The Harsh Reality About Your Time

Having recently had another birthday click over on the odometer, time is on my mind. It’s never far from it in my work-cave, because I have strategically placed more than a dozen clocks around the room and can’t look in any direction without seeing one.

As I describe in my book, No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, I organize everything with start and pre-determined end times. If someone has a phone appointment with me, they know in advance when it ends, not just when it starts. And it does end as scheduled, even if in mid-sentence.

I have trained and conditioned myself to be hypersensitive to time, and I train my clients to respect my hypersensitivity. Why?

Because your bank balance and your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with it is more a reflection of how you invest your time than a reflection of anything else.

This is the more dominant factor in wealth or relative poverty, success or failure, fulfillment or frustration than all externals combined — whatever foreign country is in collapse, whatever volcano or oil spill is occurring, whether the economy is booming or struggling, whether your particular industry is healthy or diseased. These external things are fluid.

In my 40 years as a serial entrepreneur, made-from-scratch multimillionaire, and business advisor to thousands, I’ve seen all these things and worse come and go, occur and occur again. And I’ve seen some entrepreneurs surrender their attitudes and reality to them, while others defy them and thrive.

My primary area of specialization is “marketing,” and most of my articles for ETR are laser-focused on that. But truth is, your ability to sell of goods, services, or concepts is sabotaged or supported by how much control you exercise over the investment, direction, and consumption of your time and, with it, your energy and creativity.

In reality, time is the asset the entrepreneur owns outright and has total control over. I don’t really need to follow you around and observe how you use your time to gauge how you’re doing in business. I only need hear about your philosophy of time. That is what governs your behavior and what you will tolerate or refuse to tolerate in the behavior of others.

For example, how do you determine which people you’re going to spend your time with? One of my litmus tests: If somebody can’t keep seemingly minor commitments, I know I can’t trust them to honor important ones either. And if I allow myself to hang around with them, soon they’ll be the cause of me failing to honor my commitments.

Another example: Do you actually handle time as money, not just give lip service to the idea? Can you tell me what your time must be worth per minute to achieve your income goal? The question I ask myself is: Will this use of my time move me measurably closer to my meaningful goals? Is there even a chance it will? If not, why do it?

It’s difficult to find a clock in Las Vegas casinos, because those casinos are designed to separate you from as much of your money as possible — to make you a loser. And that is best done by dulling your sensitivity to the passing of time. The same principle applies to your business life. The surest way to be a loser is to be casual about time.

I’ve worked up close ‘n’ personal with many, many entrepreneurs who’ve converted ideas and grit into fortunes. The difference between them and the majority of also-rans is never the originality or even the quality of their ideas.

As a matter of fact, I’ve seen fortunes manufactured from mediocre ideas and great ideas stillborn. This is important, because far too many entrepreneurs — and, frankly, those who observe them, report on them, write about them, and glorify their success stories — still hold up The Great Idea as the pedestal-worthy holy grail. That is worship of a false god.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were first added to the NFL as an expansion team, they set records for consecutive losses and embarrassing performances. After one game, a reporter stuck a microphone in John McKay’s face, and asked how he felt about his team’s execution that day. McKay quipped that he was in favor of it.

That’s reality. Execute or be executed. It’s how business really works. Hardly anybody gets paid for ideas. Not even the Imagineers at Disney. We actually get paid for what we get done. To the ignorant, my area of marketing seems to be about ideas. The insiders know: It is about implementation.

The entrepreneur is in a situation that encourages poor productivity: He is his own boss. Often this produces an unproductive employee and a lenient, dysfunctional boss. A two-fer. That’s why you must create a success environment for yourself. You must impose strict deadlines on yourself and be ruthlessly resistant to wasting your time. Hold yourself accountable, hour by hour.

If you aren’t willing to work under such self-imposed pressure, I suggest you forget the idea of getting and staying rich as king of your own kingdom. Every great kingdom needs a ruler with an iron fist.

[Ed Note: Provocative, truth-telling, best-selling author, speaker and direct-response marketing consultant and copywriter Dan S. Kennedy is a serial, successful, multi-millionaire entrepreneur; trusted marketing advisor, consultant and coach to hundreds of private entrepreneurial clients running businesses from $1-million to $1-billion in size. For over 30+ years he has created winning campaigns for health, diet and beauty products and companies, B2B and industry products including software, and investments. You can see the massive archive of Dan’s work at]