We're all aware that many people feel that we must be careful when focusing on money or affluence or abundance … that in the pursuit of those things, there is danger. If you pursue money and affluence to the exclusion of other values in life, you have lost, not won.
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However, let's consider this question: If you could do better financially, should you?
In the time you have allotted to labor, economics, success, achievement, productivity, the creation of value, the development of skills and creativity, if you could do better, should you?
I believe one of the greatest satisfactions of living life to the fullest is doing the best you can with whatever you have. Doing anything less than your best has a way of eroding the psyche. We are creatures of enterprise. Life seems to say to us, "Here are the raw materials — your creativity, and 24 hours to use it. What splendid things can you produce?"
The Enterprising Person
Enterprising people are those people disciplined and dedicated enough to seize opportunities that present themselves ... regardless of the current situation, struggles, or obstacles.
Think of a few people you know who are enterprising. Think of people in the news, in your office, in your neighborhood, who manage to succeed regardless of the obstacles. What do these people have in common? They're probably always on the go, developing a plan, following a plan, reworking the plan until it fits. They're probably resourceful, never letting anything get in the way. They probably don't understand the word no when it applies to their visions of the future. And, when faced with a problem, they probably say, "Let's figure out a way to make it work," instead of, "It won't work."
Enterprising people see the future in the present. They will always find a way to take advantage of situations, not be burdened by them. And enterprising people aren't lazy. They don't wait for opportunities to come to them; they go after the opportunities. Enterprising means always finding a way to keep yourself actively working toward your ambition.
However, we humans can be particularly creative at working at less than our potential.
It's an obvious — yet often overlooked — truth: rich people have 24 hours a day. And, poor people have 24 hours a day.
The difference between the rich and the poor is in the management of that time. Successful people often work harder and longer than most, but they almost always work smarter.
If we get more from ourselves, if we can make an hour as valuable as 10 hours used to be, we can get as much done in a day as we used to get done in a week. Imagine the potential compounding effect of working smarter.
By practicing a few simple disciplines every day, you can use time like the rich — with focus and effectiveness.
1. Run the day, or it will run you. Part of the key to time management is staying in charge. Some will be masters of their time, and some will be servants. Enterprising people become the masters of their time.
To master your time, you must have clear written goals for each day that you keep with you at all times. It helps to create each day's list the night before. Prioritize your goals for the day and constantly review them.
And here's a good question to ask yourself constantly: Is this a major activity or a minor activity? By asking that question, you will reduce the amazingly natural tendency to spend major time on minor things. In sales training, we are taught that major time is the time spent in the presence of the prospect, while minor time is the time spent on the way to the prospect. If you are not careful, you will spend more time "on the way to" than "in the presence of" your goals.
Before you answer an email, ask yourself if this is a major activity or a minor activity. Before you make a phone call, ask yourself if this is a major phone call or a minor phone call. Enterprising people don't let the minor activities distract them from the major activities — the ones that hold the keys to their success.
2. Don't mistake activity for productivity. You probably know some people who always seem to be busy being busy. To be successful, you must be busy being productive. Some people are going, going, going, but they're doing figure eights. They're not making much progress. Don't mistake activity for productivity, movement for achievement. Evaluate the hours in your days, and see if there is wasted time that you could manage better.
Remember there is an opportunity cost to every single activity you do. The time you spend doing one thing is time you could spend doing something else. Before investing your time in anything, briefly ask yourself if this is the highest leverage activity you could be doing to accomplish the most important priority on your list for the day. And, make sure the activities on your list for the day are the highest leverage opportunities to accomplish your short- and long-term goals.
3. Focus. The third key to time management is good concentration. You've got to zero in on the job at hand and, like an ant, let nothing stand in your way and let nothing distract you from the task. Assuming this is a major activity in pursuit of the highest leverage opportunity available, there should be nothing more valuable to invest your time in.
This is easier said than done. Concentration takes a lot of discipline. It takes discipline to demand privacy, to not react to the minor activities that try to demand your attention, such as new emails and ringing phones.
If you have a long list of things to get done within one day, do the toughest one while your concentration is at its peak. If you're a morning person, get the job done in the morning. Don't wait until the evening when your energy is all spent. Do the jobs that need the most concentration when your body is best able to handle them.
One of the greatest enemies of this sort of concentration is worry. Worrying about your future can prevent you from being where you are right now. We all have worries, and they are useful. But, don't let worry distract you. Stay focused on changing what you can change — that is the only true way to overcome the source of your worry anyhow.
Enterprise is always better than ease. Every time we choose to do less than we possibly can, we limit our possibilities — we stifle our potential. You can alter your life by doing a little more each day to work smarter, by developing a habit of efficiency rather than the habit of activity.
The Ant Philosophy
When was the last time you saw ants reach an obstacle and give up with their heads down and head back to the ant hole to relax? Never. If they're headed somewhere and you try to stop them, they will look for another way. They'll climb over, they'll climb under, they'll go around — regardless of the effort involved. What a neat philosophy, to never quit looking for a way to get where you're supposed to go.
Here's another question. How much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for winter? All that it possibly can. Ants don't have quotas or "good enough" philosophies. They don't gather a certain amount and then head back to the hole to "hang out." If an ant can do more, it does.
Imagine what you could accomplish if you never quit and always did all that you could do.