The father of time management could be Stephen Covey. In his book “First thing’s first”, he observed that great leaders appear less stressed and seemed to have more time on their hands. He adopted the Eisenhower matrix which helps to sort tasks based on the principals of urgency and importance. When assigned to each task, those two factors place the task to the relevant quadrant of the matrix. Covey pointed out that far too often we are firefighting in the “urgent and not important” quadrant. We should, instead, allow such fires to burn themselves out, redirecting our time to the “non-urgent and important” quadrant.  The idea being you spend more time in the important but not urgent tasks

He was adamant that the key was “not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

As you can see in the diagram, we should spend more time in the “non-urgent and important” quadrant.

Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and CEO of Stack Overflow, developed the Rule of 5. The concept is that no person should ever have more than five tasks on their to-do list at any given time. Whilst your list may hold more tasks, it might to useful to highlight your five tasks.


A philosophy professor is lecturing to his students. He brings out an empty jar and small rocks. Filling the jar with the rocks, he asks if it is full. “Yes”, they reply. Then he lifts a container of small pebbles and pours them in. “Is it full?”. “Yes”, they reply. Then he lifts a container of sand and pours it in round the rocks and pebbles. “Is it full?”. “Yes definitely”, they reply. Then he pours in a cup of coffee in to the container and it fills up all the spare space.

He explained, “Rocks are the important things in your life — you must give them priority each day otherwise you can’t fit them in. Small pebbles — are the next important things. The sand (your emails, routine meetings, daily chores) — are the least important activities and should be made to fit around the more important tasks”.

“So why the coffee?” a student asks. “To remind you that you should always make time, every day, for a coffee with either a work colleague, a client or a friend.” The professor replied.

The rocks are, of course, the important but not urgent tasks that Covey was pointing us to.

This is an extract from a book called ‘Don’t say I never told you’.

The past has great lessons to offer. Whilst technology and the evolving pace of change may lead millennials to thinking that what is ahead of them is unique. In fact, it has all happened before. I am a father in my 60s who has gathered many lessons from the past, and I set them out here for my daughters in the vain hope that they will be a guiding light long after I am physically gone. Some of the suggestions may seem ridiculous at first, but I ask you to chew the crud and make an informed decision later. For a list of topics covered see here.