10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management

byHyrum W. Smith
Rating 8 /10 Readability
Read Time 8 hrs Readible On
Published: 1995Read: September 12, 2014Pages: 240
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by Juvoni Beckford@juvoni

Hyrum W. Smith is one of the early time management gurus. Many of the productivity books today reference some of his early work in some way. He founded the Franklin Day Planner and co-founded a company with Stephen Covey, author of How to win friends and influence people.

The first part of the book focuses on five natural law to better manage your time and the second half focuses on laws to help you gain increased control of your life. The first half contains a lot of practical advice you can put to use immediately, whereas the second half talks about the psychological and mindset shifts, specifically understanding your belief window to bring about behavioral change. This book is a timeless classic and those serious about time management and productivity will be sure to get value out of this book.

Motivations to Read

Focusing on the principles will allow me to hit on the essentials of whatever I do so I am more equipped to dive into more advanced areas as well as have the initial knowledge form better in long-term memory. This was a key book and author that has inspired many of the productivity folks I go to for tips today. I try to get closer to the source, to learn from the master, so I can get closer to the essence of the message.

3 Reasons to Read

  • Learn how to identify the time drainers in your life
  • Understand the secret of time leveraging to increase your productivity
  • Learn time tested principles of time and life management

10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management Notes & Summary

Natural Laws are fundamental patterns of nature and life that human experience and testing have shown to be valid. They describe things as they really are, as opposed to how we think they are or how we wish they were.

Whether we follow them or like them or not natural laws have immense impact on our lives.

i.e The Law of gravity, Conservation of Momentum or the Laws of Genetics, etc.

This book features natural laws that govern personal productivity and fulfillment

Part I: Managing Your Time

Law 1: You control your life by controlling your time

Law 2: Your governing values are the foundation of personal success and fulfillment.

Law 3: When your daily activities reflect your governing values, you experience inner peace.

Law 4: To reach any significant goal, you must leave your comfort zone.

Law 5: Consistent daily planning leverages time and increases focus.

Part II: Managing Your Life

Law 6: Your behavior is a reflection of what you truly believe

Law 7: You satisfy needs when your beliefs are in line with reality.

Law 8: Negative behaviors are overcome by changing incorrect beliefs.

Law 9: Your self-esteem must ultimately come from within.

Law 10: Give more and you'll have more

The Things that matter most in life are too often hostage to the things that matter least.

Popular time-management over-focuses on getting things done efficiently and often forgets to focus on the why.

"Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it." - Albert Einstein

i.e The train does not arrive at the station at 7 pm, it arrives in the moment represented by the slow indicating it's hand at 7.

Time is a series, or succession, of events.

Controlling your life means controlling your time, and controlling your time means controlling the events in your life

The Continuum of control represents a logarithmic scale where the right side are events you have total control of, the left side are events with no control and the middle is partially controlled events.

[TO-DRAW: Picture of chart on pg 21 here]

Avoid reactions of stress, anger, fear and frustration towards uncontrolled events and think about responses and how to adapt to the situation.

When we are in control we feel inner peace.

Inner peace is having serenity, balance, and harmony in our lives through the appropriate control of events.

The objective of good time management is inner peace.

Instead of focusing on time management, focus on identifying which events you can and cannot control.

Conditioning is part of the reason we fail to take control in our lives.

While very young, some traveling circus elephants are chained by the leg to immovable stakes and struggle for weeks to free themselves. They are conditioned to believe they can't move freely. Even when they grow up to large adults and weight many tons, with the strength to tear down walls; these massive beauties are tethered by a small rope in place because they learned and believed that they couldn't roam freely.

There are events we can't control, but we believe we can.

Conversely, there are events we can control, but we believe we can't.

In The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel L. Branden observed that the better you feel about yourself, the more productive you will be; and the more productive you are, the better you will feel about yourself.

The Productivity Tri-quation

Self-Esteem <=> Event Control <=> Productivity

Higher self-esteem raises productivity and event control.

