I remember the day my mentor, Earl Nightingale, taught me one of my life’s greatest lessons. It took less than 30 seconds. I was struggling with getting all that I had planned done in a day, and asked Earl how he managed his time.

He chuckled. “No one manages time, Bob. Time cannot be managed. We can only focus on managing our activities.”

A day seems segmented into hours and minutes, my mentor explained, but this is an illusion: it is actually comprised of a series of actions. What we choose to do and how we follow through on a series of acts each and every day is what determines our level of success.

A lifetime is comprised of years, months, weeks and days, each day nothing but a string of individual tasks. The task is the basic building block, the “atom” that combines to create your entire life. If we carry each single act as best we can, this series of successful actions grows inevitably to become a series of successful days, weeks and months…and a successful life.


The Lesson of “Six”

The president of a small steel company once consulted efficiency expert Ivy Lee, telling him, “We already know what we should be doing. If you can show us a better way of getting it done, I’ll pay you anything you ask, within reason.”

Lee handed the man a blank piece of paper and said, “I can show you how to increase your efficiency by at least 50 percent. Write down the six most important things you have to do tomorrow.”

In three minutes, the president had completed the task. Lee said, “Now number them in the order of importance to you and the company.”

A few minutes later, the task was complete. Then Lee said:

“Tomorrow morning, take out this sheet of paper and start with item number one. Don’t look at the others; don’t even think about them. Stay with that first item until it’s completed. Then move to item number two, then number three, and so on until you have to quit for the day. Don’t worry if you only finish one or two. You’ll have worked on the most important tasks. When a fresh day dawns, pick up where you left off. Do this every working day.”

The entire interview had taken no more than half an hour. It was later said that this single instruction turned a little-known steel company into one of the biggest independent steel producers in the world.

Are you engaged in the activities that really matter, every single day?


BOB PROCTOR is Publisher of Networking Times.