9 1/2 Secrets Successful People Use to Get the Most From Their Time: Part 2

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In my first blog post, I wrote that to get the most from your time, life, and career, one of the critical talents you need to develop for yourself and all those you train or coach is time management.

Secret 1 is to start with what you control. Because time is the way we measure the turning of the Earth and no one can make that go faster or slower, the question is, “What do you really control?” The past is gone and the future is not here yet, so the only thing you control is the activity you are doing right now. This offers you an elegantly simple, yet practical insight. To get the most from your time, life, and career, you need to focus on getting the most from just this action now. But how?

The next step is secret 2: learning to use aligned thinking.

The Story Behind the Story  

Jack Canfield was a classmate of mine when I got my doctorate. I admired many things about Jack. He was smart and creative, and valued the ability to help people reach their full potential. This led him to collect stories about how people overcame great odds to reach their full potential. He put them in a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul. He was passionate about getting it published; he was so convinced it would help a huge number of people that he wanted it to become a bestseller.

He did some things people thought were over the top at the time. He printed the title, pasted it on the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and put it in a place where he could see it. Each time he looked at his title on top of the bestseller list, he became more motivated.


And he really needed to be motivated, because he went to publisher after publisher. The answer was always the same: “No, we don’t think it fits what this publishing company is all about.” Overall, more than 120 publishers rejected his book, but he stayed focused on his goal of helping people with this book. The picture clarified and motivated his passion, and his passion kept him going. Finally, Chicken Soup for the Soul was published, and it did make the top of the New York Times bestseller list. What’s more, the many follow-up books also did very well. Jack built it into a series that became a brand, which he and his partner sold for $70 million.

Stay Focused on Your Goal 

You can see how this story is an excellent example of secret 2. The most successful people clarify what they really want by writing it down and reviewing it regularly, so they stay focused.

My 40-plus years of working with outstanding people have demonstrated to me that having a personal and professional life mission is the key to many immediate and significant benefits.

Just the other day I was talking with Peter W., a successful salesperson for more than 20 years. You may relate to Peter’s situation before he wrote his personal and professional life missions. He had some idea of what he wanted from his personal and professional lives, but it wasn’t quite clear. After he clarified what he really wanted by writing down his mission, three things happened:

  1. He could easily review them just before he set his priorities for the day to come. This helped him stay more focused and motivated, because he could see how the priorities for the day were taking him closer to what he really wanted.
  2. This increased focus and motivation led to increased accomplishment—accomplishing especially what was truly important to him. At day’s end, he was more satisfied. This single focus also led to less stress.
  3. Most surprising to Peter, he was able to take work-life balance to new heights. He could see how the professional supported the personal and vice versa.

Suggested next steps:

  1. Clarify your professional and personal passions in writing and review them regularly.
  2. Once you write them, make sure they mutually support each other so your work and personal lives are balanced.

For more details, be sure to read the next few blog posts or register to attend a webcast with Jim Steffen on October 29th "Too Much to Do: I Never Get Everything Done!

About the Author
Jim Steffen founded SSA International in 1974. He wrote the international bestseller Aligned Thinking: Make Every Moment Count. He would be glad to offer you the opportunity to become a Certified Trainer/Coach, learn the Aligned Thinking Secrets, and teach it to your clients; the program is free if you are an ATD member. For details, visit or contact him at
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