Prepping: 13 – Time Management Secrets

I bet you don’t know too many people who roll out of bed at 4:00 AM, even on Sunday, and are seriously at work within minutes, do you?  I mean besides the one who is offering you these “insider notes for a high output life”?

Being successful in life is not particularly difficult.  Must be present to win. But, over seven decades here are some of the no BS “secret sauce ingredients” that I’ve found really work.

Secret #1  Have a Purpose

Be Purpose-Driven.   The very first thing that goes through my head on waking is “How can I live a perfect life today?”  The “right answer” to that one is having a major purpose driving you.   You can pick as many purposes as you want, but remember, more than two to five “big purposes” will land you in the quagmire I’ve been dealing with in my life:  Too many big projects and goals means not enough time.

I know a couple of doctors – great people.  They are generally blessed with  one big focus in life.  They want to “master their specialty.”  Whether that’s being the best at corneal transplants for an eye doc, the highest success rates for a general surgeon, of catching life-ending disease while its trreatable for a country GP, all of them seem to have one major focus.

On the other hand, serial entrepreneurs I know leap from one business model to another, harvest a lot of dough along the way, but then move into a completely new and different venture in an unfamiliar vertical market.  Having gotten the accounting and business processes down, they take over new markets through either founding a new company, doing a roll-up, a turn-around, or simply acquiring a company they think they can do better at.  One of my friends is on about his 10th business model, 8th industry, and so forth.

So, secret #1 is really simple:  Focus. The first thing in your head is where your day tends to go.  So manage the hell out of that -ride toward your purpose-  and be crystal clear with yourself on what your “Main Project” is for today that supports your Big Purpose.

Secret #2 Plan Like Made

Plan Your Day for Action.  I am always shocked by the lack of planning people put into their day.  The “average person” is average because they fail to have a plan OR because their planning is not “real.”

What I mean is related to the military concept of “Becoming decisively engaged.”  Militaries don’t lollygag from day-to-day.  Everything is an order and has a purpose so, as a result, they can be very successful.

Planning your day – becoming 100% committed to each of, say 6-things in a day – is critical to success.  It’s the old “When the going gets hard, the hard get going.”  Most people never start.

Secret #3  Slice Your Day

Day Part Your Life.  Another way of putting this is “time blocking” your life.  So much time to do this, so much for that….

It makes Elaine crazy sometimes.  “You’re always doing things like you’re on a clock!”  Truth be told, I am.  Because I have a daily “hit list” I’m going to (by-God) get ’em done today.  And if I feel like I’m running late, I double-down on the work at hand, becoming ever-more focused.

Obsessive?  No, driven is slightly different, though the wife might argue the point.

Secret #4  Do “Deep Work”

Plan 5-6 Hours of “Deep Work.”  One of the best time management books ever written, in my view, is Cal Newport’s “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.”

The main idea is simple-enough:  When you have a “big purpose” make sure that every day you spend 5-6 hours doing that one thing that moves you toward your goal to the exclusion of everything else.

Lots of “time management gurus” have preached “golden time” in the past, but Cal’s book really nails it in simple, easy-to-apply terms.  If you want big results, you need big projects. And you need to get them done. Small or trivial projects get (no coaching here) guess what kind of results?

Secret #5  Kill Small Stuff

Dispatch Small Tasks Quickly.  Around 30 acres and too many hobbies and distractions, there is a huge temptation to get bogged down in “little stuff.”  Death by minutia. Some people, living an essentially unscheduled life, don’t mind.  If they maintain a large-enough pending pile of “small stuff,”  They won’t get to the Big Important Purpose and that seems to suit them just fine.

That’s because people who don’t plan for an outcome are either afraid of a successful outcome, or they don’ really have one.  When you see someone without progress toward their professed “big project” every day, it means they are committed to it.  Not really, no matter how they talk their game.

Secret #2, part 2 (becoming decisively engaged with Life) doesn’t matter to them.  Their life, but it’s only 18,000 days, so WTF?

Secret #6  Multi-Task, But…

Multi-task on Small Stuff, Not Big.  I noticed a really graceful arrangement in my personal time use just this morning.

There was no coffee to make, since I cut coffee-making (and clean-up) in half by making one big pot of coffee every-other day.  Bought the best quality large Thermos I could find, so the coffee took 30-seconds to get back to piping-hot in the wave.

