The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management
Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace
Author: Hyrum Smith
Personal Score: 7.8/10
Goodreads Score: 4.18/5
An excellent book that shows a step-by-step process by which someone can create a personal productivity system that starts with values. It begins by identifying governing values, prioritizing your life’s goals, and converts those values into daily actions through a system of planning, mindset, reflection, and event control. Some great tools are introduced here, like;
Beyond that, the book covers productivity broadly but doesn't dive too deep into any individual subject. It is backed by years of seminars delivered by the author, which provides many supporting stories and credibility to the process. I found the first few chapters around identifying personal values and implementing them through a personal constitution to be the most valuable. The rest of the advice is relatively standard today, and even improved upon.
🚀3 Best Ideas in This Book
Creating governing values and a personal constitution is what fills your daily actions with meaning. It cultivates a strong sense of direction and fulfillment within you—the story of Benjamin Franklin (Law 2 below).
The I-Beam test is a powerful thought exercise where one imagines what would incentivize them to cross an construction I-beam between two of the world's tallest buildings with no safety straps (Law 2 below). I think swimming across the Nile filled with Crocodiles would be another helpful example. It helps you prioritize your values and identify those that are far above the rest.
The reality model provides a clear illustration (pictured under Conclusion) of how strongly your beliefs effect your actions. It offers a way to generate awareness of the belief windows one holds.
Bonus idea: The concept that there is a direct relationship between productivity and self esteem. Smith argues that the key is in event control. As we become more productive, we feel a stronger sense of control over our life, resulting in higher self esteem which motivates us to be more productive, and a positive vortex emerges. A lapse in any of these generates a downward spiral in the similar, but opposite, way.
📜Book Summaries & Key Lessons
What are natural laws? Fundamental patterns of nature and life that human beings have shown to be valid. They describe things as they really are, as opposed to how we think they are or how we wish they were. They are objective and absolute principles that have been trialed for thousands of years and have proven their worth. Just as there are natural laws governing the physical world (I.e., thermodynamics, gravity, frozen water temperature, etc.), there are laws governing human behavior which, if ignored, have similarly destructive consequences.
The laws featured in this book are laws that govern personal productivity and fulfillment.
Part 1: Managing Your Time
Law 1: You control your life by controlling your time
What is time?
“If nobody asks me, I know, but if I were desirous to explain it to someone-plainly, I do not know.” ~ St. Augustine
“Time is absolute, it occurs whether the universe is here or not.” ~ Sir Isaac Newton
“Time is merely the order of events, not an entity in itself.” ~ Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
“Time is no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.” ~ Albert Einstein
“Time is a continuum in which events succeed one another from past through present and to future.” ~ Websters Dictionary
“Time is what keeps one darn things after another from becoming every darn thing at once.” ~ Seminar Participant
Life is made of time. Controlling your time means controlling your life. Controlling events in your life means controlling your time.
Being out of control is a terrible feeling. When we cannot control events in our lives, it inevitably becomes frustrating, angering, stressful, and depressing.
Exercise: How much control do we have? List out events in your life and rate them on a control continuum (1 - 5, 5 being total control). What events can I control? Focus on the ones you can.
You need to stop thinking about time management and start thinking about event management.
There are events we can’t control, but we believe we can, and there are events we can control but believe we can’t. Many of us have a skewed perspective on events we believe are uncontrollable. H. Smith brings up if we had to get across New York city in high traffic we might believe we can’t but if it were for a lot of money, we probably could get creative and find a way. We talk ourselves into believing we can’t control events that we really can control. We give up when our options are by no means exhausted.
The productivity tri-equation (Pg 26) - Nathaniel Branden is the author of Psychology of Self-Esteem, says there is a direct relationship between productivity and self-esteem. Smith believes this is true with the added variable of Event Control, which feeds productivity and feeds Self-esteem and, in turn, increases self-esteem further. A lapse in any of these will create a downward spiral in a similar way.
Exercise: We have to spend more time on activities that matter to us; the start is asking What are the highest priorities in my life? and Of these priorities, which do I value most?
