Living by the Golden Dozen

Here’s the best way I’ve ever found to pull the best performance out of yourself. It’s an extremely simple method. Not easy, simple. First, hang copies of these twelve words where you’ll see them at work, in your car, and at your home:


Now comes the important part: Dedicate yourself to living that declaration.

It doesn’t help to look at those words once in a while and think, “That’s what I’m going to start doing just as soon as I can get myself together.” If you really want to achieve, start living by those dozen words now.

Doing so requires only four steps. But let’s get one thing clear: Doing the most productive thing possible means just that–the most productive thing. Not look busy. Not get by. But doing the most productive thing possible at that given moment, no matter how distasteful, hard, or worrisome the thing might be. This often means facing up to an unpleasant task, or heading into a likely rejection. It means shooting for the top when you know you should, but are afraid to. It means preparing when you need to prepare and doing when you need to do.

That’s why I say it isn’t easy, and why so few people follow it. It is simple, though. Anyone can do it–you just have to want to.

Consciously repeat these four steps minute by minute until they become second nature:

  (1) Tell yourself, “I must do the most productive thing possible at every given moment.”

  (2) Decide what the most productive thing is.   

  (3) Do it.

  (4) When you’ve pushed that thing as far forward as you can right now, go back to step (1)   and start over.

Don’t be a fanatic. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do at a given moment is to sit down with your favorite person and spend an hour watching the sun go down. Sometimes the most productive thing possible will be exercising, sleeping, or taking a well-deserved vacation. And, very often, the most productive thing you can do this minute will be the last thing you want to do right now. The edge between winners and losers cuts sharpest at this precise point.

Winners almost always do what they think is the most productive thing possible at every given moment; losers almost never do. When you look at what winners and losers actually do moment by moment, the difference between these two divisions of the human race really is that small. But the results of those small differences keep adding to each other at every given moment until they reach a critical size. Then they start multiplying.  

Look at the results obtained by anyone you know who is doing the most productive thing possible with most of his or her moments. Then, look at the results obtained by all the people you know who’ll do what’s easiest rather than what’s most productive every chance they get.  

You’ll see an enormous difference. What’s been accumulated and multiplied by many moments spent productively will be knowledge, skill, health, contacts, opportunities-and at least the beginnings of wealth. What’s been accumulated and multiplied by many moments given to doing the easiest thing possible? Perhaps some debt for pleasures consumed and forgotten, some extra pounds around the middle, and some time moved from one’s future to one’s past, some missed opportunities-little or nothing of value will be retained.

We live moment by moment, not year by year. Do the most productive thing you can think of with each and every moment as you live it and your future is assured. Do that all day every working day and your progress will soon astound everyone who knows you. More importantly, you’ll be astounded, delighted-and justifiably proud of yourself.

Master other time management strategies.

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  1. Paul DePalo says:

    I love it. It is simple but not easy. I have been learning more and more that being productive for me usually means getting out of the office. I accomplish so much more even simple things like making the phone calls. Usually the simplist things are the hardest . Dig in keep it simple . Be productive . Thank you Tom

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