The following excerpt is from “The Power of Discipline: 7 Ways It Can Change Your Life” by Bryan Tracy
There is perhaps no area of your life where self-discipline is more important than in the way you manage your time. Time management is a core discipline that largely determines the quality of your life.
Peter Drucker says, “You cannot manage time; you can only manage yourself.”
Time management is really life management, personal management, management of yourself, rather than of time or circumstances.
Time is perishable; it cannot be saved. Time is irreplaceable; nothing else can replace it. Time is irretrievable; once it is gone or wasted, you can never get it back. Finally, time is indispensable, especially for accomplishment of any kind. All achievement, all results, all success requires time.
The fact is that you cannot save time; you can only spend it differently. You can only move your time usage from areas of low value to areas of high value. Herein lies the key to success, and the requirement for self-discipline,
Time management is the ability to choose the sequence of events. By exerting your self-discipline with regard to time, you can choose what to do first, what to do second, and what to do not at all. And you are always free to choose.
You require tremendous self-discipline to overcome the procrastination that holds most people back from great success. It is said that “procrastination is the thief of life.” A native Indian once told me that it is even worse. He said, “Procrastination is the thief of dreams.”
The Pareto Principal, the 80/20 rule, says that 20% of the things you do contain 80% of the value of what you accomplish. This means that 80% of what you do is worth 20% or less of the value of what you accomplish.
Because of this disparity, some things you do are five times, and even ten times, more valuable than other things. The challenge for most people is that the most important things you do are big, hard and difficult. The 80% of things that you do that make little or no difference to your life are fun, easy and enjoyable.
You can tell the value that something has to you by the amount of time you invest in it. You always pay attention to and spend time on what you most value, whether it is your family, your health, your social or sports activities or your money and career. It is only by looking at how you spend your time that you, and everyone else, knows what is really important to you.
The essence of time management is for you to discipline yourself to set clear priorities, and then to stick to those priorities. You must consciously and deliberately select the most valuable and important thing that you could be doing at any given time, and then discipline yourself to work solely on that task.
In your personal life, you goal is to get the highest “return on energy” from your activities. Ken Blanchard refers to this as getting the highest “return on life.”
Just as you would be careful about investing your money to assure that you get the highest rate of return, you must be equally as careful when you invest your time. You must be sure that you earn the highest level of results, rewards and satisfaction from the limited amount of time you have.
Always, before you commit to a time consuming activity, you must ask, “Is this the very best use of my time?”
Lack of self-discipline in time management leads people to procrastinate continually on their top tasks, leading them to spend more and more time on task of low-value or no-value. And whatever you do repeatedly eventually becomes a habit.
Many people have developed the habit of procrastination, of putting off their major tasks and instead spending most of their time on activities that make very little difference in the long run.
One of the most important words in developing the discipline of time management is “consequences.” Something is important to the degree that it has serious potential consequences for completion or non-completion. A task or activity is unimportant to the degree that it does not matter if it is done or not.
Completing a course of study at the university can have enormous consequences that can impact your life for many years to come. Completing a major task at work, or making an important sale, can have significant consequences on your job and your income.
On the other hand, drinking coffee, chatting with co-workers, reading the newspaper, surfing the Internet or checking emails may be enjoyable, but these activities have few or no consequences. Whether you do them or not makes little or no difference to your work or your life. And it is precisely on these activities that most people spend their time.
There is a simple time management system that you can use to overcome procrastination. It requires self-discipline, will power and personal organization, but by using this system, you can double and triple your productivity, performance and output.
Start by making a list of everything you have to do each day, before you begin. The best time to make this list is the evening before, at the end of the workday, so that your subconscious mind can work on your list of activities while you sleep. You will often wake up with ideas and insights on how to more effectively complete the tasks of the day.
Apply the A B C D E Method to your list:
A = “Must do” – Serious consequences for non-completion;
B = “Should do” – Mild consequences for doing or not doing;
C = “Nice to do” – No consequences whether you do it or not;
D = “Delegate” – Everything you possibly can to free up more time for those things that only you can do;
E = “Eliminate” – Discontinue all tasks and activities that are no longer essential to your work and to achieving your goals.
Review your list of activities for the coming day and write an “A,B,C,D, or E” before each task before you start.
If you have several “A” tasks, separate them by writing A-1, A-2, A-3, and so on. Do this with your B and C tasks as well.
The rule is that you should never do a B task when you have an A task left undone. You should never do a lower value task when you have a higher value task before you.
Once you have organized your list using this system, discipline yourself to start on you’re A-1 task first thing in the morning, before you do anything else.
Once you have begun work on your most important task, you must discipline yourself to concentrate single-mindedly, with 100% of your time and attention, until that task is complete.
It takes tremendous self-discipline to select your most important task, and then to start on that task rather than doing anything else. But once you begin work on it, you will start to feel a flow of energy that motivates and propels you into the task. You will feel more positive and confident. You will feel excited and happy. The very act of starting on an important task raises your self-esteem and motivates you to continue.
Deep within each person is an intense desire to feel strong, effective, powerful and in control of his or her life. You automatically trigger these feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem when you start to work on the task that is most important to you at the moment.
This ABCDE Method seldom takes more than about ten minutes to organize your entire day. But you will save ten minutes in execution for every minute that you invest in this way of planning before you begin.
As you feel yourself moving forward, making progress on your most important task, your brain will release a steady flow of endorphins, nature’s “happy drug.” These endorphins will make you feel positive, focused, alert, aware and completely in control.
When you discipline yourself to continue to push through against your natural resistance, and complete a major task, you get an “endorphin rush.” You experience this as a sense of elation, exhilaration, happiness and higher self-esteem. By completing a major task, you feel exactly like an athlete who has crossed the finish line first. You feel like a winner.
Your payoff from excellent time management is continuous. As soon as you begin to plan and organize your time, set priorities, and begin on your A-1 task, you will feel happy and more in control of yourself and your life.
Starting today, you should apply these key time management principles to every area of your life. Apply them to your work, your family, your health, your exercise routine and your financial decisions and activities.
You require tremendous discipline to set priorities and then to stick to those priorities. You require the continuous exertion of discipline and will power to overcome the procrastination that holds most people back. And the more you discipline yourself to use your time well, the happier you will feel and the better will be the quality of your life in every area.