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" 'Dear Miss Brodie, I hope it will be convenient for you to see me in my office this afternoon at 4:15. Emily Mackay.'

"Four fifteen. Not four, not four thirty, but four fifteen. She thinks to intimidate me by the use of quarter hours."

— Jean Brodie in the movie, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969)

"We can know whether what we are doing is absurd only after we have identified the goals we are trying to achieve."

—Charles Hughes, former president of Texas Instruments

“Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

From William Shakespeare's As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 2


[Aside to CELIA] I will speak to him, like a saucy lackey and under that habit play the knave with him. Do you hear, forester?


Very well: what would you?


I pray you, what is't o'clock?


You should ask me what time o' day: there's no clock in the forest.


Then there is no true lover in the forest; else sighing every minute and groaning every hour would detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.


And why not the swift foot of Time? had not that been as proper?


By no means, sir: Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I'll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal and who he stands still withal.


I prithee, who doth he trot withal?


Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized: if the interim be but a se'nnight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.


Who ambles Time withal?


With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study, and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain, the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury; these Time ambles withal.


Who doth he gallop withal?


With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.


Who stays it still withal?


With lawyers in the vacation, for they sleep between term and term and then they perceive not how Time moves.

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From William Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part One

Act 1, scene 2



Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?


Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack and unbuttoning thee after supper and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.

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From William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

In this material, Shakespeare allows Time himself to speak directly to the audience. This is mainly to advance the plot of the play, but Time can't resist reminding us of his power and purpose.

Act 4, Scene 1

[Enter TIME, the Chorus]


I, that please some, try all, both joy and terror

Of good and bad, that makes and unfolds error,

Now take upon me, in the name of Time,

To use my wings. Impute it not a crime

To me or my swift passage, that I slide

O'er sixteen years and leave the growth untried

Of that wide gap, since it is in my power

To o'erthrow law and in one self-born hour

To plant and o'erwhelm custom. Let me pass

The same I am, ere ancient'st order was

Or what is now received: I witness to

The times that brought them in; so shall I do

To the freshest things now reigning and make stale

The glistering of this present, as my tale

Now seems to it. Your patience this allowing,

I turn my glass and give my scene such growing

As you had slept between: Leontes leaving,

The effects of his fond jealousies so grieving

That he shuts up himself, imagine me,

Gentle spectators, that I now may be

In fair Bohemia, and remember well,

I mentioned a son o' the king's, which Florizel

I now name to you; and with speed so pace

To speak of Perdita, now grown in grace

Equal with wondering: what of her ensues

I list not prophecy; but let Time's news,

Be known when 'tis brought forth.

A shepherd's daughter,

And what to her adheres, which follows after,

Is the argument of Time. Of this allow,

If ever you have spent time worse ere now;

If never, yet that Time himself doth say

He wishes earnestly you never may.


From the 1994 movie, Reality Bites. . .

Lelaina: Vicki, he will turn this place into a den of slack… (To Troy) I have to work around here, and unfortunately, Troy, you are a master at the art of time suckage.

Troy: I’m sorry Miss Poster Girl for the Worker’s Party, but until I get that toehold in the burger industry, I've got a little time to suck.

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“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings."

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

"As he approached the office he walked faster and faster, muttering, 'Guess better hustle.' All about him the city was hustling, for hustling's sake.

"Men in motors were hustling to pass one another in the hustling traffic. Men were hustling to catch trolleys, with another trolley a minute behind, and to leap from the trolleys, to gallop across the sidewalk, to hurl themselves into buildings, into hustling express elevators. Men in dairy lunches were hustling to gulp down the food which cooks had hustled to fry. Men in barber shops were snapping, 'Jus' shave me once over. Gotta hustle.'

"Men were feverishly getting rid of visitors in offices adorned with the signs, 'This Is My Busy Day' and 'The Lord Created the World in Six Days — You Can Spiel All You Got to Say in Six Minutes.' Men who had made five thousand, year before last, and ten thousand last year, were urging on nerve-yelping bodies and parched brains so that they might make twenty thousand this year; and the men who had broken down immediately after making their twenty thousand dollars were hustling to catch trains, to hustle through the vacations which the hustling doctors had ordered.

"Among them Babbitt hustled back to his office, to sit down with nothing much to do except see that the staff looked as though they were hustling."

— Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt (1922)

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A Manager Speaks

Marlow: Do you, call it "unsound method?"

The Manager: Without doubt. Don't you?

Marlow: No method at all.

The Manager: Exactly. ! anticipated this. Shows a complete want of judgment. It is my duty to point it out in the proper quarter.

— Adapted from Heart of Darkness, Chapter 3, by Joseph Conrad

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"Ad hoc, ad loc and quid pro quo. Ha! Ha! So little time — so much to know!"

— Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D. in the movie Yellow Submarine (1968). Dr. Boob is a fictional cartoon character also known as "Nowhere Man."

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"There's some devil in us that drives us to and fro on everlasting idiocies. There’s time for everything except the things worth doing.

"Think of something you really care about. Then add hour to hour and calculate the fraction of your life that you’ve actually spent in doing it.

"And then calculate the time you’ve spent on things like shaving, riding to and fro on buses, waiting in railway junctions, swapping dirty stories, and reading the newspapers."

— George Orwell in Coming up for Air (1939)

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"Compromising with events time moves along."

— F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Beautiful and Damned (1922)

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"What is time for except to be wasted?"

— Alan Watts

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"The accumulation of stuff hasn't always been a problem. In fact, the phenomenon only took place in the last 50 years (just look at the size of closets built prior to 1940). Hoarding goods is, in some ways, tied to economic prosperity, but the biggest reason for the recent glut of stuff is a decreased sense of organization and simplification."

— Mark H. McCormack
in Getting Results for Dummies (1999)

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"Though there was nowhere one so busy as he, he was less busy than he seemed to be."

— Description of the lawyer in the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

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"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."

— Andy Warhol

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"A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."

— Charles Darwin

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"We experience irritation when something is not quite right – something needs soothing or scratching.

"But if you don’t immediately soothe or scratch it, and the irritation continues, you may not be paying attention to something and your productivity is diminished.

"Irritating people are usually irritating to the degree you’re not clear what you want or what you’re doing. If you’re highly focused on where you’re going and your priorities, you’ll know how to deal with things that are not in alignment with you and will act accordingly.

"If you stick around irritation, look to see if you want something you’re afraid of losing if you confront or bypass it, or whether it’s just a reminder that you’re irritated with yourself for not being more focused."

David Allen (2004)

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"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."

— William Shakespeare (in the character of Richard II)

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"The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves."

— Stephen R. Covey

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"There is no worse feeling than being acutely aware that you should not be doing what you're doing, or conversely, that you should be doing something you aren't doing. Whenever you find yourself in this kind of situation — and all people do from time to time, even those who are generally self-disciplined — it's important to be conscious of the fact that you have chosen to do the wrong thing. To the extent that you ignore this reality, you find it increasingly easier to focus on immediate pleasure, which in turn can result in a grim future. "

— Robert J. Ringer

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"We must use time as a tool, not as a couch."

— John F. Kennedy

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Houston Time:

Greenwich Mean Time:

"It's time for Time."

— John Lennon (as a cartoon character) in the movie Yellow Submarine (1968)

Author's Note: For years, I used the phrase, "It's time for time," without realizing that the line did not originate with me. A single viewing of Yellow Submarine had made the phrase a permanent part of my consciousness.

The material about time includes the song, "When I'm Sixty-Four." At about one minute and 25 seconds into the song, the film tells the viewer that:

"Sixty-four years is 33,661,440 minutes and one minute is a long time."

Using the psychedelic imagery of the movie, the segment counts up the seconds, going all the way to 64. The idea is to show how long a minute is when you really pay attention.

Yellow Submarine movie quotes


© 1995, 2012 by Grady McAllister. All Rights Reserved.

By Grady McAllister

Presented December 10, 1995
The University of Houston
College of Technology

This paper was written by Grady McAllister. It was completed as a research project for a class in Occupational Technology at the University of Houston. The ideas expressed do not represent the views of the University of Houston or the College of Technology.

This material is a presentation of The Vasthead.

"Get your attitude straight, 'Cos it's all in your mind
And it's never too late to get a new design
And if you wanna compete you gotta visualize
Flash those teeth, come on open those eyes
Think visual!"

—The Kinks (1986).

In today's competitive environment, there are all sorts of materials on how to be successful. Some are about visualizing your way to success. Some are about selling your way to success. Some are about the body language of success. Some are about arguing your way to success. Some are about networking your way to success. Some are about dressing for success.

Some are about success in general.

Any material that takes an overall approach to success has something to say about time management: It is only through time that any kind of success can be achieved.

In his book The 100% Solution, Mark McCormack points to excessive time with a newspaper as a symbol for all wasted time:

There are moments when all of us do the equivalent of scanning the newspaper rather than create some news of our own. This could be time spent as a couch potato in front of the television, when blessed silence would be more soothing or constructive. It could be a whole morning waiting for someone…Or minutes wasted standing in line…

We should ask ourselves whether better planning would cut back on those hours that add up astonishingly. Remember, these moments are our "prime time" that we can never recapture. And we have only ourselves to blame.

Robert Ringer, author of Million Dollar Habits, says:

I believe that the source of most people’s frustration is that there are only 24 hours in a day, and we can never really seem to find the time to work on the really important things, the things that take creativity.

Ringer advocates the "self-discipline" to devote at least four hours a day to "quite, creative thought." He tells people in any career to "learn to do it religiously if you aspire to rise above mediocrity."

And then, there are the time management trainers. Rather than just a slice of advice, they offer an entire system to help capture time.


When Alan Lakein published his classic book, How To Get Control Of Your Time and Your Life (1973), he claimed to operate "the only company in the country devoted exclusively to time management." Nothing like that is true today. Time management experts are superabundant.

Recent time management authors Merrill and Donna Douglas have seen interest in their subject swell as time itself seems to shrink:

Although time management has always been important, it is only in recent years that large numbers of people have devoted much attention to it. Forty years ago there were no books and only an occasional article. Even twenty years ago there were only two or three books and a handful of articles. Few companies were teaching time management in the 1970’s. Now there are hundreds of books and thousands of articles, and every major company teaches it.

They suggest three reasons for the new interest:

  • Ever higher expectations on the job. "Very seldom do people report that this year their organization expects less of them than last year!"

  • A rising complexity in the work environment. Some of the elements are foreign competition, total quality management, self-directed work teams, and technology.

  • When the pace of change becomes greater than an individual’s ability to cope with it, problems develop. Most of these problems revolve around time issues.

Because time management really means the control of events, it can be tied to many other professional development topics. These include communications, mission statements, team building, continuous learning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

In his discussion of time management, Mark McCormack says that decision-making has become captive to today’s rapid pace:

Slow decisions are usually better than fast ones. No decisions are better than wrong ones.

The world prefers fast decisions to slow ones, wrong ones to none at all…In an accelerated age, where people put a premium on speed and hyper-efficiency…you have to fight like mad against the impulse to rush a decision…

Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t deal with that…And so they importune us for snap decisions. They make us supply the answers as quickly as they ask the questions.

And that is a dangerous way to work.

High technology is one of the reasons for this rush to decide:

Word processors smother us with documents, seducing us into believing we are adequately informed. FAX machines make even the most trivial request seem urgent. Overnight deliveries force us to respond in kind: We make decisions overnight…

McCormack believes that modern office technology may be "prodding us too quickly to make decisions that need far more thought."

Sometimes people push up the pace just to appear busy. A. Roger Merrill, coauthor of First Things First (1994), writes about an R&D division in which he was expected to teach time management. Before offering any training, Merrill did some analysis:

As I was escorted from one office to another, I became increasingly intrigued to see the identical scene over and over again. In each office, a somewhat frazzled man or woman — one hand on the phone, another on the computer, desk literally piled with papers—would look and say, "just a minute! I’ll be right with you."

After hurriedly completing some task or phone conversation, the person would sigh, take a quick look at the clock, and push papers aside long enough to tell me how incredibly busy they were and how there was literally more to do than could possibly be done.

When walking between offices, they rushed down the halls. They increased their pace whenever they walked in front of someone else’s door.

There was "a sense of gushing energy and panic everywhere." These people, Merrill decided, did not want time management. The wanted to look overwhelmed. Their business was busy-ness.

Merrill returned to the manager of the division:

I said, "These people love urgency. They’re out there trying to convince each other and themselves that they have more to do than anybody else. This is where they’re getting their security. Urgency dominates the culture. I suspect that the real problem is that nobody really knows what the priorities are."

She sighed, "That’s right. There’s a big power struggle between the vice-presidents in terms of what R&D is supposed to do. Each one has a following. Frankly we’re at odds with each other. There’s not a clear set of signals. We don’t know how long it's going to last, but one of these days things are going to come unglued."

The employees were keeping frantically busy in order to maintain their identity and security in the organization. They wanted to seem as if they were really needed. Shortly thereafter, the big shake up came and many lost their jobs anyway. Merrill writes:

Before their reorganization we could have taught traditional time management till we were blue in the face. The core problem was a lack of a shared vision.

Whether or not it is always productive, the breakneck pace will only increase in the years ahead.


David Ricardo (1772-1823) was one of the first economists to recognize that the time it takes to make an item is an important part of its value. In Power Shift (1990), Alvin Toffler portrays a future in which the value of time is far more critical than ever before. It is a world in which entire nations are either "fast" or "slow":

Their pace is determined be the speed of transactions, the time needed to make decisions, the speed with which new ideas are created in laboratories, the rate at which they are brought to market, the velocity of capital flows, and above all the speed with which data, information, and knowledge pulse through the economic system.

According to Toffler, the rapid pace of the American economy is starting to bring back some jobs that had been farmed out to slower, cheap labor countries: "These shifts can be traced, in part, to the rising importance of time in economics." More than a matter of technology, home-based operations increase the speed with which decision can be implemented, controlled, and changed.

Time becomes a ghost in the economic machine, a spirit that feeds on itself:

In due course, the entire wealth creation cycle will be monitored as it happens…making each unit of time more valuable than the last…a positive feedback that accelerates the acceleration. The consequences of this, in turn, will not be merely evolutionary, but revolutionary, because real-time work, management, and finance will be radically different from even today’s most advanced methods.


Time, like a precious metal, seems to become more scarce even as it increases in value. For many workers, this can translate into longer days for smaller prizes.

A generation ago, the future seemed to offer something very different. Robert Half, founder of the personnel recruiting agency, Robert Half International, recalls that:

Back in the 1950's, when the economy was booming, housing was plentiful and cheap, and jobs were easily available…there was a growing emphasis on leisure time. It wasn't a negative thing; it didn't represent a generation lazier than the previous one. A recurring time management topic of that era was what to do with the increasing abundance of leisure time that was sure to come. It was widely hoped that this new time ownership would mean more time for intellectual growth and the betterment of society. The editors of Life proclaimed that the United States was on the edge of "golden age" in which an American would be: Freer and bolder than the Greeks, more just and powerful than the Romans, wiser than the Confucian, saner than the French, more responsible than the Victorian, and happier than all of them together.

As late as 1967, expert testimony before a Senate subcommittee predicted that by 1985 we would be able to choose between a 22-hour workweek, a 27-week work year, and retirement at age 38.


By 1989, the world looked very different. The paucity of time (the reality) had reached a point where it rated a cover story in Time (the magazine). Nancy Gibbs wrote in the April 24 issue:

These are the days of the time famine. Time that once seemed free and elastic has grown tight and elusive, and so our measure of it’s worth has dramatically changed. One of the factors cutting into free time was the need for constant training and retraining: The pace of change and the explosion mean that professionals are swamped with too many facts to absorb. Meanwhile, the drill press operator discovers that the drill comes with a computer attached to it. Workers find that it takes all of their energy to remain qualified for their jobs, much less acquire new skills that might allow for a promotion.

According to Harvard economics professor Juliet B. Schor, "From the end of the 1960’s to the present, Americans have increased the time spent at work by almost 160 hours—or nearly one month—per year. In The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (1992), Schor says Americans work more hours than any other industrial country except Japan.

Even that difference, she says, is offset by the fact that Japan’s mostly male workers do nearly all of their work on the job and almost none in the home. The same can not be said of American workers, whether male or female.

Echoing Schor’s finding, a Lou Harris survey reports that leisure time has shrunk nearly 40 per cent since 1973. The average workweek has expanded from 40 to 47 hours, and in some professions 60 hour workweeks have become common.

Ralph Keys, author of Timelock (1991), writes:

From telegrams to faxes, one technological innovation after another has met our demands for a faster tempo, then speeded it up some more. Labor-saving devices eased the drudgery of our lives but added to the expense. So we become two-paycheck families, work overtime, and moonlight.

We’re time warriors who keep huge appointment calendars…buy gadgets that promise to save us time, give up such activities as reading as luxuries from the past, try to do everything just a bit faster and wonder why none of the above seems to ease time’s crushing pressure.



In a quest to win back time, many people turn to time management tools to plan and record events. For pragmatic personalities, an organizer can seem like the perfect way to keep up with what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

Stephen Covey calls this the "Magic Tool Approach" to time management. In First Things First he writes:The Magic Tool Approach is based on the assumption that the right tool (the right calendar, the right planner, the right computer program, the right handheld or laptop computer) will give us power to create quality in or lives. These tools typically help us keep track of priorities, organize tasks, and more easily access key information. The basic assumption is that systems and structures can make us more effective.

Classy-looking leather planners have even become something of a status symbol—an indicator that people are on the fast track and really have their act together.

According to Covey, there is much merit in the idea of using the right tool for the job. A tool can help you keep track of priorities, keep goals in front of you, organize tasks, and organize and quickly access information: The sheer number of both paper-based and electronic tools on the market suggests that this is a highly popular approach. Tools are a symbol of hope. There’s a sense of order that comes from having something in hand that suggests order. There’s a feeling of satisfaction in writing things down, checking things off, keeping track of things in our lives. Covey also points to some weaknesses in the "magic tool" approach. One is that it fails to consider the "extrinsic realities that govern the quality of life." Another is that no tool or technology is a substitute for "vision, judgment, creativity, character, or competence."

A person becomes like the frustrated photographer who believes that a highly programmed camera is necessary for a good photograph:

A great camera doesn't produce a great photographer. A great word processor doesn't make a great poet. Neither will even a great organizer make a great life — although a new planner or organizer often carries such an implied promise. A good tool can enhance our ability to create quality of life, but it can never create it for us. The printed organizers come in sizes ranging from pocket size to legal-page size. More and more an organizer is a program for a personal computer or stand-alone digital device.

However, the typical organizer is a seven-ring binder with sheets that are half-letter size. The best known organizers are the Day-Timer, the Day-Runner, and the Franklin Day Planner.

Here are some elements that most organizers have in common:
  • A place for recording personal goals and goals with an organization.
  • A place to list all the tasks that need to be done.
This list includes actions that help achieve the goals. It is also a place holder for other tasks such as ordering office supplies or cleaning out the garage. It can be written either as a single list or as a separate list for each month.
  • Calendars for weekly, monthly, and long-term planning.
Most planning tools include one-page monthly calendars and additional one-page calendars for future years. The Stephen Covey First Things First system adds weekly calendars to encourage weekly planning.
  • Calendars for daily planning.
The daily calendar has separate places for tasks and appointments. In the appointment section, you write only items scheduled for a specific time. The task list is a place to write all the other actions planned for the day. There can also be sections to record expenses and telephone calls.
  • A place for frequently used telephone numbers.
  • A way of organizing material according to the subject matter.
  • An organizer may include tabbed divider sheets. Users can assign tabs to subjects that meet their specific needs. Examples include: values and goals lists, mission statements, ongoing projects, hobbies, persons spoken to on a regular basis, agenda for meetings, and favorite quotations
  • A system for recording and retrieving information.
Most daily planning pages include space for recording data received on that day.

A simple retrieval system is to attach a paper clip or Post-It ™ to any page with important information. Another method is to look at the monthly calendars to get back to information on a daily page.

A more comprehensive approach is to create a summary index: List each day of the month and write a key word for each item on that date. Some people keep a card catalogue that records all the dates when a subject appears.

Any tool is only a tool; it is not the actual control of events. Yet, probably more than any other people in the world, Americans have always searched for methods to help assure success.


