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The Two Most Important Questions
You'll Ever Ask Yourself

By Dr. Alan Zimmerman

"You will never find time for anything.
If you want time, you must make it."
~ Charles Bixton

Some time ago at the Princeton Theological Seminary, the students were told they had to attend a special lecture on the story of The Good Samaritan at a certain time and place on campus. However, right before the scheduled lecture was to be given, the students received a message telling them the time had been moved up, which forced them to hurry up and get there or be considered late.

On the way to class, a homeless man who was asking for help was set up as a prop to test the students' reactions. Under normal circumstances, a majority of the students would stop to see if they could help. Under the stress created in the experiment, 90% of the rushed students did not stop to assist the man asking for help ... on their way to the lecture about the Good Samaritan!

Amazing! Under the pressure of time, these students, who were dedicating their studies and their careers to Christian charity, gave it all up.

What about you? Are the pressures of time getting in your way? Or stopping you from having the life, career, and relationships you really, Really, REALLY want? For many of you, I know the answer is a resounding "yes".

That's why I open my new book The Payoff Principle with the two most important questions you will ever ask yourself. The first: "Do you know WHAT you really, Really, REALLY want?" Most people don't. And that's tragic. If you don't know what you really want, your only other alternative is to settle for less.

And the second question: "Do you know HOW to get what you really, Really, REALLY want?" Again most people don't.

To get you started on the right path for the biggest and best payoffs you will ever experience personally or professionally, you've got to guard, protect, and use your time with all the wisdom you can possibly muster. I suggest the following...

  1. Remind yourself you have enough time.
    Indeed, you have all the time there is. No one gets any more time or any less time than you do on a particular day. In fact, you have way more time than your ancestors ever did. At the time of Jesus' birth, the average life span was approximately 28 years of age. By the end of the 18th Century, it was about 37 years of age, and in the early 1900s it was 50 years of age. By 1940, the average life span was 65, and today it is over 78. Now some scientists are saying we're not too far off from seeing people live to 120 years old.

    Remind yourself you have enough time. That's not the issue. The issue is how well you use your time.

    So please don't go around telling yourself and anybody else who will listen, "I'm so busy. I don't know how I've ever going to get everything done." The more you talk that way, the more overwhelmed you'll feel and the less productive you'll become. So stop that trash talk.

  2. Spend your time on those things that prevent regrets.
    I was a great student in high school, college, and graduate school. All A's. Top of the class. All the kudos. But I didn't have much fun. All I did was study, study, study, and work, work, work. And I regret that.

    If I could do it over, I would have taken some time to ask out a few girls that really caught my attention. I would have said "yes" to a few more activities that people invited me to. And if I could do it over, I would have stopped what I was doing when my little daughter called out, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," and I would have stopped saying, "I'm busy. Can't you see I'm busy?" It took her disowning me for a long period of time before I realized I had misappropriated my use of time. And I regret that.

    Want a simple rule for the future? Follow my lawyer colleague Don Phin's advice: "If there's a potential for regret, just do it. Make the time."

  3. Take advantage of a quiet place.
    To use your time most effectively, this is a must once in a while. You may discover that the best place to get work done is out of the office. That's why many companies have gone so far as to have silent hours in the workplace so that workers can be protected from disruption.

    It's a powerful tool. In fact, I wrote a great deal of my new book "The Payoff Principle, in the back corner of a public library, on a porch of an old historic bed & breakfast inn, or out on the beach on a sunny day. You'll be amazed how much work you can get done in a few hours of quiet time!

  4. Use time with the end in mind.
    What if you knew you only had six months left to live? What if you knew that after that time you wouldn't be able to see your friends and family members, go to your favorite places, or do your favorite things?

    If you knew that, I suspect you would use your time NOW quite differently. The trouble is ... none of us knows if we have a day, a week, a year, or a decade left. So the smartest use of time is to spend your time on the things that matter the most to you ... NOW. Not "when you get around to it."

  5. Be humble enough to follow the wisdom of the ages.
    I don't know why so many people have to learn the hard way. The truth is ... millions and billions of people have preceded us throughout history and many of those folks were brilliant. And some of them were kind enough to write down what they learned about the use of time so we wouldn't have to mess it up and learn the hard way.

    Here are a few bits of the wisdom they've passed on to us. Adopt one or two of their comments as guidelines for your life...

    • "Do first things first, and second things not at all." – Peter Drucker
    • "All my possessions for a moment of time." -Queen Elizabeth I
    • "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life." - Charles Darwin
    • "The bad news is time flies. The good news is you 're the pilot." – Michael Altshuler
    • "Procrastination is the thief of time." - Edward Young
    • "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." – Carl Sandburg
    • "We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things." - Jim Rohn
    • "There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mohandas Gandhi
    • "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils." - – Louis Hector Beriloz
    • "We always have enough time, if we will but use it right." - Goethe
    • "Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment." – Buddha
    • "For disappearing acts, it's hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work." – Doug Larson
    • "How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you're on." – Zall's Second Law
    • "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." - Parkinson's Law
    • "Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    • "In reality, killing time is only the name for another of the multifarious ways by which time kills us." – Sir Osbert Sitwell

As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught more than one million people in 48 states and 22 countries how to keep a positive attitude on and off the job. In his book, PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success, Dr. Zimmerman outlines the exact steps you must take to get the results you want in any situation. Go to Alan's site for more information.
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