Focusing questions for the events we want to control in our lives:

  1. What are the highest priorities in your life? Identifying Core Values
  2. Of these priorities, which do you value the most? Sequencing of Events

Two Time Fallacies that prevent accomplishments

  1. Thinking we have more time at some unspecified future date than we do now.
  2. Thinking we can somehow save time.

You have all the time there is.

Five most popular Time Robbers from the authors research:

  1. Interruptions
  2. Procrastination
  3. Shifting priorities
  4. Poor Planning
  5. Waiting for answer

General categories of Interruptions:

  1. Unnecessary interruptions - avoid unless you have required information which would be necessary
  2. Necessary interruptions - handle unless it is untimely
  3. Untimely interruptions - reschedule or delegate

Two varieties of procrastination

Conscious - where we are "awake" and aware of what we are doing

Unconscious - where we are almost totally unaware of our actions

Procrastination carries a high opportunity cost.

Suggestions for overcoming procrastination:

  • Set a deadline
  • Do the most unpleasant part first
  • Make a game of it
  • Build in a reward

Shifting priorities cause frustration and confusion.

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

In waiting for an answer, you may have more influence than you initially thought, here are some actions to speed things up:

  • Explain the priority of the information or help you are seeking
  • Follow-up and ask how you can help the situation
  • Elevate the problem more quickly
  • Make yourself easier to contact by those involved

Urgencies are not priorities; they act on priorities.

In Benjamin Franklin's early 20s he asked himself, "What are the highest priorities in my life?" and he came up with a list of 13 virtues.

  1. Temperance - "Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."
  2. Silence - "Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation"
  3. Order - "Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."
  4. Resolution - "Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."
  5. Frugality - "Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is waste nothing."
  6. Industry - "Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions"
  7. Sincerity - "Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."
  8. Justice - "Wrong none by doing injuries; or omitting the benefits that are your duty."
  9. Moderation - "Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."
  10. Cleanliness - "Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation."
  11. Tranquility - "Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."
  12. Chastity - "Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation"
  13. Humility - "Imitate Jesus and Socrates"

Inner Peace. Self-actualization, The unity between our values and everyday performance. "It is bringing together of what I do and what I really value." - Abraham Maslow

Everyone has governing values, unique to each individual.

The top 10 governing values from the 1992 Franklin Quest Co. survey

  1. Spouse
  2. Financial Security
  3. Personal Health and Fitness
  4. Children and Family
  5. Spirituality/Religion
  6. A Sense of Accomplishment
  7. Integrity and Honesty
  8. Occupational Satisfaction
  9. Love for Others/Service
  10. Education and Learning

The Productivity Pyramid

[TO-DRAW: Picture from page 66]

Daily Tasks

Intermediate Goals

Long-Range Goals

Governing Values

Everything starts with governing values.

This pyramid is similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Governing Values - Statements of principles and beliefs

Long-term goals- Translates principles into actions into achievements

Intermediate Goals - Specific steps to work your way towards long-term goals

Daily Task - Executing on a process and guided by your fundamental values

Values explains the why.

Long-range goals describe the what.

Intermediate goals and daily tasks show the how.

If we don't prioritize values we end up with conflicting goals.

Some questions that can help us achieve consistency between values and activities are:

  • What is the long-range priority of this project?
  • For whom and by when must the task be completed?
  • What can I delegate and to whom?
  • Is this project more important than another?
  • What will happen if I wait on this task?
  • Have I included time for myself and my family?
  • Are any of these tasks infringing on my values?

What matters most in life should not be at the mercy of less important things.

We're familiar with external or physical comfort zones, but the internal ones mental, emotional, social or psychological comfort zones are much harder to leave than the physical ones.

Three Obstacles to Leaving Comfort Zones

  1. The invisible committee - when too much of your values come from others, often people telling you who to be
  2. Walls - when we feel walled in by circumstance or try too hard for acceptance by others
  3. Fear of change - being afraid of failure

It takes great inner strength to stand up for your own values and live your life in harmony with them, rather than living according to the values of others.

Setting Goals often mean doing something new, leaving out comfort zone and going against our internal status quo, that's why so few people set long-range goals.

