Don’t Leave Your 2021 Goals to Your Future Self
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This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time
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Whether between family and friends, obligations and hobbies or, most generally, work and personal life, time management is all about finding the right balance – at least as presented by the myriad of recently published books treating the topic. Unfortunately, as people who have tried attaining some equilibrium in life have found out to their dismay and as chronic overachievers have intuitively realized, balancing things means not prioritizing them, and not everything you do in life is equally important.
“The concept of balance is not only a discordant metaphor for how to spend your time, but an ineffective strategy,” writes Rory Vaden in “Procrastinate on Purpose,” a sort of companion piece to the bestseller that made him a household name, “Take the Stairs.” He continues, stating that “striving for ‘work-life balance’ is an impractical standard; it’s one that won’t bring you the results you truly seek – and it should be avoided.”
Think about it this way: if you were thousands of dollars in debt, paying off an extra ten dollars per month more than your minimum balance would get you nowhere. What can change things is if you introduce some imbalance in your life – i.e., if you “find a way to make sacrifices in other areas of your life to throw more and more money at your debt problem until it was gone.”
The same holds true if you are 200 pounds overweight or if you are an entrepreneur trying to get your business off the ground: to get results in one area, you have to forego effort in another. After all, time is a finite resource, and, whatever you do, you won’t add an hour to the 24 in a given day, or a day to the 7 in your week.
And since time carries on at the exact same rate regardless of what you do, what remains are your choices regarding the imbalanced way you’ll spend it. “You can choose what you do today with the time you’ve been given,” says Vaden. “You can decide which things are worth investing yourself in and which are not.” Essentially a 5-step manual for multiplying time, “Procrastinate on Purpose” aims to help you make the right choices. And you’ll need no more than 12 minutes to understand what that means.
To get things going, first allow us to feed you some startling statistics about how people spend their time in the 21st century:
Now, is watching TV, constantly looking for stuff, and answering emails that important? Of course not! Then why are people spending so much time doing these things? Vaden states the blatantly obvious: overwhelmed with work assignments, hobbies, and all kinds of external distractions, we have become incapable of prioritizing properly.
To make his thought process somewhat clearer, Vaden points to Stephen Covey’s classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” and his “time management matrix.” In case you don’t know or remember, it’s nothing more but a four-quadrant matrix where the y-axis represents “Importance,” and the x-axis represents “Urgency.” Each of the quadrants thus formed represents a different type of task:
Now, most people spend time in the first and third quadrants, falling victim to something Charles Hummel described as “tyranny of the urgent” back in 1967, and what Vaden dubs “priority dilution” in his book. Most of life’s happiness, however, happens in the second quadrant, which explains why we are unhappy. In simpler terms, we are constantly pulling away from things that we know that are important but somehow don’t demand our attention right now, because, unfortunately, we make emotional and not rational choices when it comes to how we want to spend our time.
By “we,” Vaden doesn’t mean everybody, but only about 92% of the human population. The remaining 8% is what he estimates as “true multipliers” – i.e., people who regularly give themselves “five emotional permissions that the rest of us do not.” This way, they are able to spend more time in the first two of Covey’s quadrants and focus on the important stuff, and even add another dimension to their lives: significance (if “urgency” is about “how fast,” “importance” about “how much,” “significance” is about “how long something is going to matter”).
The good news is that you can emulate their success and result-driven approach to life by using the same five actionable, commonsense, time-multiplying strategies. Here they are.
You may think that you are not that kind of person capable of saying “no” to things and people, but whether you want it or not, anytime you say “yes” to one thing, you are simultaneously saying “no” to something else. You are only fooling yourself if you think otherwise.
In other words, whenever you said “yes” to watching TV or talking to your boss after work, you were involuntarily saying “no” to more time with your family or to the lifelong project of achieving your dreams. “You are either consciously saying ‘no’ to the things that don’t matter or you are unconsciously saying ‘no’ to the things that do,” Vaden reminds you.
In essence, it’s not even a choice you should ponder, because it boils down to a simple rule: unless you start consciously eliminating the things you don’t want to have in your life, you are unconsciously ruining your chances for happiness. The permission to “ignore” things “without ramping down time or needing to explain anything to anyone” is, for Vaden, “the most immediate area of improvement in multiplying time.”
You know where you can make these adjustments better than anyone, but in case you need some ideas from an expert on what to eliminate, here are some of the things on Vaden’s list:
Remember: saying “no” doesn’t mean being disagreeable to others; it means being reasonable and kind to yourself.
Only a few people understand the axiom "time is money" as a fact of life and not as a platitude. Even fewer understand that both are interchangeable in this equation – time can be bought and multiplied with money. In other words, just as investing some time in an endeavor of choice (like learning how to design) can bring you money after a certain period, investing some money to automate a particularly dull and repetitive practice can save much of your time almost instantly.
