Edison on Time Management


So many gurus of time management tell us that the best way to be effective is to rigorously schedule every minute of every day. Not only should we schedule our work activities but we also need to schedule our personal activities. Each week we should revisit that schedule to ensure we’re making progress on those activities.

Don’t forget to schedule those big rocks first!


And for each commitment that we put on the schedule, we need to be sure and keep it. At face value this makes a lot of sense. But it really won’t work if you have too many activities scheduled. Thomas Edison’s plan was much simpler:

I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom.


It’s called relentless focus or working in sprints. In other words, you don’t worry about scheduling a ton of activities and then watching the clock to ensure you are doing the right activity at the right time. His secret to time management: Just focus on ONE activity. Then there is nothing to schedule because you always know what you should be doing.

For Edison this “one activity” was his work. He was legendary for working 16 hour days and given that he has 1500+ patents, I would say that it was pretty effective for him.

Now, there can be a dark side to this. In Edison’s case he truly neglected his family to the point where one of his daughters said she didn’t even know he was her father because she barely saw him.  So, there is a balance. I like what Scott Berkun, author of Confessions of Public Speaker, has to say:

When someone tells me they have a wish, or a new years resolution, I ask what are you taking off of your plate to make room in your life for this new thing?

You can’t do everything. Period. So pick what’s important and focus on that relentlessly. And maybe, just maybe, stop staring at the clock in your office…

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One thought on “Edison on Time Management

  1. Here’s a site that I think our readers might enjoy. It is called MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids (www.meetmeatthecorner.org)

    This series of free educational video pod casts is directed at kids ages 7-12. Each three-minute episode includes links to fun websites, a list of recommended books and a Learning Corner of questions and extended activities about the topic. New episodes are uploaded every two weeks. On 1/18 there will be an episode about Everyday Physics from the New York Hall of Science. On February 1, there’s a show about Thomas Edison filmed at the new Thomas Edison Museum in West Orange New Jersey. And later in February, there is an episode on how to prepare for your school science fair.

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