Rory Vaden: Why You Should Ignore Time Management Advice

Jan 14, 2015
8 Min Read

Many people start off the New Year with a new calendar, gadget or app they believe will finally help them become more focused and productive. But according to Rory Vaden, those tools may be a waste of time. He says he knows a better way to finally make the most of your time.

Rory Vaden wants you to forget everything you know about time management, because it’s probably wrong.

He wants you to ignore the advice on doing the most difficult tasks first every day, or the rule about answering emails during certain time periods. Those kind of activities are simply muddying the waters when you’re searching for a way to be more productive with the time you have, he contends.

The key to truly focusing on what matters comes from understanding the emotions that get in our way and prevent us from maximizing our time, he says.

“There is no such thing as time management, there is only self-management,” he says. “Time continues on regardless of what we do, so all we can do is decide what we will be spending our time doing or not doing for that day.”

For example, guilt or fear may prompt us to tackle certain tasks or projects that really don’t help us be more productive. Even chronic overachieves can make poor decisions about how they use their time, participating in what Vaden calls “priority dilution.”

“While priority dilution has nothing to do with laziness, apathy or being disengaged (like traditional procrastination) it nets the same result: a delay of the day’s most important activities because your attention shifts to less important, but perhaps seemingly more urgent, tasks,” he explains. “You are trading your to-do list for emergencies.”

Vaden, author of “Procrastinate on Purpose” says that the most successful people, who he calls “multipliers,” have learned to manage the emotions often tied to how we use our time. The key, he explains, is that multipliers ask themselves: “What are the things that I could do today that would free up more time tomorrow?”

“They get outside of their to-do list of short-term priorities and they realize that the real key to creating more margin in their life isn’t about working faster, or somehow ‘prioritizing’ better; it’s about learning to think differently,” he says.

In his book, Vaden provides five “permissions” that he says will help you make better use of your time and become a multiplier:

1. Eliminate. Vaden notes that those wanting to achieve success will always look at what they need to add to their lives, but they actually need to ask themselves: “What are all the things that I can eliminate?” Start considering the significance of what you do, instead of the volume of tasks you complete. He notes that many people avoid eliminating anything because they’re emotionally unable to say “no.” But when you’re able to say “no,” then you will be able to spend more time with your family or working toward your dreams, he says.

2. Automate. Those who balk at automation of certain tasks do so because they’re worried they don’t have the time or money to change a system. “Every moment that passes that you don’t automate something that could be, you are exponentially losing future time,” he says. “Anything that wastes your time is a waste of your money.”

3. Delegate. Vaden suggests asking this question at the beginning of every day: “Does what I’m doing right now require my unique skill set, or is it possible that there are other people capable of doing this?” Many people don’t delegate because they’re afraid of the job not being done right or a deadline being missed. “Whether it’s in your professional life or your personal life, the size of your success is usually determined by the strength of your team,” he says. If you properly train the right people, delegation can help you make better use of your time.

4. Procrastinate. “There is a big difference between inaction that results from indulgence, and inaction that results from intention,” he says. “One is procrastination and the other is patience.” Vaden’s company, Southwestern Consulting, found in a survey that 91% of respondents believe that things will work out for the best “and yet we rush around frantically so often to try and satisfy our fear that things will fall apart if we don’t,” he adds. He stresses that “timing matters” and that delaying action because you don’t feel it’s the right time can be freeing and help you make a better decision.

5. Concentrate. Vaden explains that there is an “emotional fear” of letting other people down, which “causes us to sacrifice our own priorities.” But if you concentrate on the significant activities that will create more opportunity for those around you, then you will find yourself focusing more completely on important items. 

Finally, Vaden advocates looking at time as not something you spend, but something you invest. “Multiply your time by giving yourself the emotional permission to invest time into things today that will create more time and more results for tomorrow,” he says.

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