Time management

Drew Carey is an award-winning comedian and host of game show The Price Is Right. He’s also an actor, author, soccer club owner, professional photographer, and philanthropist.


Even with a personal assistant, Carey couldn’t keep up with e-mails, phone calls, and meetings. His desk was overflowing with unpaid bills, unanswered letters, and unfinished tasks.


In desperation, Carey called productivity expert David Allen. First, they processed all of his accumulated stuff. Everything was categorized into 4 buckets: Drop it, Delegate it, Do it, or Defer it. Second, Carey defined a specific next step for each action. Finally, everything was organized into folders.


Since that day, Carey has kept close to zero. His time management system removes stress and frees his mind to be creative.


The day I got to zero…no phone messages, no e-mails, nothing, not a piece of paper—when I got to that point, I felt like the world got lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I had just come out of meditating in the desert, not a care in the world. I just felt euphoric.

-Drew Carey


Importance of conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is a personality trait. It’s defined as being organized, responsible, and hardworking. And it’s related to self-control and grit.


Thousands of studies have shown that conscientiousness improves your life:


80% of success is showing up.

-Woody Allen


Time management system

Become more conscientious. Implement a time management system with 3 parts:


Most people have never tasted what it’s like to have nothing on their mind except whatever they’re doing. You could tolerate that dissonance and that stress if it only happened once a month, the way it did in the past. Now people are just going numb and stupid, or getting too crazy and busy to deal with the anxiety.

-David Allen



In medicine, new patients are constantly walking into the Emergency Department. Triage is assessing urgency of an illness and deciding who gets seen first. For example, a heart attack is treated immediately and a runny nose is sent home.


Triage all actions as they come in by applying the 4 Ds:


Be selective about accepting actions. According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of results come from 20% of actions. This means 20% of actions are worth your time, and 80% should be dropped or delegated.


When things are going wrong, when multiple problems are occurring all at once, when things get overwhelming, you have to prioritize and execute. Take a step back. Detach from the mayhem. Look at the situation and assess the multitude of problems, tasks, or issues. Choose the one that is going to have the biggest impact and execute on that…Get it taken care of. Once you have done that, you can move on to the next problem or issue, then the one after that. Continue doing that until you have stabilized the situation. Prioritize and execute.

-Jocko Willink


If you delegate, provide specific instructions. For example, please book this restaurant for 2 people for Friday at 8 p.m. and send confirmation by end of day.


If an action will take less than 2 minutes, do it now. For example, paying a bill online.


Finally, defer actions that can’t be done right away, but decide on a specific next step. For example, book a doctor’s appointment tomorrow by calling (123) 456-7890. Keep a master to-do list of deferred actions and next steps. This could be a note file on your desktop or smartphone.


Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined.

-David Allen



When you execute next steps, focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking decreases performance because it takes mental effort to switch attention.


Avoid interruptions by turning off alerts and notifications for your smartphone and computer. To block ambient noise, wear earphones and listen to the same song on repeat. Alternatively, search YouTube for 432 Hertz music to repeat. Studies have shown this frequency is relaxing and lowers stress.


The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions. It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later…just as their designers intended.

-Nir Eyal


Refresh your brain by taking breaks. A computer-tracking study found that the most productive people worked for 52 minutes, then took a break for 17 minutes.


For complex projects, consider creating a Gantt chart with milestones and deadlines. Input them into your calendar.


The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

-Mark Twain



Here are 4 essential tools for staying organized:


Ideally, use an online calendar that’s synced to your smartphone. Update your calendar immediately with new meetings, appointments, and special dates. For example, medical appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, bill payments, and renewal dates.


First thing in the morning, check your calendar for the day’s meetings. In your smartphone, set alarms for 5 minutes or more before each meeting. This provides time to get to the meeting or prepare for it. Lastly, review your master to-do list and decide which next steps to do today.


I decided I would sell myself the best hour of the day to improving my own mind, and the world could buy the rest of the time. It sounds selfish, but it worked.

-Charlie Munger


Create folders on your computer for all documents. For example, a finance folder with sub-folders for bank statements, invoices, and tax documents. Give each document a name and date for easy reference. When you get a new document, store it immediately in the appropriate folder. Back up folders in the cloud or on a removable drive.


Finally, maintain a password-protected master document with accounts and passwords. No more scraps of paper that get lost.


Time is the substance of life. When anyone asks you to give your time, they’re really asking for a chunk of your life.

-Antoinette Bosco


How to start today


Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it…if you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perceptions of our lives.

-Joshua Foer


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Importance of conscientiousness

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Time management system

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