Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Do you love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of." People who squander time not only live less - I don't mean living a short life but not living fully - but also fail at many of their endeavors. Successful people do not squander time: They extract every ounce of value from every moment in their lives.
Is it sufficient not to waste time? Let us start out with the premise that not wasting time is enough to help us be successful. If it is not enough, it is a good beginning.
What does it take not to waste time? Here are four areas of "control".
First, control focus. What this means is that successful people have a laser-like focus on what they need to do - or, at least, what they think they need to do - and ignore everything else. Ordinary folks like us will not be able to do this at first for many reasons:
We cannot ignore the boss, the spouse (the ones who hold the purse strings) and do absolutely whatever we desired. We need to first prove ourselves. After that, we can call the shots (within reason).
There are interruptions. And distractions. And daydreams. The mind is a very difficult thing to rein in and point in one direction. It jumps around. Meditation and mental exercises will help in this area.
Many people don't have a clear idea as to what to focus on. We need to set goals. Successful people have goals. Clear, specific, written-down goals. Goals lead to road maps. Road maps lead to action plans. If we don't set goals, we won't know what to do and what to focus on. The first step, then, is to set goals and create action plans.
We need the strength of will to be able to determine what to do and to ignore all else.
Second, control effort. What this means is that successful people do the minimum to get more results. They weigh their options and take the course that gives them most benefit or the shortest route to their goals. They take calculated risks and plan for most contingencies. Indecision is one of the biggest wasters of time. Decision leads to action. Action well performed shows controlled effort.
How can we do this? This begins with the culture, the attitude and the habit of taking action - decisive action. There is nothing wishy-washy or tentative about the actions that successful people take. There is no procrastination. Part of this culture also includes the habit of doing things that are sometimes unpleasant or distasteful only because no one else would do them. It includes taking tough decisions and making difficult choices. Nevertheless, the successful ones do take the swift, definite and decision action. They take the effort. They control effort.
One other aspect of controlling effort is delegation. The simple trick is to delegate in a way that does not require micromanagement. This means delegate to a competent person and trust that the results will be as desired.
Third, control emotions. While it is good to have positive emotions, emotions, in general, interfere with decisions and actions. Most people fail to do things out of fear, and anger clouds the thinking process. Successful people are passionate about what they do but do it without passion, at least without the interference of passion. Emotions get in the way of actions and waste time.
How can we do this? Controlling emotions is even more difficult than controlling the mind. Actually, it is difficult to be without emotion, to be made of ice. However, the greatest successes in history came from such ice men and ice women. The greatest achievers have had ice in their veins.
It is not possible to get rid of emotions. It is possible to home in on and hold on to positive emotions until it is possible to be made of ice. Faith is a good first step. Believe totally in the outcome and the path you are following. Subordinate every decision and action to this faith. Leave behind fear and worry. This will help you control emotions in order to succeed.
Fourth, control outcomes. What this means is that while not everything works to your way of thinking, successful people accept it and work with it to get to where they want to go.
It is easy to give up when the going gets tough. Those who stay the course reap the benefits. At the end of the day, goals, visions, dreams, plans and even actions do not matter. Only results matter. By seeing which way things are flowing and by controlling the direction, people can control results.