In working toward his doctorate, Stephen Covey conducted a systematic study of American success literature since 1776. In The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (1989) Covey writes:

I began to feel more and more that much of the success literature of the past 50 years was superficial. It was filled with social image consciousness, techniques and quick fixes…

In stark contrast, almost all the literature in the first 150 years focused on what could be called the Character Ethic as the foundation of success —things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule…

But shortly after World War I the basic view of success shifted from the Character Ethic to what we might call the Personality Ethic.

This Personality Ethic appeared in two forms: One was human and public relations techniques, and the other was positive mental attitude (PMA). Some of this was expressed in inspiring and sometimes valid maxims such as "Your attitude determines your altitude"…

Other parts of the personality approach were clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the "power look," or to intimidate their way through life…

The basic thrust of this literature was "quick-fix influence techniques, power strategies, communications skills, and positive attitudes."


One example of the early character-based advice is Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. In it, Franklin describes his thirteen "virtues," values that he worked to establish as permanent habits in his life:

1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation.

2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or your self. Avoid trifling Conversation.

3. ORDER. Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.

4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

5. FRUGALITY. Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., Waste nothing.

6. INDUSTRY. Lose no Time. Be always employ'd in something useful.—Cut off all unnecessary Actions.—

7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak; speak accordingly.

8. JUSTICE. Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.

9. MODERATION. Avoid Extremes. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths or Habitation.

11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.

12. CHASTITY. Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dulness, Weakness, or the Injury or your own or another's Peace or Reputation.

13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin explains how he endeavored to make each virtue a reality:

I judg'd it would be well not to distract my Attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time, and when I should be Master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on till I should have gone thro' the thirteen.

Franklin produced a book that contained a page for each virtue. At the top of each page was its name and its clarifying statement.

He divided each page into rows and columns. Along the left side of the page, he listed all thirteen virtues. Along the top, he wrote the days of the week. This layout created boxes for each virtue under each day of the week.

He put a black dot in a box for each time he violated a virtue, but he put his main effort on one virtue at a time:

I determined to give a Week's strict Attention to each of the Virtues successively. Thus in the first Week my great Guard was to avoid every the least Offense against Temperance, leaving my other Virtues to their ordinary Chance, only marking every Evening the Faults of the Day.

To help satisfy his desire for "Order," he created a schedule for all of his regular activities. Franklin admits that he had trouble actually following his schedule. His reason is one that most people could relate to today: "tho' it might be practicable where a Man's Business was such as to leave him the Disposition of his Time" it became difficult when someone "must mix with the World, and often receive People of Business at their own Hours."

American literature also offers example of people who try to plan their day—often with ironic results.

We find two examples in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925). Gatsby is an ambitious entrepreneur who has quickly made a fortune as a bootlegger. He buys a mansion on Long Island to be close to a former lover, Daisy. She is a society woman who has since married a rich husband, Tom Buchanan.

Meanwhile, Tom has acquired a mistress, Myrtle Wilson. In a scene early in the novel, Myrtle lists her planned activities:

I’m going to make a list of all the things I've got to get. A massage and a wave, and a collar for the dog, and one of those cute little ash trays where you touch a spring, and a wreath with a black silk bow for mother’s grave that’ll last all summer. I’ve got to write down a list so I won’t forget all the things I’ve got to do. When Daisy accidentally kills Myrtle in a hit-and-run accident, Tom convinces her husband that Gatsby was the driver. The husband kills Gatsby before taking his own life.

Although Gatsby had conducted lavish parties, involving hundreds of revelers, only two appear for his funeral. Gatsby’s father, Mr. Gatz, arrives shortly before the burial. Gatz is met by Nick Caraway who serves as narrator in the novel.

Mr. Gatz shows Carraway a book which Gatsby had owned as a boy. It includes a daily schedule with an exact time for such activities as "practice elocution, poise and how to attain it," and "study needed inventions." It also includes a list of goals ("resolves") such as "bath every other day" and "read one improving book or magazine per week."

Caraway describes the scene this way:

"I just come across this book by accident," said the old man. "It just shows you, don’t it? . . .Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something."

He was reluctant to close the book, reading each item aloud and then looking eagerly at me. I think he rather expected me to copy down the list for my own use.

During the climax of his novel, The House of the Seven Gables (1851) Nathaniel Hawthorne contrasts a character’s written plan for a day with what actually occurs.

In a prologue to the story, Hawthorne describes how Colonel Pyncheon, a Puritan leader in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, had erected the House of the Seven Gables. The Colonel acquired the land by having the original owner, Matthew Maule, tried and hanged for witchcraft. The wizard aims these last words at the Colonel: "God will give him blood to drink!"

The Colonel builds his mansion on Maule’s property and schedules a grand reception. When the Colonel fails to appear, his guests find him seated in his chair with blood on his beard—dead at the moment of his greatest triumph.

Nearly 200 years later, one of the colonel’s descendants, Judge Jeffrey Pyncheon, sits in the very same chair in the very same house. He is like the original patriarch in appearance, temperament, and ambition.

The judge is waiting to speak to his cousin Clifford. The cousin has just emerged from prison, having served 30 years for a murder he did not commit. The judge, who played a role in Clifford’s confinement, hopes to blackmail him for information on a vast tract of land. Should Clifford fail to provide the information, the judge will have him declared a lunatic and put him away for a second time.

The judge allots only 30 minute for his business with Clifford. Using a very simple time management tool, a list on the back of one of his business cards, the judge has planned many activities for the day.

Yet, two hours pass and the judge continues to wait in the ancestral chair. In his narrative, Hawthorne chides the normally punctual judge for his sudden "sluggishness":

Half an hour? Why, judge, it is already two hours, by your own undeviating chronometer! Glance down your eye at it, and see. Ah; he will not give himself the trouble to bend his head, or elevate his hand, so as to bring the faithful timekeeper within his range of vision. Time, all at once, appears to have become a matter of no moment with the Judge! And has he forgotten all the other items of his memoranda?The judge is dead, struck down by same mysterious ailment that has killed several of his ancestors. Clifford, finding the body, has fled the house, leaving the judge as its only occupant.

As the time of day progresses, the narrative details each action that the judge had planned. Each item is sardonically described as if he was still capable of accomplishing it. The list includes buying a new horse, visiting his doctor, replacing a broken gravestone for his late wife ("better, at least, than if she had never needed any!"), and attending a banquet at which he is to be hand-picked as the next governor.

With macabre irony, the author exhorts him again and again to rise up and attend to his schedule. As the judge continues his silent vigil, the day fades into night and the night fades into the following day. The morning reveals a fly buzzing around the judge’s open eyes. Hawthorne concludes:Canst thou not brush the fly away? Art thou too sluggish? Thou man, that hadst so many busy projects yesterday! Art thou too weak that wast so powerful? Not brush away a fly! Nay, then, we give thee up!

It would be hard to find a clearer example of how far real events can veer away from a written schedule. Stories like these also show that it is hard to control events when someone has his values out of alignment with reality. An emphasis on values and principles has been the main contribution of recent time management systems.


Charles R. Hobbs is the most influential time management trainer of recent decades. Yet little has been written about him on the web. The following paragraphs will help to address that gap.

Charles R. Hobbs helped popularize value-based time management training, and many subsequent programs build upon ideas that Hobbs first developed.

Hobbs received his doctorate from Teacher’s college at Columbia University. In 1974, he left his position as Associate Director of the Teacher Development Program and spent the next eighteen months developing his Time Power system. Hobbs sees his curriculum as the logical outgrowth of his "life career question": "How can a teacher bring about change in the lives of people through group instruction?"

Hobbs decided that existing time management training was "mechanical and disconnected." Hobbs writes:

The ideas they taught were not interrelated into a cohesive system. The humanness of the people was casually traded for ploys to "get the job done," and the jobs that were being done …were too-often low yielding activities draped in the cloak of screaming urgency; impulses, not priorities.

He wanted a system that would "help the student attain measurable increases in his personal productivity at work while maintaining a balanced personal life perspective."

Hobbs says that Time Power causes "permanent change" in people because it builds the "continuity of experience" advocated by John Dewey, the educator and philosopher: Dewey proposed that each experience builds on what has gone before and modifies the quality of what comes after. It came to me that the planning of goals in light of one’s total experience calls for the same kind of continuity. The key, Hobbs decided, was to tie together each individual’s personal values, goals, and daily planning into one continuous system.

Hobbs says you should determine what ideas make up your personal value system and write each of them as an action statement. These are very general statements that represent the "highest priorities in life." Hobbs calls these statements "unifying principles." They can form the basis for setting goals and making other decisions.

Examples include: Commit to a more excellent way. Earn the good will of others. Be honest. Be a leader. Believe in people. Grow intellectually. Have personal integrity. Hobbs states:

There is a reality that few people recognize. An individual can not effectively manage time without personal congruity, and congruity is not possible without clearly defined values that are brought under control in personal thought and performance. Hobbs defines congruity as "experiencing balance, harmony, and appropriateness with events in your life."

Incongruity is "tinkering with tantalizing trivialities." You can achieve "self-unification" when there is congruity between your value system and actual performance. According to Hobbs: As you form a congruity between what you believe to be right and how you perform, you will experience the highest form of self-actualization.Hobbs says he is not trying to impose any particular value system. The purpose of his program is to reach all persons no matter where they are "coming from."

Religious persons would go to the inspirational literature of their religions to help them form their unifying principles. Hobbs says many secular sources, such as Shakespeare and other classic literature, may also include the "highest truths." Hobbs found his own best treatment of "humility" in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales . He also recommends biographies for generating ideas on unifying principles. He advises against relying on the field of psychology, since much of it is "theory" that has not yet "stood the test of time."

All other goals build on these "unifying principles." From that point, planning goes to goals that are increasingly specific. Long-range goals build upon the unifying principles. Intermediate goals build upon the long-range goals. Daily goals include actions that help achieve the intermediate goals.

Hobbs calls this the "productivity pyramid." It is illustrated as a pyramid with the unifying principles at the base and daily actions at the top.

Hobbs recommends a 15-minute planning session every day to maintain continuity in the planning process.

The daily plan, goals, and unifying principles all go into a Day-Timer organizer. The format he recommends has a two-page spread for each day of the month. Available from Day-Timers, Inc., in Allentown, Pennsylvania, they come in sizes ranging from pocket-size to full letter-size.

