Special like his last lecture.

Table of Contents

  1. TL; DR
  2. Notes
    1. General Advice
    2. Time versus Money
    3. Treat Time Differently
    4. Manage Interruptions
    5. Time Logs
    6. Procrastination
    7. Delegation
    8. Communication Is Important
    9. Sociology
    10. Technology
    11. Emails
    12. Bosses
    13. Vacations
    14. Working Space Set up
    15. Book recommendations


This lecture provided some awesome useful advice in retrospect, even if it was delivered 10 years ago. Here are some notes of the lecture which I think is important.


General Advice

  • Maximizing the use of time is the means, not the end. The end is maximizing fun.
  • Time is the only commondity that matters
  • You don’t find time, you make time and make it by not doing anything else. (opportunity cost)
  • Measure how much your time is worth and spend it accordingly.
  • Kill your television.
  • Never break a promise, renegotiate the deadline early.
  • “Thank you notes”, physical ones, are very important.

Time versus Money

At the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon, students would come in during the orientation, I would say: “This is a master’s program, everybody is paying full tuition.” It was roughly 30,000 $ a semester, and the first thing I would say is: “If you’re going to come into my office and say: “I don’t think this is worth 60,000 $ a year”, I will throw you out of the office. I’m not even going to have this discussion.” Of course they would say: “Oh god, this Pausch guy is a real jerk.” And then they were right! But what I then followed on with was: “Because the money is not important. You can go and earn more money later. What you’ll never do is get the two years of your life back. So if you want to come into my office and talk about the money, I’ll throw you out, but if you want to come into my office and say: “I’m not sure this is a good place for me to spend two years”, I will talk to you all day and all night because that means we’re talking about the right thing, which is your time, because you can’t ever get it back.”

Treat Time Differently

  • Creative Time: find it, defend it ruthlessly and spend it alone. (Students can create fake classes for that time.)
  • Dead Time: great for meetings, exercise, etc. Do these things when you are not at your best.

Manage Interruptions

  • Reduce it. It takes usually about 7 mins but the recovery time is about 5 minutes (and way more for programming).
  • Some examples of responding to interruptions:
    • “Please send me an email instead of call me”
    • “I am in the middle of something”
    • “I only have 5 minutes”
    • If you are being interrupted by someone in the office, stand up, walk to the door and complement them and shake their hand, keeping walking. (This one is really funny)

Time Logs

  • Monitor yourself every 15 minutes (15 mins may be too frequent for me, 1h is better).
  • Create time budgets / time clock.
  • Ask yourself: What can I delegate? Where can I become more efficient? Where am I wasting my time?
  • Try to leave on time, so you can be with your family. (After his marriage, he got more things done, interesting.)


  • Do the ugliest thing first. When you eat a frog, you won’t want to spend a lot of time looking at it. When you eat many frogs, you won’t want to eat the smallest one first; you eat the largest one.
  • Stop rationalizing it, because everyone procrastinates.
  • Doing things in the last minute is really expensive because that’s where stress comes from.
  • So make up fake deadlines.
  • Identify why you are procrastinating. When you procrastinate, there must be a deep psychological reason. Usually you are afraid; maybe you feel you wouldn’t do it well.


  • Sometimes you just have to ask for help.
  • Get feedback loops, Ask people in confidence.
  • Do the ugliest thing yourself, making it very clear that you are willing to get your hands dirty.
  • Don’t be vague, specific deadline. Reward/Punish them accordingly not yourself.
  • Challenge people. Don’t underdelegate. Give them objectives not procedures, let them surprise you.

Communication Is Important

  • Has to be clear and specific.
  • Get it writing (in emails), there wouldn’t be confusing.
  • Tell people relative importance of the task.


  • Reinforce repeated behavior .
  • When meeting, lock the door, unplug from phones. (Something like stand-up meetings)
  • Have agendas, never have meeting longer than 1h
  • Decide what decisions got made and delegated to whom


  • Only use technology that is end-to-end efficient.
  • Only use technology that helps you.
  • Use Technology that gives you a new workflow.


  • Don’t delete any of them, remember there is a feature called search. (Yeah, and I don’t delete IM, too.)
  • If the person hasn’t responded within 48h then it is ok to nag them.


  • Get it in writing: clear communication.
  • Ask questions like When is our next meeting? What do you want me to have done by then? Who can I turn to for help besides you?
  • Your boss wants results not excuses.


  • Reading email is not vacation

Working Space Set up

  • Use at least 2 if not 3 monitors. His set-up:
    1. To-Do list sorted with priority, into 4 parts. Remember important but not urgent should > urgent but not important.
    2. Inbox
    3. Calendar
  • Note pad
  • Post-it notes
  • Recycling bin, physical one for paper files

Book recommendations

  • One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey