11-Rules of Ruthless Time Management

“The secret to effective time management is learning to “pre-live” your Life.”

Recently, in one of our comment section remarks, a reader asked if I would give a short summary of my personal time management approach because I seem to get so much done.

You may not like some of what follows because it’s not how “time management” is said to be done (least-wise by “the experts”).  I am not a time management expert, but I can out-produce many people including some so-called experts in their fields.

Time managers fly into the ditch because they have too much focus on “time” and not enough focus on output or  “results.”  Here’s how I attack the problem of getting things done.  Or, as my old friend Gaye Levy calls it “M.S.H”  Short for “making shit happen.”

Rule #1:  You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

There is a rather long article on this topic somewhere in the almost 20-years of Peoplenomics archives on our subscriber website.  I think the title was something like “Me, Company.”

The idea is stupidly-simple:  Every human on Earth is an autonomous business unit.  That is, each of us are exactly like two legged “companies.”   You do something and you get fed.  Do More and you get a house, family, and can afford healthcare.  Do Even More and you get a Lexus.  So Still Even More and you’re CEO material.  So to summarize:

  • You ARE a  one employee company (yourself)
  • You have an income and expense line to manage
  • You have work hours
  • You have vacation hours and perc’s and benefits
  • You have to provide healthcare, exercise, and sleep
  • You have a “product or output” that can be measured and sold.

Doing, no,  just living this short list will differentiate you from 95% of other humans.  Sure, some people will work-out more than you, some will have higher output, others (especially slackers) will give themselves undeserved vacations, time off, and they will take “the dole” not having the balls to really do what?

Rules #2:  Absolutely Own Your Life

Imagine that all the books on religion are right at some “grain of Truth” level  and we are not simply blink-in, blink-out, and done.  Imagine there is a Life Review as is reported in so many Near Death Experience (NDE) cases.  How would your “life Review” look if a big name management company was doing a “Life Audit” of your time and accomplishments on this rock.

  • Option 1:  Don’t waste the effort.  Life is too full of chance for anything but a perfect outcome to happen, so just roll with it and take lots of time off to go fishing. Smell roses till you’re sick of ’em.
  • Option 2: Look at Death as a “finishing line” that you never know when you’ll cross.  Life is more like a video game.  You roll through it a) picking up experiences including love as well as b) knowledge for extra points fand c) accomplishment and the things you made happen.

The difference?  Option 2 is what us insanely-driven-humans do.  At age 70, I still get up 3-hours early (yeah, 2 A.M.) to write a column like this when I need the clear time to capture  ideas.  When the market’s open, the lawn needs mowing, there are 28 projects on my house to-do list?  Ain’t going to happen.  I have a deep-seated need to accomplish and that drives me on.  You gotta grind it.

Rule #3: Don’t Hang with Losers

There was a wonderful quote from master motivator Earl Nightingale.  “People are like trees; you can judge them by their fruits.”

Or, put another way, if you want to be an outstanding doctor, associate with doctors.  Their thinking will rub off.  If you want to learn math?  Hang out with physics and math geeks, not the cute girlie (or the stud hungly)  with a humongous gazoomba’s (or pechewzelwhacker) in English Lit.

Rule #4:  “Vision Your Day

As soon as this article is done, around 3:45 AM, my “usual” workday will begin.  A strong cup of coffee, a vitamin and supplement stack that rocks, and 30-40-minutes of “taking my light.”  (I use an LED light crown of my own invention which utilizes 660-710 NM red and near infrared light applied over key parts of my head as a source of “energy.”  More details in my book Dimensions Next Door…whole chapter there.)

Visioning takes 30-minutes and consists of “pre-living” your day.  You envision what your first successful project will be, your second, when you take breakfast, what you’ll do first at the office, and so on.  You can have a clipboard with a list of “big picture items” you want to “punch out” for the day.

Rule 5:  Manage the OUTCOME 

Here’s a huge trip-wire illustrated this week by two events in the Ure household.  The first was observing as Elaine went up to the garden and began the process of transplanting vegetables from the greenhouse.

