Ambitious Al and Regular Joe are friends and coworkers at Wilde, Guess & Co. an investment bank in Chicago. Both are well-educated, intelligent individuals. In fact, Joe ranked higher in his graduating class than Al. Joe talks about becoming a VP and hitting it big time, but talk is what he does best. Al, more reserved, is goal oriented and, after moving as high as he can at WG&C, plans to open his own hedge fund. Let's take a look at how each spends his day, while tracking the hours each productively works towards their own individual goals:
5:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.:
Al: Wakes up, stretches, and heads to the gym. (1 productive hour - healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind!; 1 hour cumulative)
Joe: Sleeping. (0 productive hours; 0 hours cumulative)
6:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m.
Al: Heads back from the gym, cools down,
meditates for 10 minutes while envisioning his accomplishments for the upcoming day, then thumbs through his investment bible, "The Intelligent Investor", by Ben Graham for 20 minutes, before showering and dressing for work. (30 productive minutes; 1 hour, 30 minutes cumulative)
Joe: Hits snooze twice before rolling over at 6:45 a.m. and heading to the shower - decides he is too late for the gym, but will go after work. (0 productive hours; 0 hours cumulative)
7:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
Al: Grabs a banana and a Nature Valley out the door, jumps in his car for his 45 minute commute into the city, and listens to his audio book, "The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments," the gem by John Mihaljevic, and heads into the office. (45 productive minutes; 2 hours; 15 minutes cumulative)
Joe: Heads to the train station for his 45 minute ride into the city, relaxes while flipping between his music and ESPN on his phone. Jumps off the train at 6:45, heads to Starbucks for his daily mocha and breakfast sandwich, then heads to work. (0 productive hours; 0 hours cumulative)
8:00 a.m. - 8:15 a.m.
Al: Starts up his computer. While it is booting up, he organizes his day in his planner and writes out the tasks he plans to complete, while constantly ensuring that the tasks align with his ultimate goals. (15 productive minutes; 2 hours, 30 minutes hours cumulative)
Joe: Starbucks is slow. Joe walks in late and greets Al at 8:10 a.m., sits down, and watches the last of his ESPN highlights while his computer boots up. (0 productive hours, 0 hours cumulative)
8:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Let's assume Al and Joe, once at work, put in equally productive hours. While these hours typically may not be counted as productive towards your personal goals, in this case, the hours spent on company time should be included in our count, since both employees are seeking advancement in their careers.
Joe: (3 hours, 15 minutes productive; 5 hours, 45 minutes cumulative)
Al: Spends the last 15 minutes talking about where to go for lunch. (3 productive hours; 3 cumulative)
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Al: takes 20 minutes to eat the sandwich that he brought, while perusing the currency exchanges, the commodity futures, and other macroeconomic developments in emerging markets. Spends the remaining 40 minutes of his lunch break investigating possible investments for his personal portfolio at his desk. (1 productive hour; 6 hours, 45 minutes cumulative).
Joe: Spends 40 minutes at lunch, and has time to grab his second Starbucks on the way back to the office. (0 productive hours, 3 cumulative)
12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Both put in some good, honest, company time.
Al: (4 productive hours; 10 hours, 45 minutes cumulative)
Joe: The guys invite Joe out to happy hour for the big game and discuss the over/under for last 30 minutes. (3 hours, 30 minutes productive; 6 hours, 30 minutes cumulative)
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Al: Al turns down happy hour tonight. Hour long drive home, Al puts in his Spanish lessons, knowing that speaking a second language will be an invaluable skill. (1 hour productive, 11 hours, 45 minutes cumulative)
Joe: Boozing with the guys! Go Bulls! (0 productive hours, 6 hours, 30 minutes cumulative)
5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Al: Dinner and family time. The kids go to bed at 8:30 p.m., Al and his wife enjoy a glass of wine and he relaxes with a book before heading to bed. (1 hour, 30 minutes of productive time; 13 hours, 15 minutes cumulative)
Joe: Comes back from happy hour at 8, grabs a beer and flips on the tv. No gym tonight. (0 productive hours; 6 hours, 30 minutes cumulative).
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Regular Joe's lifestyle. I'm sure he enjoys his days, for the most part, but likely lacking that sense of fulfillment in the long term. It's simply a matter of prioritizing your time and understanding what you really want in life. Al is willing to make sacrifices now for a lifestyle he wants in the future.
Al has accomplished more by 12:30 p.m. than Al does all day! He is 6.75 hours more productive each day! Extend that out to, say, 250 working days per year. Al puts in over 70 more FULL 24 HOUR DAYS of productive work per year, easily closing the gap that might exist be their innate levels of intelligence.
Some may call this an exaggeration or excessive, but it really isn't. Successful people make the most of their time, and the schedules listed above are not far-fetched. This doesn't mean your mind doesn't need a break every once in a while - the calculation above doesn't consider weekends or holidays, assuming zero productivity takes place on Saturdays and Sundays (which is unlikely, in Al's case). It doesn't mean you have to be a workaholic. It simply means you need to be realistic about what you want to accomplish and what you're willing to give up to make it happen. Sure, happy hour is fun, but eventually reaching an ultimate goal is much more fulfilling.