141st Ask Josh – Finding Time

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2009 at 12:04 am

Emily said…

Dear Josh,

How do you find the time to do all that you do?


Dear Emily,

In a recent job interview a man asked me, on a scale of 1 to 10, how do I manage my time. I told him 10. And he asked me how do I do it. I had a technical answer and a philosophical answer.

The philosophical answer was like this:

I do what I have to do, then what I need to do, then what I want to do.

The technical answer was shorter:

Google calendar and a free iPod Touch.

But you don’t want to hear that. You want to know how I manage to keep myself in so much trouble at a time.

Thomas More said in his book Utopia that the two biggest wasters of our time were meat and sleep, “wherein almost half the lifetime of man creepeth away.”
Which leads me to my first two items: live off little sleep; never just eat.

1. Live off little sleep.

I rarely sleep a full 8 hours in a day. I get bored sitting in bed that long. I read a book to help me fall asleep at night, and I get up and read a book in the morning. I have found that 5 hours a night and two ten-minute naps inserted within the day keep my blood pressure just as low as any other healthy human being.

By sleeping less, I save about 2.5 hours a day compared to the average sleeper. That’s 15 hours a week. Over a year it saves 32 1/2 days. A whole other month to do what you want. Imagine what you could do with an extra 15 hours in a week. Or if you had an extra month each year just to do whatever you wanted. Over a lifetime it really accumulates.

I liked this anecdote from Douglas Callister’s speech Your Refined Heavenly Home. He said this:

“President David O. McKay was inclined to awaken at 4:00 a.m., skim read up to two books each day, and then commence his labors at 6:00 a.m. He could quote 1,000 poems from memory. We knew that whenever he stood at the pulpit. He referred to the grand masters of literature as the ‘minor prophets.’ He was a living embodiment of the scriptural admonition to ‘seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom.'”

Maybe he went to bed extra early. But I doubt it. If he can wake up at 4:00 a.m., then I can get up at 6:00 every day, and like it.

2. Never just eat.

This is why I hardly ever cook. If I am cooking, then that is all that I am doing. Boy that irritates me. Whenever I eat, I find something else to do. Over my morning cereal this year I read Life of Pi; Wendy Kopp’s One Day, All Children…; Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; The Lord’s Way by Dallin H. Oaks, two Neal A. Maxwell books and countless LSAT problems.

I don’t just sit down and eat lunch. I have to do something meaningful, sometimes that includes getting to work, reading, or talking to someone.

I love going out for dinner dates on weekends if for no other reason then to talk to somebody, anybody, while I eat. The food or the bill don’t even matter. The food is just an excuse to have a conversation.

3. Have something meaningful to do, always.

There is so much time to be gained from using up little cracks in time. I keep in the side pockets of my car pocket-sized copies of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. When I am at a red light or picking someone up or if I am running an errand where I will likely be waiting in line, I have a book to read. Even when I am spending time with friends. I don’t complain if they want to play video games, I play when it’s my turn and read when it’s my turn to sit out because I came in last place in Mario Kart.

The last time I went out to a movie with friends we had an hour to wait in line for the midnight showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We had another half-hour to wait for the movie to start. While I love talking to my friends as we wait in line, I also happened to have my laptop with me and I managed to code several pages of Supreme Court transcript as I was waiting outside and in the theater.

The key is not wasting time. I love what Elder Neal A. Maxwell said about Jesus’ use of time. He said, I thank [Jesus] for his marvelous management of time, for never misusing a moment, including the moments of meditation. Even his seconds showed his stewardship.” – Neal A. Maxwell [Conference Report, May 1976, 26]

Never misusing a moment. Having stewardship over the seconds. I love that.

4. Multitask. Focus.

Most of the time you can accomplish a lot of stuff at the same time. When I am working, I usually have speeches going, talks, or I have Pandora radio play songs about a genre of music I am not very familiar with so I am always learning. As far as this blog post goes, while typing this I have managed to chat with Derek and others, write another blog post, schedule some appointments, video chat with Zack in New York, watch a movie, eat breakfast, brush my teeth twice, shave, leaf through several books, and balance my checkbook all while listening to talks.

I recognize that some activities and assignments require your full, undivided attention. A paper may end up taking hours when it only required 15 minutes of your undivided attention.
So when you have little time to finish a task, work hard and finish it already so you can get on with your life.

5. Know when to stop. Know when to keep going.

You can’t do everything. I tried it. It doesn’t work. And sometimes trying to do everything will cost you time with people you care about. When I was a teenager my father once quoted Bill Cosby saying, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I have since heard that quote attributed to him in other ways but I have never found the actual source. Whether Bill Cosby actually said it is irrelevant. The principle stands: the key to failure is trying to please everybody. You have to cut some stuff out.

A few things I have learned to live without: a TV, Facebook applications, cell phone and iPod games.

