Randy Pausch Time Management Essay Assignment

Randy smiling his life away

Randy Pausch is the man that delivered the famed Last Lecture when he got cancer. He knew a thing or two about the importance of time. Lucky for him it didn’t take the cancer to show him how precious every moment of life really is. Below is a talk he gave on time management and my notes from it.
My four big takeaways:
1. Do the ‘ugliest’ thing on your to do list first. You might lose gumption later in the day. Randy uses the example of eating frogs: if you had to eat three, you shouldn’t start with the smallest.
2. Do things that are important and not due soon before you do things that are not important but due soon. If you focus on the important you’ll have much more time on your hands.
3. Find the time you work best and take it for yourself. Protect your most productive periods and protect them with your life. It’s so easy to bow to the demands of email, phone calls, or Facebook. Focus and create when you can!
4. When you delegate, do it all the way. Give people respect with responsibility. Once a person has demonstrated they can do the job then let them do the job!



“*” means Randy said it’s the most important thing in the world.

-You cost your company 2X what they pay you

  • Most of the talk is from:
  • Time Management For Teachers
  • Career Track Seminar: Taking control of your work day
  • “The Time Famine”

-Bad time management immediately becomes stress

-Managing time well makes you successful – not the other way around!


For every item you need to do:
-ask ‘why?’ you’re doing it
-why are you going to succeed?
-what if i don’t do it?

– Doing the right things adequately is much more effective than doing the wrong things great.

– 80/20 rule – a very small amount of things contributes the biggest impact. The Pareto Principle is hugely important for anybody serious about taking control of their life.

-have the balls not to do things that don’t make impact

“If you can dream it you can do it” – Walt Disney (The original Disney Land was built in 366 days.)

Planning should be done at multiple levels
-each morning, day, week, semester(quarter)

-Do the ‘ugliest’ thing on your To Do list first

The first thing you should do are things that are “important” and “due soon”. The second thing you should do is “important” and “not due soon”. This means before “not important” and “due soon”. Don’t be a slave to the urgency of unnecessary things!

*Keep desk clear
*Touch each piece of paper ONCE

  • file things- have one place you put all paper
  • email is NOT to-do list

-Use multiple monitors.

*Randy Pausch was in LOVE with his speakerphone.

-Stand during calls to keep short
-Start with goals for call
-Have something in front of you that you want to get to
-Group calls 11:30 am or 4:30 pm (lunch/dinner, they want to leave)

*Physical “Thank You” notes are very important
-Leave them somewhere accessible

in the office
-don’t have comfortable chairs

-Make time for important things (don’t try to ‘find’ it)
-think opportunity cost
-so ‘no’ by default
-“if nobody else does it, i will”

Find your creative/thinking time and spend it alone.
Find your dead time and do mundane shit

*Interruptions take 6-9 minutes then 4-5 minutes recovery

(usually a lot worse)
-batch emails, don’t check constantly

Cut things short
-“Im in the middle of something”
-“I only have 5 min” (can always spend more)
-Walk to door, compliment, thanks, shake hands

Time Journals
-or Randy’s time journal
-monitor what you do every 15 min

*Identify gaps in calendar and force yourself to go to certain place during that time

Time Journal Data
-What can I delegate?
-What can I do more efficiently?
-Not to get all the work in the world done.

To get on to what you want to do.
-How am I wasting others’ times?
-What am I doing that doesn’t need to be done?

Effectiveness beats efficiency

-some rationalize ‘If I wait, then maybe I won’t have to do it.”
-Work expands to fill time available, but waiting to

Last minute causes a lot more stress.
-establish your own deadlines

“All you have to do is ask”

-Give responsibility with work
-give them budget to get project done
-Always do the ugliest job yourself (he vaccums before lab)
-this shows you’re willing to do dirty work
-Be specific
-specific task
-specific time
-specific reward/penalty
-Delegate until they complain
-Give objectives, not procedures
-Tell people relative importance of each task (prioritize for them)
-Beware of upward delegation- don’t accept a project back after assigning it
-reinforce good behavior
-you don’t need to know how to do what you delegate (this eliminates upward delegation)

Meetings should never last more than an hour.
-there should always be an agenda
-make sure everyone is fully there
*close with recap of decisions
-who does what when?

-use tech to make things faster/better … not just to use it

-Save it all
-To get something done, send it to the person that needs to do it.
-if no response after 48 hours, send another email

On Vacation
-When someone calls- direct calls to someone else or tell to call back

*Kill the TV
-Average person watches 28 hours of TV per week (how?)
*Turn money into time
-Hire people to do chores you don’t want to do
*Always get sleep
*Ask for slack
*Most things are pass/fail – good enough is good enough

“time is all we have”


TIME IS ALL WE HAVE!  What are you doing in yours? What 20% of activities of time spent gives you 80% of pleasure in life? What three ways can you use your time better now?

Do you have any ways you’ve discovered to help you use the time you have on this beautiful planet of ours better?

Leave a comment and let us know!!

Stuck in the airport returning home from an emotionally exhausting day, tired and fighting an awful chest cold, my flight delayed to the wee hours of the morning, I stretched out on the seats in the waiting area with Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture." His lecture, his life, has some important messages regarding our goal pursuit.

I had seen Randy's lecture on YouTube, but not read the book. By the time I finished the book on the plane, I was in tears of course. I too am the father of very young children, and I'm older than Randy. His story touched on some of my deepest fears of loss. His story clearly speaks of time as a limited resource, something that 20-somethings rarely grasp, but by middle-age becomes painfully obvious to many people.

As Randy puts it, "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think" (p. 111).

Randy, a self-admitted intensely focused person, understood the importance of time management long before his terminal cancer diagnosis. It is, as he called it, "one of my most appropriate fixations" (p. 108). He also was good at it, so he offered up advice from his experience that is worth sharing on this "Don't Delay" blog. I have quoted each of his main tips below with an explanatory comment or example in parentheses after each, as necessary.

Time must be explicitly managed, like money.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
(Make manageable, concrete task lists and take one step after another.)

Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?
(Make sure your to-do-list tasks, your goals, are really worth pursuing.)

Develop a good filing system.
(Organization saves time in the long run.)

Rethink the telephone.
(Don't waste time on "hold" - be prepared to do other things as you wait.)

(Many hands make light work, and everyone needs autonomy.)

Take time out.
(Everyone needs a break, and not all delay is procrastination.)

Randy concludes his advice by writing, "Some of my time management tips are dead-on serious and some are a bit tongue-in-cheek. But I believe all of them are worth considering" (p. 111).

So do I, particularly where he begins, "time must be explicitly managed" and where he ends, "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think."

Are you spending your time on the right things? Procrastination is the thief of time.

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