Regardless of the size selected, Hobbs says you must carry the Day-Timer everywhere you go. The idea is to keep all of planning materials constantly available and to have a place to write incoming data. You must limit yourself to only one Day-Timer: If you use more than one, you’ll be "flitting back and forth" between them trying to find information.

The use of the Day-Timer builds upon Hobbs’ "theory of accessibility," developed in his doctoral dissertation at Columbia University. The theory states: "If a goal is meaningfully, directly, and continually visible, your chances of achieving it increase." By keeping their values, goals, and planning in the Day-Timer, people will be more likely to perform in the ways they had intended.

The system includes a series of questions to help select and prioritize the unifying principles, personal life goals, goals with an organization, and items on a daily action list.

Time Power also includes "productivity goals." These are ongoing goals that emphasize time management itself. Their purpose is to help keep people focused on the need for time management and to help them succeed with the system.

Here are some examples of productivity goals:

  • Do the most vital task now.
  • Limit TV programs to the vital few—if any.
  • Be sensitive to the vital priorities of others.
  • Clean my desk every afternoon before leaving work.
  • Never seek a solution to a problem until it is clearly defined.
  • When talking with someone, take 100% of the responsibility for seeing that communication is achieved.
  • Never say in 100 words what can be better said in ten.

Hobbs suggests that you place a list of productivity goals in the Day-Timer and re-write two or three of them on each daily action list.


Day-Timers now down-plays Time Power in favor of its new 4-D program. They no longer offer Hobbs’ tapes to the public.

However, the Franklin Quest Company in Salt Lake City offers a remarkably similar program. The company CEO Hyrum Smith has written two books and recorded several audio cassettes that capture his TimeQuest seminar. Like Time Power, he bases his program on a "productivity pyramid." The seminar parallels many of Hobbs’ key points and uses many of the same anecdotes and illustrations.

Franklin Quest offers the Day Planner, an organizer comparable to the Day-Timer Two-Page-Per-Day Reference Edition.

Less academic than Hobbs, Smith can often turn a phrase in a way likely to be remembered. Here are a few of Smith’s observations:

On "not having enough time ":

I f you called me on the phone today and said, "Hyrum, I’d like you to have dinner with me tonight," and I answered, "Sorry, I would really like to have dinner with you tonight but I just don’t have the time," I would be lying. What I am really saying is: "I value some other event more than having dinner with you." Why don’t I just come out and say that? Well, it’s culturally okay to say "I don’t have the time." It’s not culturally okay to say, "I value another event more than having dinner with you—so I’m not going!"

On having an unclear job definition:

It’s like speeding down the highway and running into a fog bank.

On the need for daily planning:

If there is anything that I could get you to do…it would be to spend ten to fifteen minutes each morning planning your day. If I could get you to do that, you’d not only scare yourself, you’d intimidate everybody on your block.

On the feeling created by a crossing a task off a list:

Suppose you accomplish a task that was not on your "to do" list. What do you do? You add it on and cross it off. It feels terrific doesn't it?…Do you know why it feels terrific?…They’ve discovered that when you accomplish a task and cross it off, your brain produces a chemical called endorphin that causes you to experience a euphoric high similar to the effect of taking morphine.

Hyrum Smith recalls a conversation that illustrates his retrieval system with the Franklin Day Planner: Early one morning, Smith is planning his day. A note on his daily task list tells him that he needs to call someone named "Bill." He doesn't remember the man at all.

The note refers him to a page four months earlier. That page tells him that the man is a prospect for his seminar and gives some details about their discussion. Smith is now ready to speak intelligently with someone whom he did not ever remember just a few minutes earlier. The time is 5:30 A.M., Salt Lake City time. The conversation goes like this:

Hyrum: Good morning, Bill, this is Hyrum Smith. What time is it now in New York?

Bill: Damn.

Hyrum: You may recall we had a conversation on January 14 at 4:30 in the afternoon. We spent twelve minutes on the phone. Do you remember that conversation?

Bill: Damn.

Like Hobbs, Smith tells people to carry their organizer everywhere. In his book, The Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time and Management (1994), he writes:

If you don’t have it with you, you’ll end up writing things on scraps of paper and becoming disorganized. And since you will put everything that relates to your values, goals, and daily task list in this tool, you need it with you almost always. I have people ask me all the time, "Hyrum, if this thing’s so important, what happens if I lose it?" I just tell them, "Listen, if you lose this thing, you may as well jump from a tall building, because it’s all over." Of course, I’m just kidding…In his seminar recording, he answers even more succinctly: "The answer is: You don’t lose it."

For people who won’t carry the Franklin Day Planner everywhere, the company offers "satellite" filler pages. These are pocket-sized sheets that can be added later to the main organizer book.

The Day Planner comes with divider sheets. Printed tabs create sections for addresses and telephone numbers, values and goals, finances, key personal information, reference materials, and long-term planning. There are also six numbered tabs for tracking specific people and projects.

Despite the light-hearted tone of the program, Smith adds just enough philosophy to put all in a meaningful context. Toward the end of the seminar, he gives his personal definition of "character." It is "the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed."

He asks the participants to give the program a "serious shot" for 21 days. If they will, he promises "a major reduction in stress." You reduce stress, he says, as you gain a greater sense of control.

Smith gives the participants an assignment. Using the Day Planner, they must schedule a letter that they will write to him 21 days later. At that time, they will report how they are doing with their organizer and with their productivity pyramid.

Smith says, "We have a whole division of people who do nothing but respond to these letters." He personally sees many of the letters and finds it "wonderful to see what has happened in people’s lives in that short 21 day period. It is almost scary."

According to Smith, the key to their success is the time spent on the productivity pyramid:Building this pyramid is the single toughest thing you have ever done. There will be a temptation as surely as you sit there not to build the pyramid…If there is a gap between what you value and what you’re doing, there will be pain. The only way to get rid of the pain is to bring in line what you do with what you value.

Smith concludes with a poem by an unknown author. At least 100 years old, the words appear on a sundial at Wellesley College:

The shadow by my finger cast,
Divides the future from the past.
Behind its unreturning line,
The vanished hour, no longer thine.
Before it lies the unknown hour,
In darkness and beyond thine power.
One hour alone is in thine hands,
The now on which the shadow stands.


During the aftermath of the Democratic Party election defeats of 1994, Stephen R. Covey visited President Bill Clinton at Camp David. On the PBS television program, The McLaughlin Group , host John McLaughlin showed a video clip of the meeting and asked his panelists to comment.

The participants are print media writers who represent a variety of political viewpoints. They tend to disagree often and very loudly.

Yet, on the subject of Covey’s visit their opinion was unanimous: The fact that Clinton would turn to a motivational "guru" was a sign of desperation. The session with Covey had lowered the president’s stock for the week.

To further the derision, McLaughlin juxtaposed the Covey shot with one of Anthony Robins walking on hot coals. While still in his twenties, Robins achieved fame as the motivational "boy wonder" for his Unlimited Power book and tapes.

Covey—Robins—it was all the same thing to the McLaughlin commentators. It was all so much "snake oil."

It is not just cynical reporters who question the self-improvement movement. As the recent FAA training scandals have shown, the push to reform people can turn into indoctrination and even brainwashing.

Sometimes organizations force-feed ideas that may or may not be popular.

In Covey’s case, Harvard Professor Ronald A. Heifetz sees a "kind of maladaptive response" in his popularity. "There’s something real about the yearning" that his work brings out. "The question is whether people are doing the right thing to satisfy it."

Fortune magazine summed up Covey’s critics:

The problem, they say, lies in the message that is being subsidized by management: that individual workers are responsible for their own destinies, and that the way to achieve security and serenity is through continual self-improvement. For a big corporation that is mowing down whole suitefuls of middle managers, critics say, this can be a handy way to get employees to start thinking that if they are laid off, the fault lies somewhere in themselves.More bluntly, economist Jeremy Rifkin says: "You’re setting up the psychological conditions for people to accept just-in-time employment."

Obviously, there are few motivational speakers who see themselves in such sinister terms. However, even when viewed in their most favorable light, motivational materials seem to reach a point of diminishing returns. They start to repeat the same stories and oft-heard quotations. They generate a limited range of intellectual challenges.

Yet some motivational wares outlast all expectations. Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People (1936), was derided in its time, and its title is still a running joke among some people. Nonetheless, it continues to sell forty years after the author’s death. Carnegie is also a standard for comparing new self-help authors.

So it was no small endorsement when USA Today called Covey "the hottest self-improvement consultant to hit U.S. business since Dale Carnegie."

No doubt Stephen Covey is in vogue. He has made People magazine. Their editors remarked that Covey’s maxims "sound like Gump with an MBA. But their bite-size simplicity, as well as their emphasis on principled behavior, is part of the draw."

And he draws many kinds of people. In the bookstore, Covey’s books sit near the ones about "re-engineering" and "reinventing" corporations. Browsers also find them in the "self-help" section near 101 Lies Men Tell Women.

The Covey phenomenon began in 1989 with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was quickly followed by Principle-Centered Leadership . Covey’s latest book, First Things First, looks at the management of time. Each of the books is available on audio cassette. The Seven Habits has been recorded in Spanish. There is even a Seven Habits screen saver; it allows Covey’s maxims to flash on a computer monitor all day long.

In short, Covey is one of the most successful authors of all time. To understand Covey in perspective, it may be helpful to look at all three books.

Briefly, here are Covey’s Seven Habits :

Habit One: Be Proactive . Take the initiative and choose your own response.

Habit Two: Begin with the End in Mind . Covey states, "If you are the programmer, write the program. Decide what you’re going to do with the time, talent, and tools you have to work with…"

Habit Three: Put First Things First. This is the "endowment of willpower." Covey explains:

At the low end of the continuum is the ineffective, flaky life of floating and coasting, avoiding responsibility and taking the easy way out, exercising little initiative or willpower. And at the top end is a highly disciplined life that focuses heavily on the highly important but not necessarily urgent activities of life. It’s a life of leverage and influence.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win. This is the "endowment of the abundance mentality…You go from a scarcity to an abundance mentality through intrinsic self-worth and a benevolent desire for mutual benefit."

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.

Habit 6: Synergize. "The essence of synergy is to value differences—to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses."

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw . This habit is to beef up your "PC" or "production capability." It means "renewing the four dimensions of your nature—physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional." It includes things like reading and exercise.