While the coffee went to work waking up my brain,  Zeus the Cat came in and ate his breakfast.  While he was doing that, I was getting my 30-minutes of  light crown (deep red 660-700 nm) photobiomodulation.  This plus coffee, plus Huperzine A 200mcg (Third Party Tested)was making sure the brain was chemically-ready.

I still had “machine time” that could be added – could have put some wash in, thawed a roast…not of it utilizes the brain and that waste leads to addictions like social.  And now we’re at….

Secret #7  Kill Noise and Social

Really Manage Information Flows.  This may be a hard one for many people because becoming “addicted” to time-wasters like social media is what average people do.  If you want to be less average, you have to stop running with the back of the herd.

Turn off the phone.  Let voicemail deal with things.  Turn off the “mail pop-up” because you can look at email when you come up for air after your “deep work” part of the day.

Skip social media completely because if something really big happened, like a death in the family, you’d get a phone call.  Besides, social media is just a scam to make a small number of computational psychopaths rich by suckering people like you into providing them with free content for their websites.  Screw ’em.

Same thing with texting.  Except for “Honey, I just ran the truck into a ditch come get me…” there’s no reason to send a text.

People who have never been through formal time management training don’t understand the differece between Urgency and Importance.

“Sally just had a baby” is an example of something that seems “urgent.”  In the BSOL (big scheme of Life), though, it’s not important.  The baby is only important if you have an immediate family tie (or you’re on the financial hook as the dad).  For everyone else, there’s “later.”

Secret #8  Boot Your Brain

Structure Your Morning Brain Boot. With noise turned down you can focus on getting the few “info morsels” that can really leverage you to  max productivity.  Elaine’s laptop (make dual monitors) just off the kitchen is where this work happens.

The cat was still eating, the red lights were on, the coffee still hot, and the brain coming up.  This gives me 25-minutes to run my brain’s “daily Information boot-up.”  Think of these as your day’s “constraints and opportunities.”

Constraints:  Since a good portion of my life is spent in the unheated spaces of life (outside, on the property, or working in the unheated shop) I spend more time than most people looking at the weather.  When I’m done, after 5-minutes, or so, I can adjust my day knowing an hour-by-hour forecast of what to expect, along with a high confidence outlook for tomorrow’s weather, and with declining confidence into the week.

Another of my constraints, back in my corporate days when weather study was more on the order of 60-seconds, was to look at the dfreeway camera systems.  Washington State was well-ahead of the rest of the country so back then, it was easy to “model the day constraints.”

In addition to the weather and traffic cams, I tossed in things like the sports schedules.  What could be worse than being in Seattle and expecting to meet someone for lunch down around the stadiums, only to find out there’s an afternoon baseball game and the closest parking is in Portland?

A quick check of a few news sites, like Drudge Report and my give me the daily dose of news and general awareness.  On a morning when Drudge is leading with “30-Minutes that Defined a Presidency” I’m pretty safe guessing it’s another “re-write Sunday” because there’s been no real news other than the crooked power outages in California continue.  No consatraints were visible this morning.

Opportunities:  As you know, I have the ham radio hobby and I’m a tool-slut.  So part of my morning routine is to look at what’s newly listed on eBay in ham radio gear, and I check to see if Amazon has new tools, or is Harbor Freight has changed their ad.

It’s also a good idea to be on the look-out for others who you love or care for.  So, if I have not hit the 25-minute marker, a look at to see if there’s anything our children might benefit from.  If yes?  A two-line email goes out.

Little Stuff:  This includes 30-seconds of meal planning.  What should I have this morning?  Am I eating or skipping lunch today?  Should I toss a pot roast in the crock pot?  If I go off the ranch, anything I want to add to the shopping list?

Alexa, add rosemary and Pledge to the shopping list…”

“This is a reminder…time’s up.”

Secret # 9:  Life By Clocks

Work Expands to Fill Available Time.  This is where the advice “If you want something done, give it to a busy person” came from.

That said, there is “hard time” and “soft time.”  You decide which is which.

My “hard times” are 5:00 AM  – my self-imposed, got to be out of bed time – and 7:59 AM – which is when a column must be published, if I’m going to do one that day.

There’s one other “hard time” – and that’s the stop watch on the computer that gets me up and walking around for at least 5-minutes every hour to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  A polite way of saying when you’re over 70, working 12+ hours a day.

Depending on day, I will use the computer-based reminder, or Alexa.  Just depends on the mood.

Soft time?  Elaine and I have an afternoon toddy in the 180-degree view room (or on the screen porch, depending on weather).  It happens daily but the time is “soft.”