Consequently, excuses such as “not having the money” at the moment or “not having the time” are just that: excuses, stemming from Covey’s two-dimensional time management matrix. They fail to take into account the third dimension of time management: significance. When you take time into account, you suddenly realize it literally costs you more not to invest. “Automation is to your time what compounding interest is to your money,” says Vaden.
So, it’s time you permit yourself to invest some money to automate your life. Hootsuite and SocialOomph are just two of the programs that can help you manage your social media presence. If you are a company owner, schoox.com and similar online platforms can save you thousands of hours spent on individually training employees. Finally, setting up all of your regular monthly bills to be paid automatically through a bank draft is one of the best investments you will ever make.
Let’s stay with the equation “time = money” for one more permission and think about whether it allows for your perfectionism. It doesn’t take too much time to realize that it doesn’t: spending 20 minutes ruminating over the perfect word and eventually settling on the first idea means that you’ve just lost some money because every single second of your life has a price tag attached to it.
To calculate it, use Vaden’s simple MVOT (Money Value of Time) formula: divide the money you earn over a year with the hours you spend earning them. For example, if you earn 100,000 dollars a year and working 50 hours a week, your MVoT is 41.66 dollars. This means, to stay with our example, that those 20 minutes you spent thinking about a single world cost you about 13 dollars – while you could have written at least two more paragraphs.
Time to change that. Give yourself permission to be imperfect and start delegating the insignificant, unimportant, and even urgent tasks. Most of us don’t delegate because of the false belief that someone else won’t be able to do something as well as we can. That may be true, but only once or twice. When it is a repetitive task, believe it or not, studies have decisively shown that even if you invest 30 times the amount of time it takes you to complete a task in training someone else to it – it will still be worth it! “Leadership isn’t about getting things done right,” taught us pastor Andy Stanley. “It’s about getting things done through other people.”
While "procrastinating" implies not doing something you know you should (often due to lack of desire or motivation), "procrastinating on purpose" means not doing it because you have decided that “now is not the right time.” It is quite different and, in more than one way, procrastinating on purpose means nothing more than being patient - it often pays off.
Waiting to do something until the very last minute reduces your vulnerability to unexpected costs change. For example, if someone orders 100 units of a product that you make and those are shipped ahead of schedule, any last-minute change of mind will cost you both time and money. Gunslingers, as Vaden calls purposeful procrastinators, know this and think of the “last minute” as the “right minute.” True, they risk waiting too long and after-last-minute costs, but that’s a lesser and more sporadic risk than the one their Bizzaro versions, the “worry warts,” constantly face: the unexpected change cost due to early action.
That’s why the worrywarts must change and permit themselves to be incomplete. Because “a multiplier works to be precisely on time.” If early was used to “on time” and “on time” was late, now it’s the other way around: “early is risky and last minute is right on time.”
As we elucidated above, your topmost priorities are not only the things that are important to you (i.e., they matter to you much) but, even more, the things that are significant (i.e., they matter to you in the long run). We remind you of this so that you can feel the full force of Vaden’s most important life rule: “Until you accomplish your next most Significant priority, everything else in life is a distraction.” Consequently, there is one critical question that you have to always ask yourself: “Is what I’m doing right now the next most significant use of my time?”
If the answer to this question is “no,” then, most probably, you are doing something that is someone else’s priority. Sacrificing your priorities for other people is not the way to go through life: your highest obligation to both the people who love you and those who don’t (for different reasons, of course) is to be your highest self.
And you can become that by concentrating more on the things that are significant to you, specifically. “As a Multiplier,” writes Vaden, “it is your obligation to spend time on things today that create more opportunity for those around you tomorrow.”
“Procrastinate on Purpose” starts with quite a bold premise: “everything you know about time management is wrong.” Unfortunately, by the end of the book, one gets the feeling that quite the opposite is true: there are very few new insights that Vaden can offer to people familiar with time management and productivity classics such as David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” or Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (which Vaden both references and recommends).
Of course, Vaden is a skillful wordsmith, so one constantly gets the feeling that they are reading something revolutionary and groundbreaking, courtesy of a few trademarked neologisms, one or two deconstructed metaphors, and a simple, nicely structured and easily memorable 5-step action plan.
If you need something like that to freshen your vistas, then be our guest. If, however, you’ve read your fair share of time management guidebooks, nothing especially new to see here: you’ll miss little if you simply skip this one and move on to its “sequel”: Vaden’s “Take the Stairs.”
Five simple steps separate you from greatness. Employ them. Eliminate everything inessential from your life, automate all processes that you can, delegate when delegating means saving money and time, procrastinate on purpose by waiting until the last minute before making an important decision, and concentrate by ignoring distractions.
Rory Vaden is the bestselling author of “Take the Stairs” and “Procrastinate on Purpose.” He consults business leaders on branding strategies, self-discipline, and time management. Aside from appearing as a fre... (Read more)
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