She must have been up there 3-hours and in that time took the soil that I’d made a once-through with the rototiller, and shortened my rows, put in irrigation trenches, raised the center of rows, just so…At the end of the 3-hours, 9-Chinese one-yard beans had been transplanted.

That left lots of trays to be transplanted so the  next morning (Tuesday) between publishing Urban and waiting for  the release of the Housing data, I transplanted  the row of squash, and a couple of roles of tomatoes.  At 8:10 AM, with the housing update posted, I went back to the garden and put in ALL  the rest of the plants and was in the house for breakfast at 8:48 AM.  One hour, tops and 7 more rows of plants.  My work wasn’t as pretty…but it was done.

What was different from Elaine’s approach and mine was our vision of the final product,.  Elaine, you see, is an artist (and something of a perfectionist).  I, on the other hand, wasn’t planning to put in small irrigation ditches and water that way. Spot-watering would be fine with me.  I didn’t see a ROI on the additional work.

No question about it, Elaine’s plantings look like something out of a magazine.  Seriously…picture-perfect.  On the other hand, I think I put in 7-rows of plants in an hour.  IoW, I got to my vision of the outcome in 10% of the time her vision was taking.  She would get the cover of Better Homes.  I suffer no such aspirations.

Setting your vision for a project outcome is the most critical part of time management AND the art of running yourself like a small highly-efficient one-person company.

Second example because it’s directly on point:  When that new evap cooler came in that I wrote-up on Wednesday, I grabbed the closest thing that would work to hold it up in place in front of an open shop window.  Time to install?

5-minutes to put in the water supply hose and move the hoses and install leak-proof silicone gaskets.  6-minutes to put the casters on the unit.  5-minutes with a saber-saw to chop down an old machine table to hold the unit in place.  So from unboxing (3-minutes) my “time to operating” was about 20-25-minutes in all.

Elaine, ever the thoughtful deep-pondering artist, would have used a more considered approach.  I needed her help the next day to put in some leveling shims.  3-more minutes.  Could I have taken an hour, or two, and finely tuned, leveled, and tested? Uh…yeah. But, if you have a ton of things on your list, Pareto’s 80-20 rule (more like 90-10) is what you live by.  80 (90?) percent of results (or more) comes from 20 (10?) percent (or less!) of the actual work.

Rule #6:  Learn to “Vision Ahead”

Part of your 30-minutes of “pre-living your day” will involve looking at some projects (the big ones) that will take more than just a 30-minute block of time.  I use 30-minute blocks because I can put up with doing  any miserable task that long.  Doing some horrible task all-day?  That ain’t me, babe.

Rule #7:  Pre-Live with a Weather Forecast

The reason to “pre-living” several days out is simple:  If you have an ugly task, you can break it into smaller bite-sized pieces. Since we have 30-acres including almost 3-acres that get mowed and edged weekly, before I sit down for the “light session” and “pre-living” the day  that goes with it, I begin with a look at the weather for the next 10-days.  This way, I have the (modest) luxury of scheduling my outdoor work for maximum comfort.

In my son’s case, his “pre-living” (which he does instinctively) also involves weather checks.  He likes to high country snow camp in winter and can tell by the texture of the snow what the odds of an avalanche are.  So, when he’s making plans to solo hike and camp in the back country, he knowns when it is “safe” and when it’s not.  Wild mountain lions, notwithstanding.

Rule 8:  Manage Your Supply-Chain

Another reason that “pre-living” your life with coffee for 30-minutes each and every morning is it enables you to keep your supply chain optimally filled.  No special trips to the store.  Everything needed is on-hand.

I wrote this article in the wee hours of Wednesday morning this week.  I knew that (after looking at weather) there were several  projects that were “weather and supplier dependent.”

In one, the guest bathroom has developed a small, slow drip in the shower.  Elaine will pull off the knobs and sort out (she has better eyes) who made the faucets (hot, cold, and shower diverter).  That was something we didn’t jot down when we put it in 11-years ago.  Thing is, if we can figure out the right cartridge replacements, those can be had online and be here in two days from The ‘Zon.  10-minutes versus a 90 minute trip into town on a supply run.  Which gets us to?