If we’re both done with plans, it can be as early as 3 PM or as late as 5 PM.  It’s holy in the sense that couples need an hour or more of “together time” every day (plus adult “play-times,” ahem…) but if it slides plus or minus an hour from four PM due to stuff, oh well.

Secret #11  Reading and Research

If You Want More Out, Put More In.  As a writer (after a fashion) and stock trader (after a fashion) and tree farmer (ibid) and crackpot scientist (for sure…) it’s terribly important that three skills get used every day for at least an hour.

Reading: Because I’m peripherally involved in a cyber-security insurance firm, I need to get my Texas General Lines, Property and Casualty license.  This means a book.  This means reading.

Research:  Since the time machine project is still underway, that means everything from reading obscure papers to understanding the owner’s manual for an HP Function Generator.

Learn a New Skill:  You value is determined in life not so much by how your “feel” (sorry!) and not very often by what your “think.”  The biggest payoffs are on what you can “Do.”  Learn eat skills like potato chips and be that learning machine.

Secret #12  Daily Debriefing

What Gets Measured, Gets Done.  So at the end of each day, before going into your “second life” – the one in dream realms – take some time and ask yourself from basic questions about the day.

  • What did I get accomplished today?
  • Did I stay “on plan?”  What was my score, 0-100?
  • Did I learn a new skill?
  • Is the new skill useful in  dream realms and should I use it when I dream tonight?
  • How close was today to a perfect day?

And never go to bed angry.  You should look forward to your dream realm adventures as much as you do life on this side of Life.

Secret #13:  You Need Daily Music

Synch Your Brain Hemispheres.  Sound isn’t just for music videos.  Consciously chosen, sound can improve learning.  Baroque is great, read Super-Learning.

In addition to conventional music, try white, pink, or my favorite: brown noise.  Yeah, Alexa can loop brown noise.  Surf sounds are good, too.

Now, does it matter that it’s Sunday?  It’s 6:00 AM.  And that means it times to…click and get and  (skip the ads):

Write when you get rich,

23 thoughts on “Prepping: 13 – Time Management Secrets”

  1. I prefer to live and enjoy the moment. Observe, improvise, act on a whim, enjoy the unplanned and unexpected moments. Life is short. Time is your most valuable asset. Use it wisely.

  2. Wake up in the morning – Damn I’m still here in this coma.What’s different today

    Bedtime already-Maybe tonight I’ll make the Great Escape.

    Wake up in the morning- Damn I’m still here in this coma . What’s different today.
    I’m actually able to almost start reading the writing on the walls, what does that

      • 180 drops a minute that means in about 8 hours I’ll have done my work for the day

      • May all beings be lovingly fulfilled.
        May all beings financially fulfilled.
        May all beings be readily fulfilled.
        So be it.

  3. Great advice. I embrace and execute each and every point except two…My success would not nearly be as robust if I put away my phone. I answer every phone call and text… No exceptions…and in the go-go Silicon Valley, I have no time restrictions. I answer texts past midnight if that’s what it takes….and that has resulted in more sales, more referrals and great reviews.

    And I only work with vendors, lenders, title and escrow, stagers, handymen, Contractor’s etc that have that same mentality. My entire team…all ex-corporate execs… also understand that in order to make a difference, you have to make extra time for the people that will make you money.

    Yes, answering texts and calls pushes the timeline of daily tasks forward a bit…but it can also eliminate a few tasks as well depending on the nature of the text or call. It ends up always evening out.

    But, my business is a sales and customer service based business. I hate it when I get a voice mail or no answer on a text when I am trying to get an answer to a time sensitive task. I get that and don’t want my clients to feel that way about me or my team. I tell my team each and every phone call could be a $40,000 phone call. (The average commission for them on one home sale)

    When that type of money is at stake…you’d answer your phone last midnight too.

      • d,
        Trump had nothing to do with it. The Bay Area will be successful no matter what or who is President. But Trump is trying to destroy California and big market real estate with his incredibly harmful tax reform.

    • Damn ,,, Mark we finally agree upon something I told you we’d synchronize a little bit there ,,,,now if we can just hit on some of these other issues, like the U.S. Admiral, chairman joint chief of staff’s to sketch your parasympathetic to the speculative radiosensitive stampeding on an ivory type.

  4. Uh-oh – I smell a bailout at the other end now, scams.

    Pollock Pines Family Says Man Died When Oxygen Tank Lost Power during PG&E Shut-Off

    “We were all asleep, we heard my mom scream. She was crying,” she said. “My dad went down in her arms, he was going for this oxygen machine.”