In Principle-Centered Leadership, Covey tells how to make principles the foundation for leading groups and organizations. He says these are absolute laws that govern people:Our effectiveness is predicated upon certain inviolate principles—natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging, as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension. These principles are woven into the fabric of every civilized society and constitute the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered.

These principles are not invented by us or by society; they are the laws of the universe that pertain to human relationships and human organizations. They are part of the human condition, consciousness, and conscience. To the degree people recognize and live in harmony with such basic principles as fairness, equity, justice, integrity, honesty, and trust, they move toward either survival and stability on the one hand or disintegration and destruction on the other.

Charles Hobbs and Hyrum Smith tell people to make decisions according to their value systems. Covey, however, draws a distinction between values and principles. In Principle-Centered Leadership , Covey tells this story to make his point: When I was in New York recently, I witnessed a mugging skillfully executed by a street gang. I’ve sure that the members of this gang have their street maps, their common values—the highest value being, "Don’t fink or squeal on each other, be true and loyal to each other"—but this value, as it is represented by the gang, does not represent "true north," the magnetic principle of respect for people and property. These "true north principles" are "like compasses." They always point the way in every situation.

They provide vision and direction for groups of people. With leadership based on principles, groups discover long-term solutions to their problems. This happens on four levels: the "organizational, managerial, interpersonal, and personal."

The organization weds its mission and values to its strategy, structures, and systems. The approach considers the customers, suppliers, competitors, and other "stakeholders."

In the past, organizations have tried leadership based on fairness, kindness, and efficiency. Covey adds "effectiveness" to the other three elements. Effective organizations recognize the "spiritual" needs of everyone involved:

People are considered not just as resources or assets, not just economic, social, and psychological beings but also spiritual beings; they want meaning, a sense of doing something that matters. They want purposes that lift them, ennoble them and help them achieve their higher selves. Three things have to happen if you want to turn principles into effectiveness. They are "pathfinding," "empowerment," and "team building."
  • Pathfinding means "creating an exciting vision of how to reach a worthy end." Covey emphasizes that "a worthy end cannot be reached with an unworthy means." A worthy means encompasses and reflects all the stakeholders.
  • Empowerment is teaching people to "become relatively independent and part of interdependent, self-managing teams." Empowerment is the result of trust and win-win performance agreements.
  • Team building means involving people in activities that improve the team's productivity and cooperation.
Covey’s third blockbuster, First Things First , appeared in 1994. He is joined by co-authors A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill. The book gives an expanded explanation of the third of the seven habits; it also rests on the shoulders of the principle-centered philosophy.

The book’s cover shows a compass superimposed over a clock. The point is that effectiveness requires "true north" principles rather than an efficiency based on the clock. Covey writes:

For many of us, there’s a gap between the clock and the compass—between the way we spend our time and what is deeply important to us.

Decisions are easy when it’s simply a question of "good" or "bad." We know that some time expenditures are wasteful, mind-numbing, even destructive. But for most of us the issue is not the difference between the "good" and the "bad," but between the "good" and the "best." So often,the enemy of the best is the good.

Covey sees interest in time management as an attempt to close the gap between the compass and the clock. He calls this a "popcorn phenomenon" with the "increasing heat and pressure of the culture creating a rapidly exploding body of literature and products." He says there have been three "generations" of time management:

1) The First Generation involves using simple "reminders." You keep track of things you want to do with notes and checklists. Beyond that, you just "go with the flow."

2) The Second Generation brings in "planning and controlling." Calendars and appointment books enter the picture.

3) The Third Generation adds prioritizing and controlling. People set goals based on their personal values.

Covey says that these generations have made people more effective up to a point. Yet none of them present a complete "paradigm." The result is like trying to drive somewhere using the wrong map: "Changing our behavior and attitude won’t help us if we have the wrong map ." According to Covey, "traditional" time management theory includes these fallacies:

  • "We are in control…" The fact is, control is an illusion. The method ignores an essential reality: Most of our time is spent living and working with other people, who can not be controlled.
  • "Efficiency above all…" The underlying assumption is that "more" and "faster" is better. But if you’re headed south down the California coast… and your destination is New York City…you’re not being very effective.
  • "Plug in your VALUES"…Values are critically important. They drive our choices and actions. But…just because we value something does not necessarily mean it will create quality of life. When what we value is in opposition to the natural laws that govern peace of mind and quality of life, we set ourselves up for failure.
  • "The clock tells the truth…" The clock dictates the rhythm of our lives. But is this idea of time an adequate framework for all of human experience? We think not. Just as some things are more important than others, some moments are more important than others.
What is essential, Covey says, is how much value you get out of you time "rather than how many minutes or hours" you put into it.
  • "Competence is king…" The idea is that if you can develop competencies, you can create quality of life. But personal effectiveness is a function of both competence and character. We can not truncate what we do from who we are.
  • "Management cures all ills…" Time management is a form of management, as opposed to leadership. Management works within a paradigm. Leadership creates new paradigms. Management works within the system. Leadership works on the system… Before we consider the question, "Am I doing things right?" we must first ask ourselves "Am I doing the right things?"
Covey proposes a "Fourth Generation" time management: one that will retain the strengths of the earlier generations while avoiding their weaknesses. The fourth generation builds upon an "importance paradigm": Knowing what is important, instead of simply responding to what is urgent, is the first step to putting first things. People tend to act on anything that is urgent. Something that is urgent may or may not be important, but it is the urgency that drives people to action: Urgency is an addition, a self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills the void created by unmet needs.Yet urgency itself is not really the problem. The problem is when it is the "dominant factor in our lives, it overrides those things that are merely important…The more urgency we have in our lives, the less importance we have."

To illustrate the difference between urgency and importance. Covey provides an "activity matrix" which is divided into four quadrants.

Quadrant I activities are both urgent and important. Examples include handling an irate client, meeting a deadline, and repairing a broken machine. They demand immediate action; we all have to spend some of our time in Quadrant I.

Quadrant II activities are important, but not urgent. This quadrant can involve long-range planning, anticipating and preventing problems, "empowering others," reading, professional development activities, preparing for future activities, and investing "in relationships through sincere effort and deep, honest listening." Neglecting Quadrant II leads to "stress, burnout, and deeper crises" in Quadrant I. By investing time in this quadrant you shrink the amount of time in Quadrant I.

Quadrant III is the "phantom of Quadrant I." It includes things that are urgent, but not important. Because of its urgency, it creates the illusion of importance. Examples include unimportant phone calls and meetings.

Quadrant IV activities are neither urgent nor important. The reading of pulp novels, mindless TV viewing, and gossiping are examples of Quadrant IV time wasters. Covey states:

Quadrant IV is not survival; it’s deterioration. We quickly find there’s nothing there. The key to effectiveness is to maximize the time in Quadrant II. In that quadrant we can work on the what Covey calls "the fulfillment of the four human needs and capacities." They are "to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy."

Covey suggests that you plan on a weekly basis, including Quadrant II activities into your schedule:

To translate goals into action: The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities. First Things First assumes that everyone either has a mission statement or would want to write one: This is a written statement about what you value most on a lifetime basis—what kind of person you want to become, what unique contributions you want to make, the principles upon which you build your life. Just like a compass, it can help direct your path. A mission statement can help lead your activities toward "true north."You write goals that grow out of your mission. You schedule activities that contribute to your goals.

The program also brings "roles" into the planning process:

We have important roles at work, in the family, in the community, and in other areas of life. If we are unhappy, it is often because we’re succeeding in one role at the expense another.

A clear set of roles creates order and balance.

A person can have more than one role in the same environment. At home, roles can include both "wife" and "mother" or both "husband" and "father." You can also cover all the relationships at home with just one role: "family member."

At work, one job may include several roles, such as "administrator, marketer, personnel officer, and long-term planner."

To help implement the system, the Covey Leadership Center markets a Seven Habits Organizer. Also available from Day-Timers, the organizer provides a two-page spread for planning each week.

Along the left side of the spread are boxes for the name of each role. There is also space for writing goals for the week that contribute to each role.

Besides the weekly planning space, each role receives a tab section within the organizer. The user receives instructions to record information behind the role tabs, rather than chronologically. Each role gets its own goal sheet, activities checklist form, telephone and address page, and note page.

The organizer also has places for planning and recording "sharpening the saw" (Habit Seven) activities.

Because of its popularity, First Things First is bringing time management theory to many people for the first time. A few comments may be in order.

Although the Covey Leadership Center has obtained a trademark for "Quadrant II Time Management," the idea is not new. Most other well-known time management trainers are careful to distinguish between the terms "important" and "urgent." Charles Hobbs included an importance/urgency matrix with his 1983 audio program "Insight on Time Management." So it may be questionable whether Covey’s emphasis on "importance" really constitutes a new "generation" in time management.

What Covey does do well is to bring a fresh perspective to some old ideas.

For example, other time management trainers tell people to set goals for different areas of their lives. The result is goals for the family and for the different responsibilities at work. So, "roles" have been covered before even if the trainer never mentions the word.

Likewise, other programs tell you to set up sections in an organizer for different responsibilities and people. So, again, roles have been covered before.

What is unique in First Things First is its emphasis on the roles themselves. The earlier programs simply tell you to set goals for each important area of your life. What Covey is saying is that you should think deeply about the underlying roles and integrate them into your week. By looking at goals from that perspective, a person might set some that might have been overlooked.

In its discussion of principles, First Things First gets into some slippery terrain. Covey states that "Third Generation" trainers (i.e., his competitors) tell people to become "a law unto themselves." This is because they tell people to write down their values according to their own belief systems. This is unacceptable, he says, unless you also bring natural law, or "true north" principles, into the picture.

However, it is not true that other trainers tell people that they can get away with anything they write as a value. They are simply acknowledging that different people will approach life differently because of their background and beliefs. The laws of human behavior are not always as clear as the rising and setting of the sun.

There must surely be a way to reconcile Covey with the other time management theorists. When he compares values to principles, all that Covey really seems to be saying is this: Be sure your values are the ones that really work. And that is a point worth keeping in mind—whether you’re an executive making a decision or Judge Pyncheon planning his day.


Brian Tracy is the speaker on countless Nightingale-Conant audio programs. The Canadian-born seminar leader seems to cover the entire personal and professional development field. His topics range from corporate strategic planning to coping with marital difficulties. Tracy studies existing materials and tries to bring together "only the best" of the available ideas.

