Essential Viewing – Prof Randy Pausch Time Management & The Last Lecture

Professor Randy Pausch (Oct 1960 – July 2008) of Carnegie Mellon University is well know for delivering some lectures that have been viewed millions of times. The talk titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered about a year after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The recorded lecture hosted on CMU’s YouTube channel as been viewed over 17.5 million times at the time of writing this blog, in addition it can be found on several other locations on the web. Another very interesting talk that everybody should watch  on “Time Management” has been viewed almost 2 million times on CMU’s YouTube channel. Both of these lecture are essential viewing for everybody & not just those studying computing.

The reason I decided to write this blog post was that a colleague of mine recently queried me regarding email server settings. This lead to some discussion on the pro/cons of using Outlook vs Thunderbird which lead me into talking about Randy Pausch’s love of the “empty inbox” and his use of prioritized “to-do lists”.  During several courses I have taught in the past I got the students to watch these lectures to see what nuggets of gold they could learn regarding their approach to learning and being organised – specifically the lecture on time management. They always came back to say they found the lectures extremely interesting & made them reflect on how they work. So I thought it was now about that I mentioned these lectures in a blog post & thereby having them in one place for ease of reference in the future.

If you haven’t seen these talks before then I strongly suggest you watch both of them & I’m certain you will learn a lot and in so doing should reflect upon how you approach work/study/research & life in general. If you do some searching online then I’m sure you can find out lot’s more about Randy, his teaching, research and the founding of the Alice software project. The following are just a few links you can follow for more info.

Randy Pausch’s Homepage (online)
Randy Pausch on Wikipedia (online)
Randy Pausch – Last Lecture Transcript (online)
Randy Pausch – Time Management Transcript (online)

I have summarized the key points under each video to make that particular topic area readily accessible. Clicking on the “go to” hyperlinks will open up the video in a new tab at the associated time-stamp of the topic. If you have any other tips / useful strategies on effective time management / achieving you’re life goals (childhood dreams) then do leave a comment.

Time Management

00:05:56 Time = Money, how much is you’re time worth, should I just buy software or write it, try thinking of time and money almost as if they are the same thing  (go to)

00:07:54 Money not Important, its time – you can never get that back (go to)

00:10:13 The Time Famine, bad time management = stress, need to think long term, life advice happy wonderful life, why do it if its not fun, life is too short, don’t like you’re job then change, the overall goal is fun (go to)

00:12:25 Typical Office Worker Wastes 2 hours per day, desk messy, can’t find things (go to)

00:12:58 Managing your time well makes you successful (go to)

00:13:34 Goals, Priorities and Planning, why am I doing this, what will happen if I don’t do it, best thing in the world – just say no (go to)

00:15:04 Do the right things, rather than doing things right, doesn’t matter how well you polish the underside of the banister (go to)

00:15:45 The 80:20 Rule, A small number of things will contribute the most value, e.g. if in sales 80% of revenue will come from 20% of you’re clients (go to)

00:17:01 The Power of Inspiration, if you can dream it you can do it, Disneyland built in 366 days, a lot of hard work in anything you want to accomplish (go to)

00:18:24 Planning is very important, failing to plan is planning to fail (go to)

00:19:04 To Do Lists, break things down into small steps – how to clean a room, can you make the bed, can you tidy the clothes, do a few things then you get it done, do the ugliest thing first (go to)

00:21:01 Most Important Thing, 4 Quadrant To Do List, Important do soon, most important, everybody gets it wrong by going on to what’s not important and not due soon, things that are due soon and not important – just don’t do it – and magically you have time to work on what’s not due soon but important, so it never gets a chance to be due soon – thereby becoming one of those Zen like people who seem to have all the time in the world (go to)

00:23:24 Paperwork, clutter leads to thrashing (just like excessive paging on a HD!), keep you’re desk clear, have just one thing on you’re desk, touch each of paper once, especially email, you’re inbox is not you’re to-do list (go to)

00:24:33 Need to get the Inbox clear, sometimes means just filing things away, and putting something on the to-do list – sorted by importance (go to)

00:25:40 A Good File System is Essential, having a single place when looking for important receipts beats the hell out of running around for hours looking for it (go to)