    Family members performed CPR on Mardis, but responding paramedics pronounced him dead. Aldea says her father’s health issues didn’t help, but she believes part of the blame is on PG&E.

    “I went down and check on him at 11:30 or so and he was sound asleep, the power was still on at that point,” Aldea said.

    “I don’t understand why they turned off the power,” she said. “No winds at all. And because of that, my father is gone. Blaming them is not going to bring my father back, unfortunately.”

  5. Having goals is key! At least it’s number one on your list. Sometimes the biggest goal is so elusive that you have no idea how to actualize it. In that case, it’s sometimes better to accomplish the lesser goals rather than waste time cogitating on it. If there’s a viable approach it may come to you during the day, or not. Perhaps during sleep for those that dream. If not, at least something has been accomplished.

    Time slicing is appropriate much of the time, but there are some things, like pouring a flat, that’s an entire day’s work without a break. It needs to be started and finished in one shot. I always try to slice with the most important things starting earlier in the day, so they get finished.

    I have mixed feelings on Hup A. I respect it, but have some fear of it. It can bring on dreams that are more than I can handle. It’s very easy to overdo that one.

    Music? I never found it that important for me. Others disagree. Finding the RIGHT music is quite difficult. Some of the gentler ’60s music and classical Chinese female vocalists move me. Not much else. It’s impossible to think with great clarity if there’s any music at all.

    • Good point, Mike. I know people that are very logical and yet they can’t “visualize” worth a darn and for some reason, these people don’t seem to “need” as much music as the highly visual cortex-interfaced people.
      On the other hand, the ones who shun music tend to be very good at math and “sciences” while having a hard time with softs like poetry, music and involved (imaginative, not technical, 1-2-3 step stuff) writing.
      So much for the start of a very long discourse on personal mental topologies.

      • I think you’ve stumbled on to something important here George! You described me to a “T”. I’ve never been able to appreciate most art(other than a perfect and explicit female form), nor poetry, most fiction, and most music. My imagination leans technical, and I can easily conceptualize without visualizing. Definitely a different kind of thinking. I have many musical instruments here(keys and strings), yet have little interest in or time for actually playing them. Visitors(if any) are always welcome to try though.

        Modern vocal music seems to have a pitch range of less than an octave. The music I like has a multiple octave pitch range, and I have no feeling at all for rhythm.

        If you ever run out of ideas for a PN focus piece, I think this subject, in depth, might interest many readers. The other side of the coin – the expressive, arty, visually oriented brain would be worth serious understanding too. I suspect that the visually oriented types can process a large amount of data with little depth(such as memorizing spoken lines or mental recall/replay of pictures and movies), and the non-visual types handle much less absolute input to a much greater depth. The visual types do much better at foreign languages, and the non-visual types “may” do better at designing algorithms and processing obfuscated or embedded information. Obviously both processes are important. Dreams still seem to be largely available only to the visual types.

  6. The last thing I do every night before bed is mentally map the next day’s necessary jobs. They may be big, or small, but they are prerequisites to accomplishing whatever it is I’ve set out to accomplish for the day.

    I will time-block, sort of. My job estimates tend toward optimism and away from Murphy, which can be problematic.

    Something I’ve tried to tell youngsters (both mine, and everyone else’s) is: “There is NOTHING that’s so important, INCLUDING YOURSELF, that you need to be in constant contact with your handheld time-waster.” Unfortunately, none listen…

    I catch he!! from my kids because I put my phone down when I’m working. How dare I not be available 24/7 for them to whine to, when someone disses them on Facebook! Gimme a frickin’ break! BTW if that sounds trivial, it is probably more-important and relevant than 90% of the calls I get, even after allegedly being added to every “no-call” list in the Free World. When I get business-related or important calls, I generally know in-advance, when they’re coming and from what number. (I still occasionally do “consulting,” but being “retired” now, whatever that is, I consult strictly on MY terms — none of this “on-call” or “as-needed” crap…)

    I have a short series of “simple games” I play every morning. I established specific parameters by which beating a game would be deemed “successful.” The params require both a degree of mental dexterity, and logical, computational dexterity, to successfully beat:

    gosub seq1
    If count <6 .AND. (brain not engaged) goto start

    It generally takes about 3x, even with coffee, for me to consider myself sufficiently competent and cognizant to make actual important decisions…

    I don't do cams, but do check both sports and venue schedules before I saddle up. A concert or convention can bottle-up an area as much as a ballgame, and for much longer periods of time.

