11 Time Management Tips Inspired by Dr. Randy Pausch’s Life and Death
How would knowing when you were going to die impact how you manage your time today? It’s a serious question to ponder.
Allow me to introduce you to Randy Pausch and his inspiring story. His story and how we approached life in the face of his own mortality will inspire you to go after your goals. You will discover that you can and will do amazing things once you realize that life on this earth is short.
About Dr. Randy Pausch
Dr. Randy Pausch (October 23, 1960 — July 25, 2008) was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Much of his work was focused on developing virtual reality technology.
Dr. Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in August 2007 and was given three to six months to live. He was an efficiency freak before his diagnosis, but his diagnosis really put efficiency and his childhood dreams into perspective. With the end of his life as a near reality, Randy Pausch became determined to share how others could achieve their wildest dreams. This blog post outlines some motivating time management principles that I gathered from Dr. Pausch’s last lecture on Sept. 18, 2007.
The video of Dr. Pausch’s last lecture is below.
Warning: He uses some mild foul language during the video so please don’t play out loud around young children.
Randy Pausch’s Time Management Tips for Achieving Childhood Dreams
As people get older, they typically begin to think more about how they’re using their time. In my life, I think often about how and if I’m redeeming the time given to me. In other words, I ask myself if I’m being a good steward of my time. After all, time is our most precious commodity.
The question is what you will do with the time that God gives you. Say you’re a writer and entrepreneur like myself, we tend to overfocus on work and how we can grow our blog or scale our business. You have to also consider those dreams and goals outside of business that bless God and others.
Randy Pausch’s time management and productivity principles inspired me to share them with you. It’s my guess that he would want these tips shared with as many people as possible.
Below is a list of eleven Randy Pausch time management and productivity tips that I gathered from his last lecture:
- Dream big like a child
- Anticipate brick walls and be determined to get over them
- Work hard
- Push the envelope
- Have fun
- Keep learning (pick up on the “head fakes”)
- Get an accountability partner
- Get feedback on your output
- Enjoy the fruits of your labor
- Stay inspired
Go after your childhood dreams.
Go and listen to the untainted dreams and imagination of a child. This is a good way to get a quick jolt of inspiration. Randy Pausch kept his childhood dreams top-of-mind throughout his life. He didn’t allow the monetary pressures of establishing a professional career to take away his zeal for his childhood dreams. He had the right people in his life who encouraged him to let his imagination run free. He became a professor so that he could embrace his imagination and inspire his students and colleagues to do the same!
Use the time that you have on this earth to achieve your childhood dreams. And I’m not talking about the business or personal goals that you set in your mid to late 20s. I’m talking about the big, near impossible dreams that people would call you crazy for going after (which is a good reason to keep some or all of your big dreams between you and Jesus).
Here are Randy Pausch’s childhood dreams that he shared during his last lecture:
- Being in zero gravity
- Playing in the NFL
- Authoring an article in the World Book encyclopedia
- Being Captain Kirk
- Winning a big stuffed animal
- Being a Disney Imagineer
What are your childhood dreams and what are you doing today to work toward achieving them?
Here’s a simple first step for achieving your childhood dreams: WRITE THEM DOWN
Take your dreams from your head to paper so that you can make a time management plan for going after them.
Go over brick walls to reach your goals.
Some of your dreams might seem near impossible to achieve. And that’s great! But you also must plan for barriers and setbacks along the journey.
You will face rejection from gatekeepers. You will battle with anxiety and doubt from the inside. Randy Pausch calls the external barriers “brick walls”. But I believe that the internal brick walls of anxiety, distraction, doubt, and lack of faith are formidable enemies on the battlefield. And let’s not forget the spiritual forces out there that don’t want you to do good work.
I love Dr. Pausch’s perspective on these brick walls. He said that brick walls are there for a reason. He said that brick walls give you an opportunity to prove how badly you want something.
Are you prepared to go over or bust through a brick wall in order to achieve your childhood dreams? I am too. Just remember to stand back up to fight again after you get knocked down.
Time management is hard work.
Randy Pausch’s youth football experience helped shape his character and work ethic as an adult. Youth football taught him about how to embrace the fundamentals for every goal or activity. Football also taught him the value of hard work and perseverance.
Let’s face it. Time management and focused productivity is hard work. You will experience temporary failure and setbacks as you attempt to manage your time better and achieve your childhood dreams. Learn from those mistakes and improve on them as you move forward.
The hard work of time management becomes easier if you set goals and design a plan for achieving them. Apply Locke’s goal-setting theory in life and business to help you achieve challenging goals.
Manage Time Better with Collaboration
There’s an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Well, I believe that you can go further AND faster through collaboration and teamwork.
Randy Pausch created a course at Carnegie Mellon called Building Virtual Worlds that took 50 random students from different departments (art, design, drama, and computer science). He put them in randomly chosen, rotating teams to collaborate on five two-week projects per semester.
Dr. Pausch’s Building Virtual Worlds course was his idea for efficiently inspiring individuals to work together to achieve their childhood dreams. He copied this process from Disney Imagineering’s virtual reality lab. The course ended in a big show that became a big hit on campus with lines spilling out of the auditorium. The presentations were an exceptional blend of virtual worlds, stage acting, and innovative engineering. Building Virtual Worlds taught the students and faculty a good lesson about collaboration, time management, and achievement.
Many people think that they can go fast and far by strictly working alone. This can be a sign of pride in the heart. But the truth is that collaborating with others can help your time management efforts in more astounding ways than working in a silo. You will go faster and further with the right team members on board!
Humility: Pausch’s Paradigm Shift
It takes humility to admit that you need others. It takes humility to successfully work with others. Dr. Pausch admitted that he was an arrogant young man during his time as a teaching assistant for Dr. Andy van Dam. Andy van Dam told Pausch that Pausch’s arrogance would limit what he would accomplish in life. That moment changed Pausch’s life and it allowed him to work better with others with more humility. And it positively impacted his productivity.
Push the Envelope
The Building Virtual Worlds student projects were astounding from the very beginning. The projects were creative and mindblowing. But after consulting with a colleague, Pausch decided to push the students to do better! He challenged them and the students answered the call. The groups’ virtual worlds and stage acting kept improving…raising the bar semester after semester.
Dr. Pausch continued to push the envelope after he handed over the reins of Building Virtual Worlds to another professor. He went on to co-found a two-year master’s program (Masters of Entertainment Technology) and the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University with Don Marinelli.
The ETC’s mission is to provide leadership in education and applied research that combines technology and art, to explore learning, storytelling, innovation, and entertainment, and to create experiences that educate, engage and inspire.
Balance contentment with curiosity for how far you can take your dreams. If you reach a goal, explore how you can go even further!
Have Fun with Time Management
I’ve established that time management is indeed hard work. It requires discipline of the mind and the body. Because of this truth, time management can be quite stressful.
HAVE FUN with your work to help relieve the stress of time management. Make time management a game and reward yourself for reaching certain milestones.
Dr. Pausch and Don Marinelli made learning fun at the ETC. They called their Master of Entertainment Technology’s curriculum “edutainment”. I love that name. It’s important to have as much fun as possible while you’re learning and working.
Keep Learning (Look out for “Head Fakes”)
Education keeps your mind sharp. It’s wise to learn time management strategies so that you can be productive in life and business.
There are many time management strategies out there. One strategy might be better for you than it is for others. Therefore, I suggest that you learn several time management strategies then see which strategy works best for you in certain situations.
Here’s a shortlist of time management techniques that you can explore:
- Stephen Covey’s time management method — Try to focus on important tasks that are not urgent (i.e. serving others, personal development, and strategy) and avoid unimportant tasks and distractions. This is my favorite technique, but it’s the hardest to master in my opinion.
- Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog method— Complete your hardest task first, then move on to easier tasks.
- The Pomodoro technique — Work on a task for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break.