Tracy talks about time management in several of his audio and video tapes. Here are some ideas that you can glean from the various Tracy materials:

1) Goals. The more goals you set the "more efficient you will become." Set goals consistent with "your highest aspirations and your innermost values and convictions."

When setting goals, concentrate on doing the right thing, rather than doing things right: "If it's not worth doing, it's not worth doing right." Ask yourself: "What are you trying to do? How are you trying to do it?"

2) Organized plans of action. A plan answers the question, "How are you trying to do it?":

The more time you spend planning, the better and more foolproof your plans become. In re-working your plans for achieving your goals, your goals become increasingly believable and achievable. Your confidence in your ability to accomplish them grows. When you break down even the biggest goal into its individual parts, and then organize the goal into a step-by-step series of specific actions, it seems much more manageable and under your control. The more you plan, the more you drive the goal into your subconscious mind where it takes on a motivational power of its own.

The pay-off from good planning is enormous. It is estimated that one minute in planning saves at least five minutes in execution. Put another way, your investment in planning pays you a 500 per cent return.

3) Analysis. Make a list:

You can bring order out of chaos faster with a list than with any other time management tool. If, at any time, you feel yourself overwhelmed with work, stop and take the time necessary to list every single thing you need to do. The very act of organizing your responsibilities on a list will enable you to bring them under control.

4) Set priorities. Determine what is relevant and irrelevant. Ask: "What is the most valuable use of my time, right now? What impact will this have on the future?"

Also ask: "What is the limiting step that determines how quickly I can go from where I am to where I want to be. What is the bottleneck that determines the speed at which I get there?"

5) Concentrate: "Concentration means the ability to stay with a task until it is complete. Concentration means to work in a straight line from where you are to where you want to go, without diversion or distraction, without getting sidetracked into doing things of less importance."

6) Setting deadlines and rewards:

Create a reward system for the completion of a major task and refuse to give yourself the reward until the job is 100 per cent complete.

Deadlines act as a forcing system that causes you to work harder and more effectively as the deadline approaches.

7) The time log: Tracy suggests that you set an alarm to go off every fifteen minutes:

Make a note of what you're doing each time the alarm rings. Ask yourself, "Is what I am doing now a good use of my time?"

This will bring your full attention to what you are doing. Tracy says, "All of life is the study of attention."

8) Procrastination: It can be either positive or negative. "You must learn to procrastinate creatively on the 80 per cent of things that you have to do that account for only 20 per cent of the value."

9) Delegate: "You should assign, delegate, or have someone else do any job that can be done at a wage less than what you earn or desire to earn."

10) Interruptions: Control the telephone and walk-in visitors. Tracy recommends a line from John Malloy, author of Dress for Success and How to Run the Competition into the Ground. Just say, "Back to work!"

11) Key result areas:

Your key result area is the answer to the question, "Why am I on the payroll." Each person has one or two key result areas where they can make an important contribution to the organization. By concentrating on your key result areas you will achieve the most significant results in the shortest period of time.

12) Batching Tasks: "When you do a group of similar tasks together, the amount of time it takes you to do each subsequent task declines."

13) Neatness: "Before you start to work clear your work space of everything except what you need to complete the highest priority task on hand."

14) Chunks of time: Allow time for important work. "It is not possible to accomplish meaningful tasks in less than 60 to 90 minutes." Be willing to come in early or stay late. To create uninterrupted time, work through the noon hour while everyone else is at lunch.

15) Transition time: Turn waiting time into learning time. According to Tracy, you can become "one of the best-educated persons in North America" simply by listening to audio cassettes in your car.

16) The telephone: Tracy says that anyone who picks up a telephone without something to write on "is a fool."

17) Punctuality: "Get a reputation for being on time."

18) Work simplification: "Systematize the work process."

19) Saying no: Say no "early and often." You should value all your time the same as your time at work:

If your hourly rate is $25, and someone wants an hour of your time, that person is, in effect, asking you for $25.

If a person or activity is not important enough for you to open your wallet and peal off twenty dollar bills and give them away, then discipline yourself not to do it.

20) Balance: Use your increased productivity to "get more time to spend with the people you care about." The purpose of time management is to help you "get more pleasure out of life." Spend time on physical fitness. Remember that "relaxing is often a valuable use of time."

Tracy says the key to successful time management is to have a "long time horizon." He quotes Edward Banfield of Harvard University, author of The Unheavenly City. Banfield sought the cause of social mobility:

Dr. Banfield finally concluded that there was only one factor that could accurately predict whether or not you were going to move upward and onward financially. He called it "time perspective." He defined time perspective as "the period of time that you take into consideration when making your day-to-day decisions and planning your life."

Banfield found that successful people planned five, ten, and twenty years ahead:

What Dr. Banfield found was that as you go down the social and economic ladder, the time perspective at each income level shortens. When you get to the very bottom of the social pyramid to the hopeless alcoholic or drug addict you find a time perspective of one shot or one drink.

The average working person has a time perspective of about two pay periods. You begin to move yourself into a higher social class the day you begin to take the long view in your own life.

Tracy concludes that "long view" helps "sharpen the short view." One way to set short-term priorities is look at the future impact of present decisions. Reading a book, or listening to an educational tape, or taking a course are activities with a "high potential future impact on your career." Watching television, reading the sports page, and taking a coffee break are activities that—no matter how well you do them—"will have no possible impact on your life."

At the conclusion of his audio program, How To Master Your Time, Tracy sums up his philosophy of time management

Time management is really life management, a discipline and a habit that can be learned. Time management must be practiced every day, all the days of your life. It is the one habit—the one skill—that is essential for a satisfying, fulfilling, high-performance life.


The Time Trap is not a Star Trek episode about being caught in the a time warp or a space-time continuum. It is the title of Dr. Alec Mackenzie's down to earth book on time in the workplace. The 1972 edition of the book (revised in 1990) helped spawn the modern time management boom.

Mackenzie ties time management directly to the issue of American productivity:

The U.S. manufacturing sector is showing an improvement in productivity at the rate of 3.5 per cent a year. The service sector, however, has lagged behind at a rate of 0.5 per cent since 1979. And since service industries represent more than 70 per cent of our economy, this is an acute problem indeed.

Therefore our productivity must shift to individuals. If the memo writer, the marketing vice presidents and the finance officers can learn to get better results and do it in less time, the impact on the U.S. economy could be powerful.

Charles Hobbs credits Mackenzie with doing the definitive study on time wasters. Here are the 20 biggest time wasters that Mackenzie found in the workplace:

· Management by crisis
· Telephone interruptions
· Inadequate planning
· Attempting too much
· Drop-in visitors
· Ineffective delegation
· Personal disorganization
· Lack of self-discipline
· Inability to say no
· Procrastination
· Meetings
· Paperwork
· Leaving tasks unfinished
· Inadequate staff
· Socializing
· Confused responsibility or authority
· Poor communication
· Inadequate controls and reports
· Incomplete information
· Travel

In The Time Trap, Mackenzie devotes an entire chapter to each time waster.

Mackenzie uses himself to illustrate the problem of procrastination. He tells of the time he kept putting off his calls to sell Celestial Seasonings Tea on his program. When his calls didn't go through, Mackenzie became convinced that the president wasn't interested.

He finally reached him on the seventh call, and Mackenzie felt the "final put-down" when the man called him "Charlie." He had picked up the phone expecting someone else. Mackenzie wearily identified himself. The president said, "Alec Mackenzie? I've had your name on my desk for months. I don't need any explanation of your program. How soon can you come out to conduct a two-day seminar on time management for all my people?"

Mackenzie asks seminar participants to do "the one thing they'll not want to do," and that is to keep a time log. For at least three days, they must write down every interruption and change of mental attention, "no matter how trivial."

The purpose is to find out where their time is really going and which time wasters need to be attacked. Mackenzie states:

When you grasp the universal fact that there will never be 25 hours in one day. when you internalize this basic truth of contemporary existence. you will have armed yourself with a piece of knowledge you can use as the groundwork for making radical changes in the way you manage yourself and achieve your goals.

He says the time log will create the motivation leads to change:

The time log is necessary because the painful task of changing our habits requires far more conviction than we can build from learning about the experience of others. We need the amazing revelation of the great portions of our time we are wasting to provide the incentive and the determination required to manage ourselves.

Many of Mackenzie's participants complain that the time log itself will take up too much time. He tells them:

It's something you can't afford not to take. Since you take the log while you are doing the activity, it takes much less time than you originally think. Jot down the entry during the phone call, while a visitor is on the way in, and at the beginning of an interruption.

Mackenzie says a time log brings its own reward:

The most astonishing time saver which results from a time log is the powerful self-correcting tendency which sets in automatically once you start the log. The time log is not only an essential diagnostic tool, it is an extremely effective time management device in itself.

One senior AT&T executive liked it so much that he "never stopped taking it."

Mackenzie also introduces employees to the "ideal day." They decide the best times for various activities and try to do them at the same time every day:

The ideal day is a template, in effect, for your daily plan. It indicates blocks of time for major categories of activities. Then, for each day's plan, you schedule the specifics in those major categories.

Mackenzie asks the organization to set up a "quiet hour," a period when everyone is able, in theory, to work without interruption for 60 minutes. He says that one hour of uninterrupted work is worth the weight of three which are constantly interrupted.

Mackenzie endorses the use of an organizer to plan and keep track of time. His Time Tactics organizer includes "Control Sheets" to track projects and a "Contact Log" to record decisions and follow-up items. Also available: a "Time Waster Eliminator" form.

When he discusses the problem of the cluttered desk, probably the most prosaic of all time management topics, Mackenzie recalls the story of an executive in Heidelberg, Germany. The man turned to him and said:

Herr Doctor, do you know why we stack our desks? It's all those things we don't want to forget. We put them on top where we'll see them. The trouble is it works too well. Every time our gaze wanders, we remember them, and we forget what we we're working on.

Mackenzie's prescription is to "keep your desk clean for the rest of your life" and never have anything on it but what you are working on at the moment.

Along with the minutia of time management training, Mackenzie teaches a system to set and manage goals. Mackenzie sees goals as the way to cope with turbulence in the U.S. economy:

People in contemporary society are likely to make at least seven significant career changes during their adult lives—and not all of their own choosing. This is a subject which should be dealt with universally in secondary schools and colleges so that it is less overwhelming when it occurs. The person who has thought through the concepts of success, failure, and change to determine what they really mean will be better equipped to approach change of this kind as learning experiences and as opportunities or challenges.


