pages had been written on. He had spent time with this journal and it held enough of a place in his life that he had refused to part with it.
From that point I began to pay closer attention to this common thread in his life. Planning and organization. I wondered then and still wonder if someone had taught him this principle or is this something he had incorporated in his life on his own. Who had inspired him to set goals and track his progress? Had a relative given his the journal as a gift, inspiring him to write and set goals?
I know this much, he developed this discipline as a boy and carried it into his adult life. I imagine as a high school and college student he spent time thinking about the things he could do that would help him make good grades. Did a parent, grandparent, or teacher instill in him the discipline of time management? Maybe someone close to him had inquired of him at some point what it was he wanted to be “when you grow up”. I imagine he spent time devising a plan to reach his life’s mission. Setting goals, readjusting goals, tracking them, and accomplishing. He became a successful man. He knew how to plan his work, and then work from his plan.
When I met Ernie in 2001 or ’02 (can’t really remember for sure) he was an entrepreneur, running his own business as a financial adviser. He maintained a neat appearance and liked his home and office well-kept. Not perfect, but nice. I remember on the few occasions I ended up in his office, there would be a to-do-list on his desk.
If I had the mindset I have now, I could have used his wisdom to help me focus. But when you are young you have so many other things to think about other than the passage of time and a means to steward it responsibly. If I was the thinker I am today, I would have asked Ernie to share with me his most useful tips on time management. What were the main two or three things that helped him get to where he was in life? I would have asked that had I known better.
I have not seen nor talked with Ernie for many years. If he is still alive, he must be retired now and enjoying the fruits of his labor. His appreciation for time management, planning, organization, and goal setting is influencing my life today. And I didn’t even see it coming. We never know what will grow from the seeds people plant in our lives, do we? Sometimes bad, yes. But sometimes great and powerful things.
If I had to sum up what I learned from watching Ernie’s example, it would have to be this: Long term success is no accident. Planning and being organized are a must. There has to be a resolution and commitment to time management if success is to be attained.
“Thank you, Ernie, wherever you may be, for teaching me this! More than anyone else I have ever spent time with, you taught me the value of being mindful of my time through planning and goal setting. You did not teach me this with words. It was your actions that educated me. Though I did not understand the value of what I was witnessing in your lifestyle at the time, I get it now.“
At the end of the day, we all have to find out what what works for us as an individual when it comes to time management. There is no one size fits all. We have to find what works, and work it. That is what Ernie did. That is what I am doing.
The following quotes are from men who discovered what time management meant for them individually. And they can help us better understand what may work for us. These are four men, highly successful, in various professions. Let us listen and learn as they offer us counsel for managing time to our advantage.
“You basically get what you spend your time doing.” – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
Does it get any more straight forward than that? Mr. Zuckerberg makes it clear that our time is an investment we earn from. We earn according to how we use it.
Warren Buffett, CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the most successful investors of all time says “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.“ I almost did not include this quote because I thought it might be misunderstood. But it speaks volumes so I had to use it. Mr. Buffett is only saying we have to be sure we are choosing our time use wisely and not entangling ourselves in activities that are not leading us toward our goals, but rather potentially taking us off course.
“The truth of the matter is thinking about time as something to be managed, I record everything and do budget versus actual comparisons. And I just measure everything because I think time is so important.” – Steve Ballmer, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers
This guy is serious about time management. I have seen some videos of him expounding on the subject, and he does it like no one else I am aware of at the moment. Mr. Ballmer offers us the opportunity to view our time like we view our money. Paying careful attention to how we’re spending it. Keeping track of where it’s going. Budgeting our time use. Maintaining an up-to-date balance as we would with our checkbook. I really like this quote and at the same time I know there has to be balance in how we view time management. No need in driving ourselves crazy by overdoing it.
Last but not least, Bill Gates (the principal founder of Microsoft) takes center stage with this quote “I also remember, Warren (Buffett) showing me his calendar. You know, I had every minute packed and I thought that was the only way you could do things. You control your time. Sitting and thinking may be a much higher priority than a normal CEO, where there’s all these demands and you feel like you need to go and see all these people. It’s not a proxy of your seriousness that you fill every minute in your schedule.”
Did you catch that? No, I mean did you really catch it? Mr. Gates asks us to loosen our grip on trying to be perfectly in control of each and every single solitary moment of our day through planning and scheduling. Which brings up the topic of balance, as I mentioned a moment ago. Use the calendar, planner, organizer or whatever we use that helps us stay productive. But we must understand that doing is not always necessarily doing. Sometimes doing is sitting with our thoughts brainstorming the next move, creating a mental strategy, winning in our thoughts. This one hits home hard with me because I would be the person who feels as if I am not progressing if I am not filling my schedule from the moment I wake to the time I go to bed. But as Gates stated, a well-planned calendar is not necessary to prove you are serious about your vision.
I hope these quotes will be useful to you as you navigate through the maze of time management. And I hope you find the motivation you need, and that you put into practice what you have learned here. I also hope you remember, what works for me may not work for you. What works for these men may not work for you. Time Management is an individual tactic and when it comes right down to it, each one has to find their own path.