- One thing at a time — Avoid multitasking when possible. Only move to your next task after the present task is complete.
- The dynamic to-do list — Keep a running task list and update it periodically during the day.
Dr. Pausch kept finding ways to innovate and scale ways to help people learn new tasks. Beyond that, he scaled ways to inspire people to reach their childhood dreams.
One of his final projects at CMU was Alice. Alice was one of Pausch’s famous “head fakes” (learning something important, without notice, while focusing on learning something else). Alice taught kids how to do computer programming by making games and movies. Did you notice the head fake? The fun games and movies got all the attention from the kids, but they were learning useful computer programming skills at the same time! The software had over one million downloads at the time of his last lecture (September 18, 2007).
When you’re learning about time management and productivity and executing on your tasks, you’re learning how to persevere with faith and confidence at the same time! You’re positively changing your inner man.
Get an Accountability Partner
A real friend will tell us the truth…even when the truth hurts. Find a friend and help each improve with time management and productivity. Check-in with each other two to three times per week to make sure you’re staying on task. Accountability yields amazing results.
“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” — Proverbs 27:17 NASB
Seek Constructive Feedback
“When you’re screwing up and nobody is saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up on you.” — Randy Pausch’s football coach
An accountability partner or a group of wise counselors or mentors can provide you with honest feedback that will help you avoid making key mistakes. This is important because you can’t improve at time management and productivity if you haven’t analyzed and learned from your past mistakes.
Dr. Pausch developed a bar chart that ranked each student by how well they worked with others. This was powerful visual feedback from peers. We need people and processes that will help us improve.
Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
One of the coolest examples of enjoying the fruits of fulfilling your dreams from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture (besides meeting William Shatner aka Captain Kirk from Star Trek) was when he had some of the stuffed animals that he had won over the years brought onto the stage. Yes, winning a huge stuffed animal at a carnival was one of his childhood dreams.
This might seem small or silly, but it’s really significant because it teaches us an important lesson.
It’s good to stop and enjoy the fruits of your labor. And it’s very good to express gratitude to God for blessing the good stewardship of your time. Remember your enjoyment and let it inspire you to reach other childhood dreams.
Stay Inspired and Achieve Your Dreams
The final tip is to stay inspired. Don’t allow your imagination to go dry. Carry that childlike faith and wonder into your adult life.
Dr. Pausch ended his last lecture with a list of ways to live an inspired life:
- Be thankful for parents, mentors, students, and colleagues
- Have fun every day
- Never lose your childlike wonder
- Help others
- Remember that loyalty is a two-way street
- Never give up (Pausch didn’t get into Brown University nor Carnegie Mellon initially)
- Know how to get help from others
- Don’t bail; the best gold is at the bottom of barrels of poop (aka don’t quit…embrace the grind during the hard times).
- Get a feedback loop and listen to it (feedback, accountability and humility)
- Show gratitude
- Don’t complain; just work harder
When it comes to getting help from others, Pausch made the following good points:
- Realize that you can’t reach your goals alone
- Tell the truth
- Be earnest
- Apologize when you screw up
- Focus on others, not yourself
And here are a few final nuggets of advice from Dr. Pausch’s last lecture:
- Be good at something. It makes you valuable
- Find the best in everybody
- Be prepared: “luck” is where preparation meets opportunity
But to me…the most inspiring nugget was the head fake of the entire lecture:
Randy Pausch prepared and presented his last lecture for his three children — Dylan, Logan, and Chloe.
As a parent…wow…just wow.
Coming to terms with the reality that we’re only on this earth for a short time will do wonders for motivating you to work hard on your life’s calling. Dr. Pausch’s last lecture is a gift that you can always return to for inspiration.
Pausch has inspired many with his last lecture (over 19 million YouTube views at the time of this writing). He presents some good lessons for living a productive life. Take these Randy Pausch time management tips, confidently submit them to God in prayer and go achieve your childhood dreams!
Inspired yet? I am. Take the first step to achieving your childhood dreams today.