A Focus on Teams

One recent trend in time management training is an emphasis on groups, teams, and teamwork. In 1990, Alec Mackenzie published Teamwork Through Time Management.

As an extension of its TimeQuest seminar, Franklin Quest offers a program on "project and workload management." Projects tend to be team-oriented, and Planning for Results includes instruction in "project teamwork." Stephen Covey devotes a full section of First Things First to "The Synergy of Interdependence." By that he means achieving more as a group than you could have done alone.

A key element in First Things First is its emphasis on "roles." Roles tend to involve other people. In theory, a role could be something done entirely alone: someone might write "Amateur Photographer of Wilderness Rocks" on his list of roles. For the most part, however, the roles mean relationships with other people: "Parent," "Employee," or "Work Team Member."

Day-Timers' new Four-Dimensional Time Management also takes a collective approach. The workbook lists these training goals:

The purpose of this training program is to teach you how to utilize time to achieve goals. By the end of this audio program, you will learn to use your Day-Timer System to: Focus on what's really important to you and your team. Plan and prioritize individual and team goals. Act to turn goals into reality. personally and professionally

Team-up to maximize success through the power of synergy.  

The program even goes into the Tuckman model of team development: "forming, storming, norming, and performing." 


At a time when Tom Peters talks about nanosecond events, there is at least one time perspective that seems to be getting longer. Traditionally, time management has tended to go directly from goals to daily planning. Now, there seems to be more emphasis on planning by the week.

Kerry Gleeson of PEP (the Personal Efficiency Program, Boca Raton, Florida) suggests these reasons for weekly planning:

Events change rapidly and it is not feasible for most people to plan a month in advance in detail. On the other hand, if one only plans a day in advance, there is insufficient lead time to get critical things done.

By identifying and prioritizing the actions to be done in the next week, you simplify daily planning. If it's important, it will be on your weekly plan.

The wide exposure of the Stephen Covey First Things First program has helped generate interest in weekly planning. Covey states:

While the objective of most daily planning approaches is to help us put first things first, the reality is that daily planning keeps us focused on doing the urgent things first. The perspective is insufficient to accomplish the result.

Of course, we can't just be focused on the big picture either. If we don't translate that vision into action, we lose touch with reality, become idealistic dreamers, and lose credibility with ourselves and with others.

Covey compares this to the lenses for a camera. A telephoto lens makes objects appear closer than they really are. A wide angle lens makes them seem further away. Both kinds of lenses distort the appearance of objects. Only a "normal" lens, one of a particular focal length, can make objects appear as the eye sees them. Similarly, weekly planning helps us see events in their proper perspective:

The week represents a complete patch in the fabric of life. It has the workdays, evenings, the weekend. It's close enough to be highly relevant, but distant enough to provide context and perspective.

Covey suggests three other reasons for weekly planning:

1) Balanced renewal. "The perspective of the week prompts us to plan for renewal—a time for recreation and reflection." During a weekly day of renewal, you can plan for the week ahead:

Quadrant II weekly planning itself is a renewing activity. Through it, we renew our awareness of our needs and capacities and true north principles.

2) Whole-parts-whole. You look at the whole picture; then you look at its parts:

We bring them together again into the whole, marrying the strengths of both perspectives through the normal lens of weekly organizing. As we bring them together again, we see the interrelatedness of the parts.

3) Content in context:

Weekly organizing puts content—the activities of our lives—into the context of what's important. It creates a powerful framework that represents our best thinking around what first things first are and how we can put them first during the next seven days of our lives.


Digital technology has brought a new twist to time management tools. The ultimate quest might be the ability to access any information, anywhere and anytime.

For now, however, the Franklin Quest Company offers a computerized version of its TimeQuest system. The Ascend program boasts the following features:
  • An appointment schedule (with alarms) in daily, weekly, and monthly views.
  • An E-mail module The ability to print on a variety of page sizes
  • A "values and goals wizard"
  • The ability to connect to work groups and coordinate schedules

In addition, Franklin Quest offers a separate ValuesQuest program. For those who need help, it provides "36 sample values, accompanying clarifying statements, and long range goals."

Much of the appeal of an organizer program is that it also works as a contact manager. Today, many people have a lot of other people to keep up with: sales prospects, a professional network, or contacts for a job search. People need to record the dates of their conversations and what they discuss with each person.

With a paper-based system, you write notes on the daily calendar pages. Over time, the notes on a particular subject can become scattered among widely separated pages. It can be difficult to look at all the information at one time. With an organizer program you can quickly pull all the information together in one place.

Harvey Mackay, author of Swim with the Sharks without Getting Eaten Alive, is marketing a program called Sharkware. In his books, Mackay has repeatedly promoted the idea of keeping a big Rolodex file. This, he says, is the key to building a "network of power relationships." The Sharkware software combines the functions of a Rolodex and a time management system. Although Sharkware is a time management tool, the main selling point is its use as a contact manager.

IDG Books has also gotten into the contact management ACT! The company became a publishing phenomenon with its For Dummies series of computer books. It is now extending the For Dummies idea into subjects that are not purely digital. They include Sex for Dummies and Time Management for Dummies. (Only the latter book will be quoted here.)

In Time Management for Dummies, author Jeffrey Mayer touts ACT!, a program created by Symatec Corporation in Cupertino, California. Mayer states:

In would like to mention I don't work for Symatec, and I don't own stock in the company. I'm just an everyday user who thinks ACT! is a very good productivity improving tool. Well, to be honest, I'll be writing ACT! For Dummies. So I'm more than just an everyday user.

Mayer points out another advantage that a computerized organizer has over a paper-based one:

It takes a lot of work to keep a list of things to do up to date. We meticulously write down the names of various tasks, projects, or other items of business that need to be done on a specific day's page in our daily planning book. But if that item isn't done on the day it was entered, it must be moved to a future day. And if it's not moved, we run the risk of forgetting about it.

A computer-based organizer will automatically move an unfinished item to the next day. Similarly, all that it takes is a few clicks of a mouse to change an appointment to another date.

There are some drawbacks to having your time management inside a computer. Most time management trainers say that you should take your organizer everywhere you. That won't happen if it's in a desktop—or even a lap-top—computer.

To help get around this problem, Day-Timers encourages its software users to print out all the daily pages. The user can then put them into a regular Day-Timer binder and carry them around.

This, however, seems to break another time management "rule": Only record data into one time management tool. Inevitably, people will type into the computer some of the time and write on their printed pages the rest of the time. It would take an ongoing effort to keep the two versions aligned with one another. For example, someone might set an appointment while carrying the printed book and forget to enter it into the computer.

The emerging palm-top computers may offer hope in resolving the paper versus PC dilemma. In the fall of 1995, radio stations around the country aired this ad:

Woman: I knew it the moment I held you.

Announcer: People grow rather passionate about the new Psion Series 3A palm-top computer.

Woman: Oh, the magic of your touch!

Announcer: For good reason. The Series 3A's small size belies its strengths.

Woman: You anticipate my innermost thoughts and needs.

Announcer: The 3A can hold your appointment calendar for the year or twelve months worth of sales data. It's like having an office in your pocket.

Woman: I couldn't possibly put a price on what you mean to me!

Announcer: The Psion Series 3A palm top computer starts at just $400 which makes it easy to fall in love with a Psion today.

The palm-top computer seems to address the need for a tool that is portable. Now, someone needs to make one that won't break if you drop it and that few people would want to steal. The paper organizers still have those advantages.


"Don't attempt to change the way you work to fit a pre-packaged time management system. I'm quite sure that you've had the experience of getting so frustrated by being disorganized that you went out and bought an expensive time management system. You probably spent hours learning how to use it and days setting it up. Then, you found out it was more trouble than it was worth. It simply didn't complement the way you work or the type of work you do."  

— Roger Dawson, The Thirteen Secrets of Power Performance (1994)

Another trend in time management might be a rebellion against the time management programs themselves. Charles J. Givens, author of Wealth Without Risk, says:

In the Twentieth Century we have become more and more sophisticated. We have become so sophisticated that some people manage their time with a thirty-pound time management book. I see them everywhere. I mean they are this wide and this thick. It takes so much time to use the time management book—who has time to manage their time?

Dr. Robert Cooper of Advanced Excellence Systems, an executive development firm in Minneapolis, says:

Here's a piece of advice that I've learned the hard way: Don't let time management itself become a waste of time. Elaborate list-making, minute-by-minute scheduling and neurotic clock-watching use up more time than they save and result in a rigid set of expectations that can rarely be met in the modern work environment. And, because of that, they lead to frustration and anger. Time effectiveness is the goal not time warfare.

Even some time management trainers say that elaborate procedures will not help harness time. Psychologist Dru Scott conducts a program based on "sound psychological principles." She cites one survey that reported 60% of the people who try the "conventional approach" say it does not work for them.

The problem, she says, is that the systems do not take individual personality styles into account. For example, many managers believe that a disorderly desk is a sign of an unproductive worker. Yet, there are many successful people with messy desks. Scott states:

There should be signs that read "a messy desk is a sign of a messy desk." The real secret is not what the desk looks like; the secret is making sure the things that really count get done.

Jack Gordon, editor of Training magazine writes:

The truth is if you are already kind of logical, linear, and organized, a time management course will make you more logical, linear, and organized. If you're not—if you don't want to organize your life into A, B, and C priorities—then you won't.

"In spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on it, time management training isn't working." Surprisingly, these are the words of Alec Mackenzie, who told Fortune magazine: "Managing time is a lot more difficult than what I imagined when I wrote The Time Trap." The problem, he says, is that the techniques go against human nature, like exercise or sound money management.

The Fortune article concludes:

The courses offer wisdom, but you probably can't corral time between cow skin covers. Consider this: When Mackenzie spoke with us, he asked if we had tried his Time Tactics organizer. "You really should," he urged. He promised to mail it the following day. But despite Mackenzie's theories, his best-seller, and his system, human nature intervened. He forgot to send it.


Twenty-five years ago, in Future Shock, Alvin Toffler expressed some concerns about the technological marvels predicted for end of the century. One of them was something called OLIVER (On-Line Interactive Vicarious Expediter and Responder) A type of personal computer, Toffler said it would "bear directly on the issue of man's adaptability."