Rule Number 9:  Value Your Every Second

You – as a two-legged business unit – only have one thing you can spend: Time.  So make every second count.  Pre-living by visioning each major task looking for problems (as well as time-saving opportunities) allows you to save oodles of time.  Which tools will I need, where is the 3/8th’s inch left-handed whatchamacallit? Memory works better relaxed and with coffee  than when under stress and backed into a time corner….

Rule 10:  Get Compact Knowledge to Get MAX Results

“What’s the fastest source of knowledge to do this thing I’ve never done before?”

There is nothing like a YouTube video to walk you through most simple mechanical tasks, like putting a new drive belt on the riding mower.  Or, how to adjust a two-cycle carb on a chainsaw.  Or, how to take rust off a tool using a bath of washing soda and a battery- charger….

If you can’t pre-live a serpentine belt change, what is the #1 source of help:?  YouTube.  Second? Quora?  Or…but it sure as hell isn[‘t buying a $25 shop manual.  Not in today’s world.

Would I like to have the luxury of time to read old-fashioned books?  Sure.  Read the latest Clive Cussler novel this week, already.  But that takes what?

Rule 11:  Use Time-Blocks and Golden Time

Our last two useful ideas:  When I have a large project coming up that will take more than one or two 30-minute blocks, I “pre-live” that portion of my day with a big “blank space” because that’s where I will be intentionally reading (or, when non-fiction, learning) new material.  In past articles, we have covered how to speed-read for knowledge in books and other publications.

The golden time concept is similar:  When you have a project that must get done, set out a block of time for it during which you won’t look at the market, won’t answer the phone, and won’t even talk to people.

They will think you’re anti-social and a hermit.  Perhaps, but it’s OK.  Your increased output over time is almost sure to offset a lot of social downfalls.  Because your income and success will become obvious.

Or not.

Write when you get things done,


20 thoughts on “11-Rules of Ruthless Time Management”

  1. George

    ” the lawn needs mowing”.

    Lawn mowers – implements of the Devil!

    Mowing a lawn is a terrible waste of human life!

    Grass should be GMO engineered to grow one inch and stop.

    • ” the lawn needs mowing”

      the perfect answer mike when the wife points these things out…

      ITS ON THE LIST…..

      • “You could just get one o’ them fancy-pants Husqvarna “Roomba mowers” and cross mowin’ off da list:”

        Just got rid of one.. batteries didn’t last and it didn’t cut real grass (with weeds ) very good..
        A total waste of money at this time..

      • I’ve read this kind of review elsewhere.
        Steal some ideas from the remote vehicles and drone crowd.
        Put a camera link, some linear actuators for steering and fwd/reversing on it, and a remote you can run from in fr4ont of the Big Screen with a cold brewski

  2. Great Post George…..

    I always used the (one) approach.

    Its one screw.. one word..etc.. do one then come back do one again.. pretty soon its all done and your going on to the next project..
    I was in handling.. I got more done than anyone.. I would carry my pocket tablet..(https://www.pens.com/site/products/NNL) and I would make a list.. the most critical things on top.. then check them off one at a time.. when I left the boss told my new boss they wouldn’t have ever let me go if they had realized how hard I was working.. seemed no one else wanted to work that hard.. or long..

    “a good friend of mine.. was building a garage.. he just didn’t get anything done.. he wanted my advice.. ( I was still using a walker then) and I said do one.. he took me to his garage site.. and he did one.. in about five hours his garage frame was up and he was working on sheeting.. “( unfortunately he passed away trying to work the hours I did..he had a heart attack in his sleep..)
    Needless to say I built my own home in three months while working two full time and one part time jobs..for myself its all in moving forward with one..

  3. The worst thing in the world is being a slave to time,my father was always working building,gardens,planting a hundred acres,cutting wood, said down the road he would get plenty of rest,but of course from the time he was 9 and farmed out that’s all he knew was work and more work.
    Now me I love to stop and smell the roses and kind of ponder of just where the human race went wrong in their endless lust for ever more, which to me is the worst waste of time and effort in the world while the really important things are shoved on to the back burner for another year.111

    • “from the time he was 9 and farmed out that’s all he knew was work and more work.”