Smart Goals






Specific: states exactly what will be accomplished

Measurable: milestone event and date given

Action-Oriented: sets up things to be done

Realistic: goal can be achieved within geographic and other constraints

Timely: time allowed is reasonable, but not too long

Goal Categories:

  • Physical well-being
  • Family/Spouse
  • Spiritual/Humanitarian
  • Financial
  • Company/Career
  • Company/Strategic
  • Community/Political
  • Educational/Personal Development

If you are determined to achieve excellence, to arrive at inner peace through identifying your values, setting goals and moving out of your comfort zones, and controlling the events that make up your daily life, nothing can stop you.

Time can be leveraged. Investing a little time into certain activities can free up time in the future.

A quick daily planning session can be that leverage, allowing you to set clear defined tasks, to focus on more important tasks that have greater priority.

Planning is the key to control.

Five Common Excuses for not planning:

  1. I don't have time to plan. Maybe they are content with the status quo, letting life happen rather than shaping and directing the events that make up life.

If you start your day with no plan, you'll be reactive, instead of proactive and you won't have as much control over your life.

  1. I already know what I have to do. Why take time to plan?

There will be important tasks that and not routine, and for these future events a daily plan is necessary.

  1. Planning doesn't work for me. I have too many interruptions.

In an environment with frequent interruptions, break down tasks into smaller chunks that you can plan around and delegate to the amount of time you have available.

  1. I feel "tied down" when I have a long list of things I have to do

Make your plans more meaningful and effective, so that they give you more freedom.

You are in control of the list, the list isn't in control of you.

With more control and more freedom, you can plan for more breaks and downtime.

  1. I don't know how to plan properly

Factors that should be a part of the planning process:

  1. Find a place that is relatively free of distractions Plan in a location you can focus in.
  2. Review the long-range objectives. Tasks should be aligned with goals and accomplishments
  3. Make sure the number of tasks and the amount of time required by each is well within the time available in your day. Don't over-plan your day, reduce your estimates to account for unexpected interruptions.
  4. Set specific daily goals for tasks. Be specific and clear with your tasks.
  5. Anticipate Obstacles Try to foresee potential obstacles from completing your tasks and plan around them or adapt with the right response.
  6. Prioritize your tasks Getting the right things done is more important than getting all the things done.

The Magic Three Hours

Any three hours of the day that are not prone to disruption, where you can have deep focus.

Prioritizing means determine the relative importance and precedence of events.

Think of prioritizing as Laser Thinking.

Prioritized Daily Task Lists

Step 1: Make a list of everything you would like to accomplish today, including tasks that are not urgent.

Step 2: Give a value of each item on the list.

Step 3: Give a numerical value to each item on the list.

Character, simply stated, is doing what you say you're going to do. A more formal definition is: Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed.

Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has defined discipline as "the ability to make and keep promises," including promises to ourselves.

The power of habits can help us build discipline.

We are all creatures of habit, whether we like it or not.

Without habits, we would always have to make conscious decisions at every turn.

Habit allows us to perform thousands of tasks and routines without causing a mental overload.

[TO-DRAW: Picture on pg 132]

Franklin Reality Model

Needs > Belief Window > Rules: "If...then.." > Behavior Patterns > Results

Needs <=> Feedback <==> Result

We have physical and psychological needs. Our psychological needs are so powerful that they are essential.

The First Element: Needs

Dr. Murray Banks List of our four basic psychological needs:

  1. The need to live
  2. The need to love and be loved
  3. The need to feel important
  4. The need to experience variety

The Needs Wheel

The four needs can be depicted as quadrants in a circle or wheel, because when all of them are being met, our lives move forward smoothly, like a wheel rolling down the road.

We have a desire to live, that is beyond conscious choice or a fear of death. It's a strong natural instinct, that if we fear our lives are in danger we will do many things we would otherwise not even consider.

Love is the greatest motivating force in the world.

From our earliest years, when we first become aware of ourselves as separate, unique human beings, we have an innate need to feel important, to have others pay attention to us.