There will be various demands upon your time which will become more and more valuable as you become increasingly productive and knowledgeable. I get paid about $9 an hour but I consider my time to be worth about $20 an hour for all the other things that I accomplish in a given moment including just the thinking time I get while I am engaged in tedious tasks. If I become a champion litigator my time may be worth as much as $400 an hour to a future client who needs my help. But I digress. Your time is valuable no matter how much you’re getting paid to spend it on someone else. And sometimes you have to follow Nancy Reagan’s motto during her anti-drug campaign: “Just say no.”

While it is important to say no, it is equally important to know when to say yes and find a way to make things work. In Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, one of the five primary ways to show your love is what he calls “quality time.” And so it is. I am never more flattered when someone is willing to spend their time on me. I am most humbled when I receive a hand-made card or a hand-written letter that I know someone must have spent a lot of time on. What you do with your time to help others speaks volumes of how you feel about them.

6. Intentional forgetfulness.

It’s not what it seems. I don’t mean that you can save time by intentionally forgetting your commitments and just not showing up. Though, in reality, that may actually work now that I think about it.

Funny enough, I attribute more of my availability of time to this than anything else. Efficient scheduling saves time. Hard work saves time. But intentional forgetfulness is what facilitates all the other things by allowing me to focus on scheduling and working hard. The things I intentionally forget are things that I deem are of no worth. These include insults, grudges, offenses against you, and other common cares that really just don’t matter. Think of someone you know who spends all their time talking about how life gave them the short end of the stick, or how someone done them wrong, or complaining about something that was said that has long since passed. They are wasting their breath and their time, not to mention yours.

I had a recent lapse in judgment in this regard in the last week that I had to reconsider. You know about my campaign against the cleaning check ladies? Well I was going to make a big stink about how they shouldn’t be in my apartment if I am leaving the apartment to work elsewhere for the summer. I went on a little tirade for a while and I spent a considerable amount of my mental energy thinking of how I was going to get out of cleaning checks. I wrote letters, consulted others on how to write the letters, went over my contract and studied housing rules. I even arranged to have a news camera man come in to observe the cleaning checks. I spent a lot of time fuming over the injustice of them checking my apartment without my presence or permission. Then the epiphany came, I could just clean my apartment and then it wouldn’t even matter. I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. So I just let it go and went swimming. And I was happy again.

Yeah, maybe that means other people will get the last word in a battle of wits. Or you may be thought a coward for not returning fire. But you’ll have time to attend to more important matters. I never said having time meant having your way.


In the end, you can’t make the day longer. Even after taking care of all the things over which you have control, time will always be limited. The day will always be twenty-four hours long. If you don’t waste time and work and play as best you can, each day can be the best it could have been. I take great pleasure in telling people that my day yesterday was the best ever and being right most of the time.

In Poor Richard’s Almanac, Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” While I agree fully with Mr. Franklin in theory, in practice I still hold with Edgar A. Guest’s poem about the best of moments I can enjoy after a day of hard work. I get to experience it perhaps two or three times a year. He said this:

The happiest nights
I ever know
Are those when I’ve
No place to go,
And the missus says
When the day is through:
“To-night we haven’t
A thing to do.”

Oh, the joy of it,
And the peace untold
Of sitting ’round
In my slippers old,
With my pipe and book
In my easy chair,
Knowing I needn’t
Go anywhere.

Needn’t hurry
My evening meal
Nor force the smiles
That I do not feel,
But can grab a book
From a near-by shelf,
And drop all sham
And be myself.

Oh, the charm of it
And the comfort rare;
Nothing on earth
With it can compare;
And I’m sorry for him
Who doesn’t know
The joy of having
No place to go.

Alright, I’m off to bed. I got work in the morning.



  1. Dear Josh,Thank you for answering my question. I guess I mostly need to work on #1, but I can’t seem to kick the 10:30-6:30 sleeping schedule that I’ve gotten on. And also maybe #6 with the intentional forgetfulness. Thanks for sharing your secrets with me. Maybe now I’ll have time to join and lead anti-capri clubs.Love,EmilyPS. I am the real master gangsta editor.

  2. Wow! That’s all I can say! I think I need to print this and re-read it occasionally. Love your insights.

  3. This is actually publishable or quotable or whatever you want to call it. This is really good.

  4. This makes me dizzy! Bull, you need to slow down….relax, smell the roses sometimes. I love you and your frenetic self tons.

  5. Nice post Josh. For a couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get up at 6 every morning. So far…8 is about average. I like the idea of no cell phone games. They do waste a lot of time. As does minesweeper. Shoot that game is addicting.

  6. You are always completely on the mark. Inspirational and definitely quotable. Thanks!

  7. Josh!I’m now inspired to wake up eariler and take more advantage of my time. You make me smile! Love your face!Syd

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