Jon Symons

Time Management Tips by Randy Pausch

Here’s an excellent talk about time management from a Randy Pausch. Randy gained fame for his “Last Lecture” but here he shares time management tips from the perspective of someone with less than 3 months left to live.

Below you’ll find the notes that I made while watching the video. And here are the powerpoint and pdfs of the slides from the lecture.

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Why Am I doing this?

  • Does it help me get to my goal?
  • Is it fun?

If there isn’t a good reason, then just cross it off of your to-do list.

  • Goal setting: it is much more important to do the right things adequately than it is to do thing right. Also, don’t do the wrong things beautifully.

Remember the 80/20 rule and ruthlessly shove the 80% of the things that don’t matter, off of your to-do list.

Inspiration is Important

“If you can dream it, you can do it!” ~Walt Disney.

Entire original Disneyland was completed from first shovel dig to first paid admission was completed in 366 days!

Planning is Essential

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail!
  • Plan each day, each week, each quarter (semester, whatever makes sense)
  • You can always change your plan, but only once you have one!

To Do Lists

  • Break things down into small steps
  • Child can’t “clean his room” it’s too big, but he can ‘make the bed’, ‘put away the clothes’ ‘vacuum the floor’
  • Do the ugliest thing (least comfortable or most impactful) first. [if you have to eat a frog, don't spend a lot of time looking at it first, and if you have to eat three of them, don't start with the smallest!]

– Being a boss is about “growing your people” so it is better to spend twice as much time teaching them how to do something than it would take you to do it yourself.

Four Quadrant To-Do

Due Soon

Not Due Soon




Not Important



Most people sort by order received, or by due date, both are WRONG!

Easy part

Which ones to work on first? Upper left!

Which ones to work on last? Lower right!

Where everybody goes wrong

After number 1, they do the “Due soon, but not important” because they are due soon, but to be very productive, you will have an “ah-ha” moment where you realize that you should NEVER do anything that is not important.

A way to do this is to use a spreadsheet with a column and the first column is priority from 0 – 9 then you can add to it at the bottom and then sort by priority.

Paper Work

  • It is crucial to keep your desk clear
  • Only have one thing on your desk at a time – the thing you are working on.
  • “Touch every piece of paper (or email) only once maximum”
  • Your inbox is NOT your to do list – either read it and take care of it now, or put an item on your to do list.
  • Everyone must have a place to put papers – ideally an alphabetical file system


Write thank you notes to express gratitude, it will make you rare and remembered and it’s a good thing to do.

How to eliminate to dos

Say NO.

Use gentle “nos”

We all have times where we are most creative – productive

These times are not intuitive; you have to discover them by trial and error

Defend these times ruthlessly

Same goes for “dead time” where we are not productive.

Use these for exercise, meetings, errands etc.


Have a very high cost, since it can take a long time to get back “into” what you were doing.


  • turn phones calls into email – have a phone message saying to send you an email
  • Go to email only when you are ready – don’t let it interrupt you.
  • When someone calls you say “I only have 5 minutes” at the beginning of the call.

Time Journals

Time is the commodity, so find out where it is going

Monitor yourself in 15 minute increments for between 3 days and 2 weeks.

Will yield fascinating revelations about where your time is going.

From the time journal data ask Yourself

  • What am I doing that doesn’t need to be done?
  • What can someone else do?
  • What am I doing that I can delegate to someone else?
  • What can I do more efficiently?
  • How am I wasting other people’s time

The Goal
You become more efficient at work so you can spend more time doing what you love.

When you have all the time in the world, you treat your time like it isn’t precious

Focus your time and energy on the things that matter, and let go of the ones that don’t


We don’t usually procrastinate because we are lazy.

Understand: doing things at the last minute is really expensive.

Deadlines are really important; we are all essentially driven by deadlines. If you don’t have a deadline, make up a fake one.

When you are procrastinating, identify why you are not enthusiastic. There is always a deep psychological reason. Eg. Afraid of being embarrassed, or afraid I will fail, or fear of doing something, fear of asking for what you want.


You can accomplish much more, when you have help.

Don’t micromanage – when delegating:

1. Give them responsibility AND authority to get the job done.

2. If you trust someone to do the work, trust them enough to give them the time and resources and authority to get it done – give them the whole package.

3. Delegate but always do the ugliest job yourself.

4. Treat people with dignity and respect.

If you want someone to get something done for you:

  • Give them a SPECIFIC thing to do
  • A Specific Date & Time when you want it done
  • A specific penalty for not completing or a reward for accomplishing on time.

Don’t be afraid to challenge people – most people want more of a challenge.

Don’t tell people how you want it done – tell them what you want and let them do it.

Tell people the relative importance of each task.

Beware of reverse delegation – people who try and give you tasks back.

Reinforce behavior that you want repeated – praise is valued highly.


Must have an agenda

Take away all Blackberries – so everyone is all there.

Must have someone take the minutes – so people are held responsible.


Never delete anything – because it is a record and searchable.

If you don’t get a response within 48 hours, then it’s okay to nag them.

Don’t read email on vacation – it’s not a vacation if you are reading email!

Last Tips

Don’t watch television – average American watches 28 hours a week. If you don’t do a time journal, at least track how much time you watch TV in a week.

Pay people to do things like mow your lawn.

Never break a promise, but it’s okay to re-negotiate in advance.

Ask people in confidence for feedback – it can be very valuable.


10 thoughts on “Time Management Tips by Randy Pausch

  1. Thanks muchly Jon.

    I would add these notes to what you have there:


    Get a speaker phone for when you are on hold.

    Stand during the call. Keeps calls short. Don’t put your feet up!

    Start the call by announcing goals for the call.

    Have something in view to do next.

    Get a headset so you can do something else at the same time eg bike ride, fold linen, etc.

    I’m already testing having a to-do list olisted n a priority basis. It’s very strange.

    And yes Jon, a thankyou note is on it’s way to you :)

  2. Thanks for the additional notes. I confess working alone and mostly online, I went over the phone tips and meeting tips fairly quickly. But I do use a headset and a speakerphone when necessary.

    Geez Martin, I should be sending you a thank you note for continuing to read my blog when I write so infrequently. I really appreciate it!

  3. Time management is hard, decent article and advice on sorting things out, IMO one of the msot important things is clean desk, the less stuff on your desktop (real and virtual) the less likely that you will be distracted, keep it empty as possible!

  4. Hello Jon,

    Thanks for the summary of time management. You’ve covered the basics very well and it’ll encourage the readers to delve more into this very important aspect of our lives. Why don’t you expand upon each of the major topics over a 3 month period.? I’m sure that you’ll create enough interest with each additional post on time management to justify the effort.

  5. The video is almost an hour and a half but the topic is really interesting, something I really need. I’m already listening to it now and hopefully this will help me manage my time from this day forward. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Bhojappa.K.Kallihala says:

    I read fully “The Last Lecturer” in Kannada Language.Really i got something benefit from this Book.I am heartily thanks to Randy.

  7. What an excellent post!! It’s very rare to find someone talking about time management and business organisation. Especially with Internet Marketing, this is such an important issue and it’s also the reason why so many people apparently “fail” in my opinion. The problem we have nowadays is an overload of information on the one hand and on the other hand too little time to do things. AND: We get distracted by so many things.

  8. After reading your article, “Time Management Tips by Randy Pausch”, I watched the embedded video on your site and other videos of Randy Pausch’s on YouTube. He was truly a courageous character and deserves all the accolades that he received.

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