00:27:11 Randy’s Desk, 3 Screens – screen space (on screen desktop real estate) is critical, compare working on a little tray in an airplane vs at an actual desk, cost of giving everybody 2 or 3 screens is trivial – so why wouldn’t you do it, will increase productivity having a second screen (go to)

00:29:05 Randy’s 3 Screens, left – to-do list (sorted by priority 0 to 9), middle – note the empty inbox – sleep better with an empty inbox, right – calendar  – essential you know where you’re supposed to be (go to)

00:30:25 The Desk Itself, the one and only thing that is being worked on, speaker phone – essential (best thing you can buy to counter stress) – having a timer is useful as when you get through having been waiting you can say how long you have been waiting (I presume you’re logging this kind of stuff), hence they feel really guilty (go to)

00:32:15 Telephones, a great time waster, if you stand during phone calls you can be much brisker, start by announcing goals for the call e.g. I have 3 things to discuss, do not put you’re feet up, having something on you’re desk that you want to do next is a great way to get off the phone quickly, chit chat is just a time-waster, to get off the phone quickly – just say I have some students waiting (there must be students waiting somewhere – as a professor) (go to)

00:34:02 Telemarketer, as you are talking just hang up on yourself – who does that!, or perhaps tell them that you would like to sell them something (go to)

00:35:05 Group You’re Phone Calls, do them right before lunch or just before the end of the day – that way they have something else they would rather do than just chit-chat with you, you are not more interesting than lunch (go to)

00:35:25 Have a Hands Free Set, one can exercise (cycle) at the same time as talking!, can fold laundry while on the phone (go to)

00:36:35 What Else is on the Desk, address stamper, tissues – essential as faculty (have the module code written on the box and turn it so they can see that its for the class), thank you cards – pen, ink, paper – really important – a tangible way to say that you appreciate somebody, have them on you desk always (go to)

00:39:30 Paper Recycling Bin, – acts as a trash can one can recover things from, notebook, post-it notes (go to)

00:41:30 Spreader Organization Strategy, everything just one arms radius away, from where one sits, do what works for you (go to)

00:42:05 Office Logistics, make the office comfortable for you – but not for others, have folding chair just in case next to the wall (if a longer detailed discussion is necessary), if somebody want’s to talk then they need to stand – makes for a fast discussion  (go to)

00:43:05 Scheduling Yourself, you make time by electing not to do something else, opportunity cost – the bad thing about doing something that isn’t very valuable is that if you spend an hour doing it – that’s an hour you can’t get back (go to)

00:43:37 Learn to Say No, to keep unimportant things from sucking into you’re life, gentle no’s – if nobody else steps forward I will do this for you, or I’ll be you’re fallback but you need to keep searching for somebody else – if they stop looking then they have abused you’re relationship (go to)

00:42:18 Find You’re Creative Time, defend it ruthlessly, spend it alone – at home if necessary, schedule phone calls, meetings, mundane stuff when you’re not at you’re best (go to)

00:45:54 Interruptions, studies show an interruption takes 6-9 minutes + a recovery of 4-5 minutes to get you head back into what you are doing – if doing something like software development you may never get you head back into what you were doing, 5 interruptions – blows a whole hour, must find ways to reduce the frequency and length of interruptions (go to)

00:46:28 Turn Phone Calls into Email, any time a new email makes a “ding” it creates an interruption – turn it off, go to the email when you are ready  (go to)

00:47:30 How to cut things Short, if somebody interrupts you and asks if you have a few minutes, tell them that you are in the middle of something right now, could say you only have 5 minutes – puts a clear deadline on the interaction, if somebody doesn’t get it walk to the door of you’re office – complement them, thank them, shake their hand, then if they still don’t leave – then you just keep going out the door (go to)

00:48:45 Have a Wall Clock, right behind any visitors to you’re office  (go to)

00:49:00 Time Journals, find out where you’re time is going, monitor yourself in 15 minutes increments for 3 days (go to)

00:50:20 Meeting with Students – What’s you’re time schedule?, gaps between classes – make up a fake class, go to the library & study (go to)

00:51:16 Time Journal Data, what are you doing that doesn’t need to be done, what can you delegate, what can I do more efficiently, how am I wasting other peoples time, you become more efficient at work so you can leave at 17:00 and go home – work life balance (go to)

00:53:16 What’s Important, What’s Not, don’t worry about things that don’t matter (go to)

