Thursday, May 8, 2008

"101 Ways to Make Every Second Count" by Robert Bly, Part 1

A friend of mine used to interview authors for an e-mail newsletter. He has a lot of these interviews and was kind enough to let me look through them to see if I wanted to feature any of them on this blog. I found some good ones, so I'll be posting them as time goes on. I'll also put links to buy the books from at the end of the articles. I won't get anything out of it, I just want to support the authors!

Maximizing Your Time
Part one of an interview with Robert W. Bly, author of 101 Ways to Make Every Second Count

Author Robert Bly admits he hates to waste time. As a freelance copywriter who gets paid only for the hours he works, time truly is money. But, he suggests, even if you don’t render an hourly service, your success, your earnings and your wealth all depend on how efficiently you can use your time. In this first part of our interview, Mr. Bly shares his insight on how to maximize your most limited resource -- time.

Why do you think most of us feel we are so pressed for time, now more than ever before?

Times are different. When I was a child, most moms didn’t work outside the home. Now, to make ends meet, it’s more common for both partners to work. In my day, my father had a full-time “service” (and my mother would hate that word) to do his bidding. His laundry was done, his meals were cooked, and so he could come home after work and relax. All my mother had to do during the day -- not that it wasn’t significant -- was prepare those meals, keep the house, do the shopping; she didn’t also have a job outside the home.

So when both the partners work, time is more than cut in half. That’s one reason we’re pressed for time: We have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Another factor is technology -- the Internet, fax machines, home computers, and pagers. All these things make people virtually “on call” for business, and that’s 24 hours a day in some cases. Statistics show we work longer hours today. So work hours are being extended by technology, but also by the economy. Companies are trying to do with 10 employees what they used to do with 20. Everyone has to work harder and longer.

What is the “10 percent solution” for increasing personal efficiency?

People ask, “How can I be radically more productive?” I tell them that to get a lot more done you actually don’t have to radically improve. There’s a term that management consultants use --“kaisan,” the Japanese term for continual improvement. That’s in opposition to our American idea of re-engineering. Re-engineering says you have to make radical improvements to make radical changes, but kaisan says if you make incremental improvements you’ll very shortly get a significant lift.

In seminars I tell people, “Stand up and reach as high as you can.” And everyone stands up on their tiptoes. And then I say, “Now reach 10 percent higher.” And they all look at me like I’m an idiot and insist they can’t. Eventually, though, someone gets smart and steps up on a table. That person is reaching much more than 10 percent higher; he’s reaching 30 or 40 percent higher.

People always say, “I'm so busy. I can’t do any more.” That’s really not true. If you really want to do 10 percent more or be 10 percent better in anything, then watch 10 percent less TV, exercise 10 percent more, or eat 10 percent less. It’s really a matter of willpower; it’s not beyond your physical or mental capabilities. If you look at your day as having 16 waking hours, 10 percent is 1.6 hours. Can you get another hour or two in a day? You absolutely can, and one of the easiest ways is to get up an hour earlier. That simple act can help you increase your productivity by 10 percent -- actually, more than 10 percent because research shows that the earlier hours are the most productive for a variety of reasons. It’s really easy to get 10 percent more if you get up just one hour earlier than you normally do.

In your book you refer to the “time management seesaw.” What are some suggestions for mastering that seesaw?

Basically, time management seminars don’t work because most want to force you to adopt one method, even if that method might not be comfortable for you. So you try to use that method and it’s almost like a seesaw diet -- it might work but it doesn’t stick. You get tired of it. It’s not realistic; it doesn’t work for you so you let it go -- and you’re rapidly back at the same weight.

The solution is to try a lot of little things. Don’t try to radically alter your life in totality. There are hundreds of ideas for being more organized. Try little techniques and methods that work within the way you normally live, and find the ones you like. Use those you like and adapt the ones you don’t like. And don’t worry about it. That will get you that incremental improvement but it’ll stick because you’re doing things you like to do.

You can’t force yourself to radically change your personality or your life. If you love bread, for example, the Atkins diet is not going to work in the long term because you can never eat bread again. So instead, eat bread and lose weight by adopting the diet principles that do work for you. You can do the same thing in time management -- like getting up an hour earlier; that one worked for me. There might be some people who are such late-night people that they can’t get up an hour earlier. But they can master the seesaw by finding other things that work, and doing those things.

What are some tips learning to speed ourselves up?

I’ll give you two major tips, although there are many others. First of all, don’t watch TV. That’s the simplest thing. Does that mean never watch TV? No, but the average American watches TV between five and eight hours a day. TV takes up an enormous amount of your time. So the easiest thing to do is cut way back on your TV viewing.

The second thing -- and this is the major thing that I do that works for me -- is to outsource everything. The only things I do are related to my work, and spending time with my family, trying to be a good parent. But those are the only things I do. Therefore, if the lawn needs mowing, I hire someone to do it. I’m a freelance writer but I haven’t been to post office, which is five blocks away, in 12 years. I pay someone to go to the post office because it’s a waste of my time.

I believe in outsourcing everything that is not your “core competency.” I only do the things that are important for me to do. And it makes me happier because I spend my time doing things I want to do, and not doing things I dislike.

Read the conclusion of the interview with Robert Bly in my next post.

Buy this book from 101 Ways to Make Every Second Count

No comments: