I am a firm believer that the formula to our future is concealed in our daily agenda. I simply mean either our success in this business or our failure in this business will be determined by what we spend the majority of our time doing. I believe that most people who enter our insurance business at Liberty National have a desire to succeed, but I also believe that far fewer have a daily agenda to succeed.
I once heard John Maxwell say that he could spend five minutes with a person in their office and determine whether they would be a success at their business, or a failure. Maxwell went on to say that during those five minutes he would ask to look at the individual’s calendar and see what their daily agenda consisted of. We often hear people speak of ‘time management,’ but can time really be managed? Isn’t it true that time can only be utilized? Have you ever known anyone who could stretch a minute or stop a clock? Of course not, but we have all known successful people who could produce abundant results because of how they utilized their time. We have also known people who stayed really busy but never seemed to produce meaningful results because of how they spent their time. Some because they did not have their time planned or because their plans were for the wrong things, and others because they lacked the discipline to stick to their plans when less important things were brought to them.
Steven Covey calls this “staying in the whirlwind.” Many of us have heard this referred to as “putting out fires.” Do we really want our life’s purpose to be about “putting out fires” or “staying in the whirlwind?” When you think about it there are 1,440 minutes in a day and each minute is valuable. Once they are expended we can never get them back, so it’s imperative we use them prudently.
In 1906, Vilfredo Pareto coined what is known as Pareto’s Law, more commonly known as the 80/20 Principal. What it states is that 80 percent of our results will come from the most important 20 percent of the things we do. Therefore, to be more successful, we should spend the vast majority of our time doing the things that will give us our greatest results. To further demonstrate the practicality of this, first we should make a list of all the things we think we have to do. Secondly, we should take the 20 percent of these items that will give us 80 percent of our rewards. Then, we should prioritize them by asking ourselves if we had to leave town suddenly and only had time to do one of them, which is the most important. We should then do that one thing until completed and then move on to the second and third most important, and so on.
Pareto’s Principal, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus at least 80 percent of your time on the few things that are really important. Don’t just work smart, but work smart on the right things, the things that matter most.
What are those few things that yield you the maximum amount of results? Does it make any sense to spend any significant quantity of time doing the 80 percent of things that will add so very little to your success? Can we employ someone else to do those things, so we can leverage our time and spend it doing the things that will make a difference in our lives and those we lead? I have always been fond of the quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that says, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
The late football coach Paul Bryant in his autobiography talks about the value of time and shared the following prayer that he kept in his pocket and prayed each morning.
“This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever.
Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be a gain, not loss – good, not evil.
Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.”
What will you exchange each day of your life for? It’s your choice.