Variety is such a compelling need that we sometimes seek it at the expense of the other three needs. We sometimes jeopardize our safety, put our relationships in risk to pursue new experiences, and we sometimes lose respect and our own feelings of respect though out of the ordinary bad behavior.

The "needs wheel" has no built-in direction; it can roll wherever it will.

The Second Element: The Belief Window

Direction comes from our beliefs.

You observe the world through your belief window.

Your belief window is the accumulation of your experiences and things you believe to be true about the patterns you see in the world, yourself, and those around you.

The things we believe are often reflections of our values.

Third Element: Rules

For each belief on your window, you subconsciously create rules that govern your behavior.

These rules are "if-then" statements that translate your beliefs into actions.

Fourth Element: Behavior Patterns

The first three elements are what goes on in your mind, the forth element are those external actions that you physically do.

Fifth Element: Results and Feedback

The outcomes of your behavior patterns and looking for results based on certain beliefs that met your needs.

Results often take time to measure.

Experience overtime gives you feedback that filters back into your needs promoting you to revisit your belief window.

The Reality Model

  • Gives you a visual picture of what is going on in your life and helps you understand why.
  • Helps you evaluate beliefs before they become behavior

The reality model also helps us understand other people's behaviors and beliefs.

Sometimes our "beliefs" may actually be things we only think we believe because of duty or expectations from others.

The reality model separates what we do, from what we are.

If we change a belief, why doesn't our behavior also quickly change?

We may have other hidden beliefs that are overriding or negating the belief we consciously know is true.

If we can remove the deep-seated incorrect belief, then our behavior would start to come in line with the correct belief.

Our belief window can have blindspots or missing beliefs that can led to unmet needs or misguided behavior.

How can you tell whether a belief, attitude, or opinion on your belief window is correct?

If the results or your behavior meet one or more of your four basic needs.

We have control over what we choose to believe.

Changing Circumstances Can Reveal Incorrect Beliefs

Personal growth, you might say, is the process of improving what is on your belief window. The willingness to accept the possibility that something is wrong on your belief window is a sign of maturity.

Growth means Change.

Five Rules for Changing What's Written on Your Belief Window

  1. Identify the behavior pattern that is not producing the desired results.
  2. Identify possible beliefs driving the behavior.
  3. Predict future behavior based on following those beliefs.
  4. Identify alternative beliefs that may produce better results.
  5. Predict future behavior based on the new beliefs.

Negative behavior is often the result of trying to meet needs with incorrect or inappropriate beliefs on our belief window.

Negative behavior shows lack of control. It's a symptom of a reactive way of life.

"The eyes of other people, are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses nor fine furniture." - Ben Franklin

We naturally seek to validate our feelings of self-worth.

Overtime, we may seek too much external validation and lose control over our lives.

We guess what will please others and change our behavior, at times contrary to our beliefs in hopes others will validate our worth.

This is very reactive, stressful and unhealthy.

One of the most important statements in the book:

You are a Ten.

Don't doubt your worth.

The main theme of this book is to gain control of your life. If you fail to do that eventually, you will lose your unique qualities and be a reflection of someone else's personality.

In The Journey From Fear to Love, Kay Allan describes the main emotions that motivate us:

  1. Fear
  2. Duty
  3. Love

Fear is the lowest level of motivation and the most reactive mode. It often makes us feel bad, because it is mainly from external triggers that we feel we have no control over.

Duty is a more fulfilling motivator than fear, but is still external.

Love is the highest and most fulfilling motivator. It is both internal and external force that we want to embrace.

Give more and you'll have more.

If you want abundance of anything, the best way to achieve it is by sharing what you have with others.

Sharing expands the sense of ownership. Hoarding expands envy and resentment.

There is a lot of overlap between the role of a teacher and the role of a leader.

You cannot empower people, unless they have granted you the power to do so.

Servant leaders have the abundance mentally and the power of influence. They lead with a sense of responsibility, the responsibility to lift others.

posted June 24, 2015

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