00:54:04 Effective vs Efficient, best overall outcome (go to)

00:55:55 Procrastination, is the thief of time, doing things at the last minute is really expensive, that’s where stress comes, deadlines really important (make some fake deadlines), sometimes you have to ask – and wonderful things can happen (go to)

00:59:10 Delegation, you can achieve a lot more when you have help, grant authority with responsibility – give the resources, budget and time to get it done, do the dirtiest job yourself, treat you’re people well, people are the greatest resource, treat them with dignity, respect, and the kind of love that they should have from someone who cares about them and their professional development (go to)

01:00:55 If You Want to Get Something Done You Cannot be Vague, give a specific thing, date and time along with a specific penalty or reward if the deadline is or is not met (go to)

01:01:30 Challenge People, delegate until they complain, under delegation is a problem, people want to show they are capable – let them, communication has to be clear, get it in writing, tell them what you want them to do, not how to do it, set objectives not procedures, sometimes their solutions can be mind-blowing – good or bad, tell people the importance of each task (go to)

01:03:37 Sociology, when people do things that you like – praise them and thank them (go to)

01:05:00 Meetings, should never last more than an hour, should be an agenda, if no agenda then don’t attend, write the minutes of the meeting in 1 minute or less – detailing who is responsible for what by when – and email it out to everybody  (go to)

01:06:12 Technology, only use technology that’s worth it – that makes you more efficient,  (go to)

01:07:25 Video – frustrated office worker destroys computer, only use technology that helps you (go to)

01:08:35 Email, don’t delete – save all of it, save/search, if you want something done send it to somebody who can do it, with a specific date/time/penalty, if you don’t get a response within 48 hrs try try again (go to)

01:10:38 Management from Beneath, write things down, what’s to be done by next meeting, who can help, its not a vacation if you’re reading email (go to)

01:12:56 Most Important Advice, kill you’re television, turn money into time, throw money at the problem – hire somebody else to mow you’re lawn, do whatever it takes to exchange money for time because you just don’t have enough time, eat, sleep and exercise, never break a promise,   (go to)

01:14:30 Most Things are Pass/Fail – reason we have the expression – good enough, get feedback loops, ask people in confidence,  (go to)

01:15:10 What Can You Do Today, get a PDA, sort tasks by priority, do a time journal/count the number of hours you watch TV in the week, revisit this take in 30 days and ask yourself – what have I changed, time is all we have (go to)

The Last Lecture

Key Segments
00:03:22 Childhood Dreams (go to)

00:04:54 Being in Zero Gravity (go to)

00:08:12 Football – All about fundamentals, critics are the ones who still love you, enthusiasm, perseverance (go to)

00:12:04 World Book Encyclopedia, paper, books (go to)

00:13:02 Meeting Captain Kirk, meeting you’re boyhood idol, leadership, science of Star Trek (go to)

00:15:12 Winning Stuffed Animals (go to)

00:16:50 Being an Imagineer – Walt Disney, job applications, brick walls, how badly you want something (go to)

00:18:35 VR, junior academic, Disney’s Aladdin project, give people time and they will impress you (go to)

00:26:32 The Aladdin VR project, Imagineering, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (go to)

00:30:30 Enabling the Childhood Dreams of Others, next Star Wars film (go to)

00:32:24 Course – Building Virtual Worlds, different teams every 2 weeks, great work, I know you can do better (go to)

00:37:20 VR Demo Example (go to)

00:40:10 An Unusual Course, brilliant creative students, class pictures, anything that pioneering – you will get arrows in the back, find somebody better than you to hand over to (go to)

00:45:30 The Dream Fulfillment Factory, Entertainment Technology Center, focus on people and learning to work in groups (go to)

00:52:38 The Alice Project (go to)

00:54:38 Lessons Learned, achieving you’re dreams (go to)

01:00:42 We Learn from our Students, having fun, help others, loyalty is a two-way street (go to)

01:06:09 Never Give Up (go to)

01:09:45 How do you get People to Help You, tell the truth, be earnest, apologize when you screw up, focus on others (go to)

01:13:00 When you do the Right Thing, good stuff has a way of happening, get a feedback loop and listen to it (go to)

01:13:28 Show Gratitude (go to)

01:13:57 Important Advice, be good at something, work hard, find the best in everybody, be prepared (go to)

01:14:30 Summary (go to)

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