    For weather, I generally hit the "10-day page" at Weather Underground (updated 4x daily so they can make themselves appear to know what they're talking about) for both "where I am" and "where I'm going," to see if I should be loading extra tarps or using a covered trailer, or postponing my trip altogether. — Takes about a minute…

    'Have not done a "daily debriefing." I'll add it to my routine, and thanks!

    I haven't seen a reference to "Superlearning" in years. Thanks for this, also. My copy was certainly lost several residences ago, so it'll go on my Amazon list…

  7. I lived by the clock for decades, went off it for a couple of years, and now I’m back on it, but to a much lesser extent. The best cultural reference I can come with up for this sort of thing is the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway.
    Time management by day, and looking for what washes in on the tide evenings and weekends seems to strike a balance. Posting a running punch list on the out door for stuff that has to be done is enough of time management at the house.
    Dealing with time wasters is always of value, whatever your objective is. Spam filters on the phones help. If someone I don’t know calls, and it is not important enough for them to leave a voicemail or a message, then it probably doesn’t require my attention anyway. One of my retired relatives turned off the voicemail on his phone.
    VPN’s on the smartphone and computers help reduce telemarketing calls on the phones. The DNS services sell your tracking info to the phone spammers. Ever notice how your home phone always seems to ring just as you walk into range of the home WiFi with your smartphone?
    I use a professional spam filter to prioritize my email reading. It isn’t that I don’t skim through the spam occasionally, it just isn’t a scheduled activity.
    In recent years my paper mail has been reduced to the point that I actually enjoy going through the US mail again.
    I try to get a little exercise in the evening, but that is weather and circumstance dependent, so that is more of a flex activity than a rigid scheduled activity.
    Smartphones allow for internet breaks in the daytime. I’ve noticed that the employees at local retail and restaurant businesses panic when they see people typing on their smartphones. They think they’re getting a bad review, for some reason.

  8. MUSIC AND THE ZONE: When what I had designed as a graphic artist looked stupid and I didn’t have a clue how to change it, I would repeat the same song. Suddenly I would be in “The Zone”, a highly creative place, and the ideas flowed. I would be completely oblivious to my body and my surroundings for an hour or two. When I came to, the newsletter would be wonderfully improved with a very interesting look.

    Waylon Jennings was a favorite. Not sure why his voice or the guitar puts me in that hypnotic state. (Stupid Autocorrect wants to spell it “Wailing” instead of Waylon) LOL

  9. Sir,

    Ah, Darkness has lifted from morning to welcome the sabbath. An aforementioned comment’s basic routine got me thinking that x begets y. “Pleasure’s a sin, and sometimes sin’s a pleasure”? Was the Bureau “Conceiving Ada”?

    • Dam jester…

      Lol Lol lol.. my first thought initially went in a totally different direction..

  10. After 40 years of television broadcast engineering ‘under pressure’ and ‘on the clock…. to the second’ performance, I’m surprised my adrenal glands still work. Retirement has been a time to step back and enjoy ‘me-time’. I do not watch TV. I’m not entertained by it. I will read everything that interests me. Phone is not an ‘attraction’, either. It is somewhere nearby and checked occasionally to see if I missed any calls or texts.

    I have a shed full of parts for projects I wanted to do “someday… when I retire”. That time is now, and there is all the homeowner projects that need doing also. Yes, I pick my projects on a daily basis and see them through. But I am much more gentle on myself and loose on my ‘time constraints’. It is a much more pleasant and easy way to navigate through my day. It helps that I don’t have many external obligations that are expecting something from me each and every day or hour. Yes… I know how to be incredibly focused and driven to get something done. Did that for 40 years. But I don’t always see the need to stress myself to accomplish something that could take a little bit longer and be easier on my psyche.

    • “I have a shed full of parts for projects I wanted to do “someday… when I retire”.

      Hank….dont wait to long..

      My dream was to make wood toys.. I’ve always had my cigar box projects or something I would whip up.. but for a leisure fun relaxing out of wood.. a wood plane or train. Dollhouses. The thought was I’d build them then give them to a local organization to distribute them to needy families. then physical limitations set in and those dreams are long gone..
      I still dinker and have projects but nothing like I had imagined.

  11. Lol lol lol..

    I thought I was bad..

    I’ll be scanning the news and I will be thinking.. god what’s taking George so long to post today lol lol lol

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