We often make fallacies when it comes to our perception of time that leaves room for wasting time on nonimportant activities. Two common fallacies are: 1. We think we will have more time at some unspecified date in the future. 2. We can somehow save time.
Everybody has 86,400 seconds of time at the start of the day; that's all of it. We cannot save it or increase it.
There are multiple Time robbers in life; the primary five are below, but this list is not exhaustive. There are many more too:
Waiting for answers (bottlenecks)
A study was done where people were surveyed and uncovered how much time they spent one on one with their spouses and children. Children made only 7 minutes per week, and spouses only 23 minutes.
If we do not set up systems that take our deepest values and translate them into daily activities, then we are always doomed to be jumping from urgent item to urgent item rather than focusing on what's VITAL. What truly matters.
Law 2: Your governing values are the foundation of personal fulfillment
When Benjamin Franklin was 22 years old, he conceived of the“bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” He created 13 virtues which became his governing values for life. Then he organized his life around these virtues and in a 13-week cycle where he would focus on 1 of the 13 each week. At 78, Ben wrote, “On the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was by the endeavor a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.” His virtues were Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility.
Lying at the core of who you are as a person, these governing values are the things that are most important to you. They are the fundamental building blocks of your character and personality.
They are found by asking, “What are the highest priorities in my life? and Of these priorities, which do I value most?”
There is always a gap between our governing values and our present reality. Our performance relating to those values is never perfect, but as it improves and as we close that gap, we experience a wonderful fulfilment out of it. Abraham Maslow refers to this area of improvement in the top of his hierarchy of needs as “Self Actualization.”
Governing values are unique to each individual.
He uses the example of the I beam to deliver the point. What would you walk across an I beam for to protect? When things get very personal, our values become clear. When you align your daily activities with your values, you’ll see your days in an entirely different light.
Start Asking “Does what I’m doing today really matter to me?
Discovering what's most important to you, and doing something about it is what inner peace is all about.
"From governing values, you can create a vision and a personal constitution that acts as a compass for your goals and actions."
Law 3: When your daily activities reflect your governing values, you experience inner peace
The above shows the four main steps to turning your highest values into accomplishing daily activities. There must be consistency throughout the pyramid, and it must be built from the bottom up. At every level, we must rank values, goals, and tasks in their priority. What matters most in life should never be at the mercy of what matters least.
“In an unpredictable economy, the personal productivity of individuals becomes paramount.”
Law 4: To reach any significant goal, you must leave your comfort zone
"It is our nature always to seek a comfort zone; if there is none, we will quickly create one and stay within it. This is what stunts learning."
A goal, by definition, is a planned conflict with a status quo and that requires us to try new things. It requires us to exit our comfort zones. With significant goals, you cannot afford to take your eyes off the target.
There are only two sure things in life, birth and death. Beyond that everything is uncertain and we should always expect and embrace change.
Make SMART goals based on the 8 categories of life.
Physical well being
Spirtiual and humanitarian
Company or career
Community or Political
Education or personal development
The three obstacles to leaving comfort zones are
Invisible Committees: Others’ expectations of us.
Walls: Put up by our personal beliefs, past mistakes, and environment.
Fear of change: Sometimes, we’d rather live with the problem than change it. The devil you know…
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm of a determined soul.” - Ella Wilcox
Law 5: Daily planning leverages time through increased focus
"Planning is a leveraged investment of your time. It requires little and produces a lot."
How many minutes of your days do you spend planning your days? Make a commitment to spend 10 - 15 minutes everyday planning your days and you’ll reap much more out of them, productively.
Also find, in your schedule, your “magic three hours” where you are most productive and create a uninterrupted time slot where you can work on the most important task(s) of the day.
The best planning session has these 6 criteria:
A time slot (10 - 15 min.) free of distractions.
Review long-range objectives.
Make sure the number of tasks and the amount of time required by each is well within the time available on that day.
Set specific daily goals for tasks.
Prioritize all tasks.