It would be the ultimate time management tool. OLIVER would free up his time by making more and more of his decisions for him. At its simplest level, OLIVER would provide information about his friend's preferences, data about traffic routes, the weather, and stock prices. It could also "remind him of his wife's birthday" and order the flowers automatically. It could pay the bills on time. It could obtain information from computer libraries around the world and "thus become a kind of universal question-answerer for him."

All of these things have become realities at the edge of the Twenty-First Century. However, much more was predicted for OLIVER:

It is theoretically possible to construct an OLIVER that would analyze the content of its owners' words, scrutinize his choices, deduce his value system, update its own program to reflect changes in his values, and ultimately handle larger and larger decisions for him.

OLIVER would go to business meetings in place of its owner and would make the same decisions he would have made. OLIVER, of course, would not meet with people but with other OLIVERs. Furthermore:

OLIVER would know whether its owner would vote for candidate X, whether he would contribute to charity Y, whether he would accept a dinner invitation from Z. In the words of one. computer-trained psychologist: "If you are an impolite boor, OLIVER will know and act accordingly. If you are a marital cheater, OLIVER will know and help."

OLIVER becomes your digital "alter ego." The trek toward the perfect organizer has finally arrived.

And yet Emerson's Law of Compensation remains in force. Just as you acquire one technology to save some time, another technology appears to take a piece away.

A clap of thunder sets off a nearby car alarm. It is not the car being stolen but the time of the person who has to hear the alarm. As long as the alarm wails, you are not as productive as you would have been without it

Technology brings a more efficient process to a factory. Hundreds of people lose their jobs. They spend thousands of hours looking for new ones. This is time that they are not adding anything to the economy. You acquire a computer. You can do more with it than you could with a typewriter, a notebook, and library card. However, a few months later, a new operating system comes along: you have to upgrade your system, or you will fall behind the technology. You give one slice of your time to learning the new system; you give another slice to making the money to pay for it. This is all time that you are not doing anything else.>So, self-management is only part of the time management equation. Technology plays its role in the daily drama. So do circumstances and the season. Nonetheless, it is in the nature of people to try to bring it all under control.

In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler came to this conclusion about the effort to cope with change:

No matter how individuals try to pace their lives, no matter what psychic crutches we offer them, no matter how we alter education, the society as a whole will still be caught on a runaway treadmill until we capture control of the accelerative thrust itself.

Most of us would rather just own our time than manage it.


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Covey, Steven R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Fireside, 1989.

Dawson, Roger. The Thirteen Secrets of Power Performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1994.

Douglass, Merrill E., and Douglass, Donna N. Manage Your Time, Your Work, Yourself. New York: American Management Association, 1993.

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Four-Dimensional Time Management. Allentown, PA: Day-Timers, Inc., 1995. Six audio cassettes with workbook.

Franklin, Benjamin. Benjamin Franklin: Writings. New York: Library of America, 1987.

Gibbs, Nancy. "How America Has Run Out of Time." Time, 24 April 1989, pp. 58-67.

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Half, Robert. How To Get a Job in This Crazy World. New York: Crown Publishers, 1990.

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Hobbs, Charles R. The New Time Power. Salt Lake City: Charles R. Hobbs Corporation, 1991. Six audio cassettes with study guide and workbook.

Keys, Ralph. "How To Unlock Time." Reader’s Digest, October 1991, pp. 111-114.

Lakein, Alan, How To Get Control Of Your Time and Your Life, New York: David McKay Company, 1973.

Leider, Richard. Taking Charge Life Mapping. Minneapolis, MN: The Inventure Group, 1992. One audio cassette with Life Map Workbook and Life Map Primer.

Mackenzie, Alec. Mackenzie on Time. New York: American Management Association, 1979. One audio cassette.

Mackenzie, Alec. Teamwork through Time Management. Chicago: The Dartnell Corporation, 1990.

Mackenzie, Alec. The Time Trap. New York: American Management Association, 1990.

Mackenzie, Alec, and Brown, Mel Mackenzie. Managing Your Goals. Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1992. Six audio cassettes.

Mayer, Jeffrey J. If You Haven’t Got the Time To Do It Right, When Will You Find the Time To Do It Over? New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Mayer, Jeffrey J. Time Management for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Worldwide Books, 1995.

McCormack, Mark H. The 100% Solution. New York: Villard Books, 1991.

Miller, Annetta. "Are We Really That Lazy?" Newsweek, 17 February 1992.

Peters, Tom. Liberation Management: The Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties. Schaumburg, IL: Video Publishing House, 1993. One video cassette with training guide, VHS, 60 minutes.

Psion Computer advertisement. Recorded KPRC Radio (Houston), 24 October, 1995.

Ringer, Robert. Million Dollar Habits. New York: Wynwood Press, 1990.

Rukeyser, Louis. The Classical Economists. Nashville, Tennessee: Knowledge Products, 1988. Two audio cassettes.

Scott, Dru. How to Put More Time in Your Life. Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1988. One audio cassette.

"A Situational Leadership Approach to Groups Using the Tuckman Model of Group Development." The 1985 Annual: Developing Human Resources. San Francisco: University Associates, 1985.

Smith, Hyrum. The Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management. New York: Warner Books, 1994.

Smith, Hyrum. TimeQuest: Increasing Productivity through Value-Based Time Management. Salt Lake City: Franklin Quest Co., 1994. Eight audio cassettes with work book.

Smith, Timothy J. "What’s So Effective about Stephen Covey?" Fortune, 12 December 1994, pp. 116-126.

"Steven R. Covey Tells How To Use Time Wisely." Bottom Line: Personal, 1 August 1994.

Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock. New York: Random House, 1970.

Toffler, Alvin. Power Shift. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.

Tracy, Brian. How To Master Your Time. Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1989. Six audio cassettes.

Tracy, Brian. Personal Time Management. Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1989. One video cassette.

Tracy, Brian. Action Strategies for Personal Achievement. Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1993. Twenty-four audio cassettes with workbook.

"The Trouble with Time Management Courses." Fortune, 4 June 1990, p. 262.

"Think Visual" (song). Davies, Ray. London: DavRay Music, 1986.

The Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.

"Ah, Miss York, where are the green clocks of yesteryear?"

–From the movie, The Big Clock (1948)


Author's Note: This paper probably still has some punctuation and format errors that resulted from the transfer from Microsoft Word to HTML in 1998. I haven't read the entire article since I wrote it in 1995. However, I am gradually proof-reading it and making corrections here and there. 

For example, I recently discovered that Stephen Covey's first name had been misspelled all this time.

Usually, when I am on this page, I am adding new quotes and other oddities that relate to time management or time in general. I would rather be doing that than reworking something written a couple of decades ago.

Actually, I wrote a ten page version of this for my first class in grad school in 1992. This 1995 version expands it to about 50 pages.

Grady McAllister, June 12, 2012

Day-Timer Planners

Time & Time
Management Links:

Some attention must be paid

Ken Nordine: What Time Is It?

GMT obsolete as Prime Meridian moves to Paris


What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Are You As Busy As You Think?

Steven Pressfield and the Battle for Productivity

Steven Pressfield Online

Re-released: Time Power

Quit: Do It Now
"As a psychologist who studies motivation, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why people give up too soon when trying to reach a goal. But the truth is, a lot of us suffer from the opposite problem: not knowing when, or how, to quit. We take on too many projects and commitments, and end up turning in 10 mediocre jobs instead of one or two stellar performances."

David Allen: What's needed and not needed for projects

The Law of Subtraction

Did cell phones unleash our inner rudeness?
"When you are doing one thing — talking on your phone, texting, whatever — you are automatically not doing something else. What is the greatest scarcity in the world today? It's not oil. It's time. Time is precious. Don't throw it away."

Stressed Out? Slack Off

Moneylove and Timelove

What Happens When a Hoarder Dies?

An autobiography about hoarding: Coming Clean

Living Better with Less

Life After 50: Are You Stuck? Lose the Clutter and Find Your Life

Time Bind? What Time Bind? (1997)

The Myth Of Quality Time (1997)

How America Has Run Out of Time (1989)

Julie Morgenstern

David Allen: Getting Things Done (GTD)

Jerry Gillies has been an NBC financial reporter, the author of Moneylove, a Nightingale-Conant motivational speaker, and an inmate of California's Folsom Prison.

In his Moneylove blog , Gillies recently quoted from The Man With No Time by Timothy Hallinan:

Written in 1993, it was a book I shipped to my friend Rupa Cousins in 1998, when I was being transferred from one prison to another. And just discovering a box of books in her basement a few weeks ago, she shipped it to me and I finally got around to reading it. One character says the following:

"Time is everything, and we don’t know doodly about it. We haven’t got words for it, even; we recycle the words we use about space. ‘The near future’ and ‘the distant past.’ ‘A long time.’ Time isn’t like space in any way. but we use the same words. Space goes on in all directions. If time moves at all, it moves in only one direction.”

I think this single paragraph can provide food for lots of provocative thought about the significance and nature of time. I have long contemplated writing a book on the subject, but there is so much more to learn. A popular old saying was, “Time is money.”  Well, hopefully we have learned, all of us, that time is a lot more than money.

— Jerry Gillies, author of Moneylove


“…when people are waiting, they are bad judges of time, and every half minute seems like five.”

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Author's note: The above quote explains why I have heard a a complaint about the length of my phone message. It is always a massive 17 seconds or less. It explains how to find this web site.  In sales training, I have heard "17 seconds" mentioned as the longest someone will wait on hold before they become annoyed.

Above: The north shore of Galveston Island, October 29, 2011. Photo by Grady McAllister.

From the movie, The Big Clock (1948):

George Stroud: White clocks, yellow clocks, brown clocks, blue clocks. Ah, Miss York, where are the green clocks of yesteryear?

George Stroud: I thought he was only crazy about clocks?

Pauline York: Maybe I have a clock.

George Stroud:That's the trouble with the world — time. There's too much of it. Greenwich Time, Mean Time, Mountain Standard Time, Double British Summer Time. There's too much of it. Down with all. Man against time.

From the movie, Yellow Submarine:

Old Fred: I don't mean to alarm you, mates, but the years are going backwards!

George: What's that mean, Old Fred?

Old Fred: It means if we slip back in time at this rate, very soon we'll all disappear up our own existence!

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