Everything you know about time management is wrong.
That’s the opening premise of Rory Vaden’s exceptionally valuable book: Procrastinate on Purpose.
He started studying people that were super-successful to see how they managed their time. And here’s what he hit upon immediately…
Successful people think differently. And their thinking shapes the choices they make which in turn yields powerful results that are much different than ordinary people get from how they spend their time.
Why do highly successful people think differently? Because they realize they need to in order to get higher order results.
According to Vaden, we have three options when it comes to using time:
- We can manage it.
- We can prioritize it.
- We can multiply it.
The last option seems impossible because we all know time is finite and cannot be multiplied, at least not strictly speaking.
And yet, this is the powerful paradox behind the success of “Multipliers” (the term that Vaden uses to describe the radically successful people he studied).
In the book he debunks a number of popular myths about time management. He points out that there is no such thing as time management; there is only self-management.
To maximize your use of time you need to understand that there are three dimensions to how one can think about time.
One-dimensional thinking is when you focus on “managing your time.” This is when you try to do things faster and more efficiently. This is what most people do: run faster on the hamster wheel trying to squeeze more activities into the limited block of time they have available.
Two-dimensional thinking is when you focus on “prioritizing your time.” Basically, when it comes down to it, you’re just juggling commitments. Still, it’s better than managing time because you’re learning to say no to some of the useless activities in your life.
Three-dimensional thinking is when you multiply your time by factoring in something Vaden terms “Significance.”
This is the power-move used by Multipliers. This is when give yourself emotional permission to spend time (strategically) doing those things today that will create more time tomorrow.
Whereas dimensions 1 and 2 are like running or juggling, the 3rd dimensions is like planting seeds.
As Vaden puts it, “once ultra-performers realize that you can’t manage time, and there’s a certain limit to borrowing time, they intuitively learn how to multiply it.
So, how exactly do you multiply time?
Well, by using five permissions that Vaden discovered that Multipliers use. He says that Multipliers have given themselves five permissions that the rest of us have not.
Here they are:
- Eliminate: know what to ignore
- Automate: know how to invest
- Delegate: know your limits
- Procrastinate: let things go
- Concentrate: protect your top priorities
Maybe it makes sense for you to get a copy of Procrastinate on Purpose and at least skim through it. Think about why that might help you.
Meanwhile, I’ll summarize the key challenges in implementing the 5 permissions. Then I’ll add some thoughts that go beyond what’s explicitly discussed in the book.
First, we eliminate all the things we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. As management guru Peter Drucker once observed, “there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Most of the useless things we do seem useful to us. And we’re used to doing them so they’ve become deeply ingrained habits.
So, learning how to eliminate is actually easier said than done.
Automating repetitive tasks involves technology, and creating systems for using it effectively. And here also we find ourselves struggling to break out of our habits.
If you don’t notice that a task is repetitive you won’t think to automate it. Many things we do are repetitive in ways we don’t easily grasp. Again, because we’re not used to seeing them as repetitive.
Here it’s useful to consider the insight of an entrepreneur named Ted Nicholas. He had created a bunch of corporations, and found himself annoyed at having to spend money on lawyers just to get a few standard forms filled out (usually done by the lawyers’ secretary).
So Nicholas did some research and discovered that there was no legal requirement that a lawyer be hired to form a corporation. He did more research to find out everything about obtaining the forms, and making them available.
He created a letter sized book with 100 pages of forms for incorporating in Delaware and sold it under the title How to Form Your Own Corporation Without a Lawyer for Under $50.
He had to learn how to market his information product, which involved using ads in the Wall St. Journal and business magazines. He sold over 1 millions copies of his book, and then went on to sell over $200 million worth of business books.
He’s featured on pages 142-43 of Dan Kennedy’s book How to Make Millions With Your Ideas. On those pages Dan reports that Ted “spends most of his time at his retirement home in Switzerland, skiing, enjoying fine wines, traveling a a little, writing a little, and relaxing a lot.”
Obviously, Ted is a Multiplier.
Stop and think about this for a moment.
Thousands of lawyers (and other business people) could have noticed the repetitiveness of corporate formation and then capitalized upon the opportunity Ted seized.
But they did not. Why not?
Because they didn’t notice the repetitiveness. Or they didn’t notice the opportunity it presented.
For lawyers, the lack of awareness served their immediate purpose of making money in the way that they best understood.
But what if a lawyer cranking out boring repetitive forms had used third-dimensional thinking?
Then maybe they’d have been relaxing in Switzerland enjoying profound wealth instead of Ted Nichols.
Seeing how the use of time today might have a big impact in the future requires an open-mind. It’s easy to downplay and naysay, which unfortunately is what most lawyers are most adept at.
It’s harder to envision possibility and then work to make it happen.
One common “nay-saying” I know most lawyers will reflexively offer is then idea that “well I’m not good at online marketing.” True…
But neither was Ted Nichols when he started. He had to learn, and that’s where he invested his time.
And besides, you might not have to learn to market. Maybe you just need to enough to hire the right person to engage to help you…
Which brings us to the third permission.
You should only be doing the things you love doing and which you are especially talented at.
These days a unique talent isn’t likely to be something that involves just one skill set, but rather several used in a unique combination.
Cartoonist Scott Adams who has written about how to achieve success by using powerful systems says it’s hard to be in the top 1% of any activity, but it’s pretty easy to be very good (top 25% in two or more).
Adams freely admits that his skills at drawing were pedestrian at best, but he says he combined his modest artistic skill with a modest ability to be funny and parlayed that into success. He was also pretty good at doing marketing online.
The point is: you should find out what your magic skill-set combination is and leverage high-level opportunities that come from using that skill set.
Then delegate everything else.
Of course, here also, people resist delegating because they have a rigid mindset about giving work to others for one reason or another.
You have to give yourself permission to offload work to others just as Multipliers do.
You should put off doing activities that are important, but which do not demand action at the present moment.
Does that sound weird? Maybe it does
Too many of us always listen to the little voice in our head that says “just go ahead and do this now while you’re aware it needs to be done.” Next thing you know you’ve spent valuable time doing something that’s not your top priority.
Stop and realize something important…
Not doing something doesn’t mean you’re lazy. If you don’t do something because you’re self-indulgent, okay, that’s procrastination.
But if you “procrastinate” with strategic intention that’s laudable. Plus it’s a sign of patience.
The key to becoming a Multiplier is to focus as much time, energy and commitment on your Most Significant Priority (“MSP”).
For Ted Nichols, who made $200 million and retired to Switzerland, his MSP was figuring out how to sell forms online.
For Scott Adams it was figuring out how to quit his boring corporate job and become a cartoonist-entrepreneur.
Of course, you don’t have to become an entrepreneur if you don’t want to. But it might help to start thinking like one if you want to become a time-multiplier.
The best way to become a Multiplier is to read books about how highly successful people think and act.
Now might be a good time to spend a few moments asking yourself…
Why might you want to read Procrastinate on Purpose? How might it benefit you specifically?
Then, ask yourself—on a scale of 0 to 10—how willing would you be to try some of the strategies set forth in the book?
If the idea of strategically planting seeds today that pay off big for you in the future seems appealing, then you might want to order a copy of the book.
P.S. If you want a better practice, start using the 80/20 Principle.