Laser thinking is the process of focusing time and energy on your daily activities through the lens of your governing values and goals. Laser your thinking during those 10 - 15 minutes by focusing all of your attention on answering “What are the highest priorities in my life?” and “of those priorities, which do I value most?” A laser thinking planning session should result in a prioritized marching order for that day. Then you get to check off each task throughout the day. It feels terrific, and you’ll get addicted to it. How to properly prioritize your daily task list:
Step 1: Make a list of everything you would like to accomplish that day, including tasks that are not urgent.
Step 2: Give a value to each item in that list (ABC). Where A is vital, B is important, and C is trivial.
Step 3: Give a numerical value to each item on that list. Prioritize A tasks with 1,2,3 etc.
6 simple rules for using your planning tools effectively
Take your day planner wherever you go
Use only one calendar - integrate as much as possible
commit to planning every
Use a suitable reference system to keep everything organized
Use a master list - to remind you fo things to get done this month, or following months
Use a monthly index, to write things down that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle
“Character is the ability to make a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed.”
Stephen Covey defines discipline as “the ability to make and keep promises” to oneself and others. We are all creatures of habits; you have to ask yourself, “am I willing to develop good habits or am I content to develop bad ones?” Planning aligns all your daily actions with your promises to yourself, others, and your governing values. Its a powerful tool that needs to be in your belt.
Part 2: Managing Your Life
Law 6: Your behavior is a reflection of what you truly believe
The Franklin Reality Model is a visual picture of why you behave the way you do. It’s value comes from helping you see a clear connection between your beliefs and your behavior.
The Reality Model has many advantages, it gives you a visual picture of what's going on in your life and why, it helps you evaluate beliefs before they can take affect, and helps us better understand ourselves and other peoples actions.
First Element Needs: Physically, needs are air to breathe, water to drink, shelter to keep warm, and food to eat. Psychology it is said (Dr. Murray Banks) that there are four needs:
The need to live
The need to love and be loved
The need to feel important
The need to experience a variety
Second Element: Belief Window - You look at the world thought your belief window. You receive information through it. Everything through the window, is what you believe to be true about the world. Typically, the older you are, the more beliefs you have. What's written on your belief window? Our beliefs reflect our values. Beliefs on Abortion, Money, Education, Politics, human rights, sexes, religion, music, etc. We also hold collective belief windows, in addition to our personal ones. Sometimes these beliefs come at odds and we must choose between them.
Third Element: Rules: For every belief in your belief window, you subconsciously create rules of behavior that correlate with that belief in either a uplifting our limiting way. These rules are “if/then” statements that translate into actions. The first 3 elements are all going on within your mind.
Fourth Element: Behavior Patterns - When the working model becomes visible. These are the actions and patterns of actions you take according to your rules and beliefs.
Fifth Element: Results & Feedback - This can be the greatest tool to take control of your life. Results are the feedback you receive by your actions. If your behavior results meet your needs, it will reinforce the rules and beliefs you’ve created. If your needs are not met, you will seek to find new beliefs or rules that do align.
The process of amending our beliefs happens all the time through experiences.
If believing that something is true actually directs our behavior, why doesn’t our behavior change once we’ve bought the new belief? Maybe we have another belief undermining the new one, or maybe we just don’t believe it.
“Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from poor judgment.” ~ Anonymous
Law 7: You satisfy needs when your beliefs are in line with reality
“If the results of your behavior meet one or more of your four basic needs, you probably have a correct belief. Conversely, if the results do not meet your needs, you can be fairly sure the belief in question is incorrect.”
“results often take time to measure. But results of many other actions may take years.”
How can you tell whether a belief, attitude, or opinion within your belief window is correct? Some results of behaviors temporarily satisfy one basic needs while sacrificing others. Many ultimately sacrifice all of them. When your beliefs lead your behavior to seek the wrong basic needs and pursue the wrong governing values, you lose inner peace.
We have control over what we choose to believe. We can examine beliefs, replace, and rearrange them.
Personal growth, some might say, is the process of improving what is on your belief window.
5 rules for changing beliefs
Identify the behavior pattern that is not producing the desired result.
Identify possible beliefs driving the behavior.
Predict future behavior based on current beliefs.
