The 48-Minute Method

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What is the most valuable resource?

Ask different men, you’d probably get different answers spanning the spectrum from money, power, and land ownership to health, family, and love. I’ve even heard someone make a valid argument for water being the most valuable resource. No doubt about it…all those things are valuable in their own ways.  However, people often hear the word valuable, but confuse it with the word important.  

There is a difference between the words important and valuable.  The word important has to do with the meaning a man places on something, but the word valuable refers to scarcity and precious resources that are either rare or hard to find.  A drowning man would trade all the money in the world for oxygen.  The moment that man goes underwater, air becomes very valuable.  

This lesson is not about a man’s most important resource.  (That debate is too personal to each individual.)  This week’s lesson is about man’s most valuable resource, the one that is either rare or hard to find.


Here’s the answer.

TIME.

Time is man’s most valuable resource. There are three things that make time unique as a resource.

  • Time is intangible.
  • We are unable to produce more time.
  • We are unable to control time.

We can control money. Money can be made and lost and made again several times in a person’s life. We can control our health, our relationships, and our other resources. All of these things can be managed, but time is never managed. In fact, “time management” is a misnomer because it gives us the false sense that we control time. The things we can control, however, are our thoughts and actions within a given amount of time.  

You don’t manage time…you manage your tasks within a given time frame.

Most people who have time issues complain that there is never enough time in the day to get everything checked off their daily to-do lists. When I give lectures and workshops on handling time issues, I usually focus on three broad ideas.

First, there really is enough time to get your stuff done. Every single one of us is blessed with the same number of minutes each day. If millions of successful people can accomplish great things in their allotted time, then so can you.   

Second, your issue with time is actually not the lack of daily hours to get all your tasks done. Instead of trying to have more time, you need to have fewer tasks. It’s the same thing when dealing with money or relationships. You want to be financially well-off? You don’t need more money…you need fewer expenses. (A man who earns $50,000 per year with no mortgage and no family feels a whole lot more wealthy than a man who earns $90,000 per year with an overpriced house, a luxury car payment, a wife, and three kids.)  The same is true in your relationships. Do you want to improve your social life? You don’t need more friends…you need fewer toxic people in your life. Positive people are great, but it’s a lot easier to just get rid of the drama queens and joy-suckers. When it comes to time issues, improve your life through subtraction rather than addition.

Third, we can solve almost all of our issues with time when we learn how to manage procrastination. This is the key. We have 24 hours in a day, but most men don’t really use those hours effectively. Over the years, I read lots of research and anecdotes and pop culture pieces on procrastination (ironically, I was reading this stuff most of the time as a way to procrastinate. Go figure.) The biggest myth is that procrastinators are lazy. The truth is that procrastinators work very well in short bursts of time blocks. They are very different from lazy people. Procrastinators (by definition) are people who wait until the last minute to get things done. Lazy people are those who don’t get things done at all. Procrastinators have a keen sense of time. They know the deadline of tasks, and they are great at estimating the time it will take to complete those tasks. Procrastinators don’t have problems finishing things…they have problems starting things.  

The quickest way to overcome procrastination is to drastically adjust a task’s deadline. Let’s say, for example, a freelance writer takes a solid hour to write a 500-word article for an online magazine. The magazine gives the writer a week to write five articles. If the writer is a serious procrastinator, he would probably wake up early on the day the articles are due, knock them all out in five straight hours, submit them to the editor…and then swear he’ll never procrastinate again.

There are many techniques for overcoming procrastination…some good, some bad. They all promise to make your life more effective and organized. Just choose the one that fits your personality. The bottom line is you need to find a technique that has these three components:

  • A method that will allow you to work in short intervals rather than long time blocks. (The intervals simulate artificial deadlines.)
  • A method that will allow you to prioritize and monitor tasks as they are completed.
  • A method that will reward you along the way.

 

The 48-Minute Method

Here’s one that works for me.  It’s called the 48-minute method and I’ve been using it for the last few years to get things done. FIrst, you draw on a piece of paper a box that has five rows and two columns like the one below. You’re going to work in 12-minute intervals, so number the first column as such:

12
24
36
48
60

Next, take a couple minutes to write exactly what you plan to do for each of those intervals.  Here’s a 48-minute chart example of a student who has to get started on a research paper.

12 Read the first article. Highlight and take notes in the margins.
24 Read the second article.  Highlight and take notes in the margins.
36 Write a detailed outline for my paper.
48 Come up with a good thesis sentence and write the intro paragraph.
60 Take a break (make a celebratory sandwich!)

Instead of telling myself I have to write a twenty-page paper, I simply tell myself “For the next twelve minutes, I have to take notes on this one article.” Easy bite-sized chunks. I set a timer for twelve minutes and begin the first task. Let’s say that I knock out the first article pretty quickly, but the timer’s not up yet…do I move on to the next task? Nope. I might just stay with that first article, underline some other key points, or read over my notes. When the timer goes off, I reset it for twelve minutes and begin the next task.

Suppose article two is a lot longer and I don’t finish it in twelve minutes…what do I do then? I just reset the timer and move on to the next task. (I always stick to the chart. Anything leftover goes into another chart for another time.) After the 48 minutes are over and all the tasks are done, I reset the timer one last time for a twelve-minute break. The beautiful thing is that even if I don’t work on the paper for the rest of the day, at least I knocked out a good 48 minutes worth of work (which is a pretty good day for a procrastinator who was going to put it off until the last minute anyway.)

I have to go clean some bathrooms now.

12 Clean the toilets in both bathrooms
24 Clean the sinks in both bathrooms
36 Clean the tubs in both bathrooms
48 Clean the floors in both bathrooms
60 Take a break (celebratory single malt scotch!)

Blog post ending pic

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