      I can relate to that Robert…its the way us old fogies were raised..

    • Phew… in our area your either green or orange…

      I bought the green machine rider..what a beautiful machine..shiny.. smart big tires I was so proud..
      Showed everyone ..pookie see my new lawn tractor.. jumped on the dam thing got just about one complete round.. the vibration of the motor running cracked that cheap shiny cover.. no problem the next lawn mowing trip.. just about got half of the yard done..it just shuts off.. into the shop it goes..a few days later here you go.. get it home fire it up..I get twenty feet stops..into the shop it goes..that shiny green plastic cover.. broke right off.. will you put a new one on..nope with a price but..you must have been to rough with it..excuse me I mowed the lawn once..its been here.. this story goes on..needless to say I got a total of three lawn meetings out of the green machine..I’d rather shoot it.. instead of dragging that dam thing around.. gave it to the kids..they thought hell dad doesn’t know.. but it sits vacant no one can figure it out the green machine mechanics..well they felt like me..it’s the biggest waste of money I’ve ever had..

      Never again.. get a kubota

      • Instead of farm i.pliment green.. and an animal as its emblem.. it should be.lemon yellow with a lemon as their emblem..junk pure junk..when it ran it had power up the wazoo

      • Under its plastic hood, it is the same machine as the similarly-priced Husqy, Snapper, Jonserd, Yard-Man, etc. They are all made in the same factories in Taiwan, Korea, and China, and assembled in China. REAL green is made in Moline, and is the best you can buy — and priced accordingly. Orange is a close second, and will probably pass Green, in both price and quality, within the next 6-8 years. Red is now made in India, and is the best price point (but they don’t make little ones…)

  4. My land is fenced to keep out deer. They eat our plants. This year, no plants planted, but the beggar’s lice is epic due to lovely rainfall. Acres and acres. Dispatched son home from college to mow and bag it.

    The bright boy went to the county extension office and asked what to do to be rid of it. Turns out that deer like it so much that soy farmers plant it as a decoy forage food. So, the gate was opened and corn scattered to bring deer in. Once enough have entered, I’ll close the gate and let them mow all Summer.

  5. Looks like a good way to become a human “doing” instead of a human being.

    Where is the schedule for dinner with friends, coffee with the guys, or breakfast with other couples? Or attending a concert or a high school play or a neighbor kid’s graduation?

    It’s always interesting to watch 70 year olds trying to act like they are still 50. Until they finally have that accident or injury that they never really recover from, and then you don’t see them much, because most have a second incident caused by attempting to maintain their environment because they have not recovered from the first. The trend today seems to get on some good opiates and ignore the state of their first injury and then just ride that old carcass over the edge into disability and oblivion.

    My nurse wife, hospice for 30 years and holding a gerontology certificate reiterates again and again that the number one problem of USA retirees is failure to downsize while still in good health, until that final incident occurs that then puts them into a declining environment that looks like where decrepit old people live.

    • Amen…E/E….

      People fail to see that housing for the elderly alone is a quarter million per person plus medical expenses…
      We were just talking about insurance as an example yesterday..until my wife is old enough to get Medicare and cheaper part d.. we will spend a quarter million on the policy that won’t pay a dime until twenty grand is spent first.. yet a good heart surgery would wipe that out in a heart beat..
      I was talking to my father in law whose been frugal his whole life..for some ungodly reason he thinks there will be money left after he’s gone..nope.. in all the years I’ve seen millionaire pass on as paupers.. that industry definately needs regulations. There’s no reason why a shot here should cost ten grand while the same shot is thirty dollars in another country.
      I’ve heard there’s waiting lines etc.. excuse me they are here to..

      • My brother made a profound statement after my mother passed on.. (she was frugal)
        He said..
        (” isn’t it sad that at the end of your life, all that’s left is a couple of boxes of crap and a few photos and the memories of what you stood for..”) what I discovered was the moment something serious happens to you. Your whole perspective on what’s important changes. Everything I thought was important had no importance whatsoever.. what is is family,friends, and faith..

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