Identify alternative beliefs that may produce a better result.
Predict future behavior based on new beliefs.
The desire for change MUST come from within; we cannot make anyone else change
"I..." messages help persuade others to see change in themselves with 4 steps, first 3 are straight forward, 4th requires some navigating with questions.
Tell the other person “I have a problem.”
Give a non-threatening description of the problem from your viewpoint.
Tell the person how the situation makes you feel.
Let realities of the situation help produce the change. Q#1 - If you continue this behavior knowing how I feel about it, will it make our relationship better or worst? Q#2 - Do you want our relationship better or worst? Challenging people's behavior is not challenging their character. It’s important to remember this. Your behavior is not yours.
Law 8: Negative behaviors are overcome by changing incorrect beliefs
We all reach points in our lives where we are responsible for ourselves. our behavior and actions. Whenever we consider the consequences of our beliefs, we must consider the long-range results and how they will meet 1 of our 4 basic needs (listed under Law 6).
Negative behavior is not something we do not control. Very often, it vanishes when we replace incorrect beliefs with correct ones.
Law 9: Your self-esteem must ultimately come from within
“The eyes of other people, are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.” ~ Ben Franklin
We all naturally seek to validate our feelings of self worth. We want to feel good about ourselves and want others to think highly of us. It is an addiction to the approval of others. So we behave according to other peoples values and principles rather than our own. Then we find ourselves acting on nothing better than our perception (or misconception) of what other people's values are. We also trend toward groups, accepting values of larger social groups, cultures and societies. Prejudice, and religions, are both forms of group values people inherit from their surroundings.
You are Ten Exercise - You take up multiple roles (and characters) in your life and conform to different environments depending on how others see you. List them out up to 10 or more - A mother, concerned citizen, sister, co-worker, manager, community giver, coach, etc. Then rate your performance in each role? Also ask yourself, which roles do you enjoy, rate each role by those you enjoy yourself in (is this rating?) Then finally, rate your self, the inner most you. “If you do not place a 10 in the inner most circle, you cannot receive any 10s in outer circles.” Everything begins from you. Everyone has potential to be a 10, but they have to see it and believe it in themselves first. What's written on your belief window about yourself has a powerful effect on your self esteem, both positively and negatively. We all have the potential for 10.
"Stop conforming to the environments around you, and conform to YOU."
Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” comes from conforming to the world and not to you. Thoreau also said “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured, or far away."
The key is to conform to your own uniqueness, but to do this you have to discover your own uniqueness.
Ask yourself, “What do I really want? What has worked for me in the past?" There are three levels of motivation we act with:
The lowest level is Fear: its a good motivator. Fear of consequences has us going to work, never divorcing, etc. But its not long-lasting. Its I HAVE to do this.
The second level is DUTY, our sense of responsibility. The feeling of “I OUGHT to do this.” Things are done out of a sense of obligation but not enjoyment. Duty is more fulfilling than fear but it leaves much to desire.
The final level is Love. I want to do this. I love my work, I want to do it. I love my family.
Feeling good about yourself is an essential ingredient to finding inner peace.
Being yourself perfectly is something we are all capable of doing.
Law 10: Give more, and you’ll have more
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
Having an abundance mentality means believing that there is plenty on this planet for everyone. Plenty of opportunities, resources, and choices. If we share what we have with each other, everyone wins.
Sharing expands the sense of ownership. Hoarding only expands envy and resentment.
Leaders use a mentality of giving and abundance to fuel team motivation. Great leaders, lead with love and abundance. They get people to do things because they want to, to because they have to. Great leaders serve, they don’t exercise dominion over their team.
“The power to lead is the power to mislead. The power to mislead is the power to destroy.”
All but the basest of human beings can be touched by kindness and generosity.
Inner peace comes from getting things aligned with each other. Structuring order to our lives in ways that express the truly important. Once all of these things come together and align with our core values and objective moral truth, we will experience growth beyond measure.
Moral truths and core values generate an inner compass to inner peace. It allows you to check in everyday with “Was my behavior in line with my governing values today?”
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