Note: I’m currently working on two book projects. One is on the history and purpose (and proper application) of the ISO CGL property damage exclusions. The other is a book on time management. This blog post is the Preface from the current draft of the book that I hope to publish by the end of the year. I’m also planning a derivative book for prospective college students about how to apply time management and study techniques for success in college that is tentatively called “What Would Mungo Do?” The legend of Mungo begins with the following Preface from my time management book….
“Whether 4 years of strenuous attention to football and fraternities is the best preparation for professional work has never been seriously investigated.”
Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977)
Yale law school dean and University of Chicago president
Everyone knows that Al Gore invented the internet. However, few people know that I invented time management. Here’s how….
High school came easy to me. For many reasons, I rarely had to study to get really good grades. The upside is that this resulted in a full-ride, four-year academic scholarship to one of the top engineering schools in the country. The downside was that I was ill-prepared for the rigorous and arduous demands of an engineering student in the form of a very difficult curriculum with hours and hours of daily homework, all in the setting of a major U.S. city with lots and lots of distractions.
I managed to eke through freshman year with mediocre grades because some of the course material was familiar from high school. But moving from mainly “A’s” high school to barely “C’s” in college was a culture shock for someone who got A’s with very little work in high school. In college, despite what I thought was significant effort, I was struggling mightily. Then sophomore year came.
Just when I thought school couldn’t get any tougher, I started into the core engineering curriculum that included post-calculus mathematics, advanced physics, organic chemistry, and worse. The professors were far more demanding and had names like “Rasoff the Ream Artist.” Some “drop out” courses were allegedly designed to cull the unworthy from that major.
To make a long story short, my third semester GPA was only slightly better than Animal House’s Mr. Blutarsky at 1.31, and that was after dropping two courses I surely would have flunked otherwise. Needless to say, my scholarship entered the list of endangered species, somewhere between the Savannah Elephant and Sea Lions. Then “Mungo” came along.
Bruce “Mungo” Westermo was an incoming freshman and newly initiated fraternity brother. To this day, he is probably one of the top three most intelligent people I’ve ever known. Bruce went on to obtain multiple PhDs and became a notable expert in his field and a college professor, though I hope he was not known among his students by another name such as “Mungo the Mangler.” Getting “A’s” in college was nothing for Mungo. Of course, being incredibly bright helped, but he attributed his success to something else.
Mungo knew HOW to learn. I had no clue how to learn, how to study, how to apply myself effectively. I don’t know where or how Mungo acquired his craft, but he willingly shared his secrets with me. The most important thing I learned from him was the importance of prioritization, then organizing and executing around those priorities. This required me to THINK about what was important to me, then establish a structure within which balanced and habituated value-added activities could take place that yielded positive results. It was only later in life that I discovered that this is what “time management” is all about. With Mungo’s invaluable help, I had ‘invented’ time management but didn’t know it at the time.
Just to give you a point of reference, here are some of the things that I learned from Mungo or, applying his techniques, learned for myself that led to my ‘invention’ of time management. The first thing I learned was the importance of prioritization and habituation, as I discuss later in Maxims 4 and 7. For example, Priority #1 was simply going to class. Every class, every time, no matter what, no exceptions. After a semester of this, I realized just how important it was to go to class, not just from a psychological perspective, but because the professor’s focus on certain course content was an indicator of what was important to know (especially for tests) and often included material not in the textbook that we were responsible for learning. The regularity also helped habituate this practice.
I also learned how to choose courses and schedule them. Not being a morning person, I tried not to schedule any classes before 9:00 a.m. and found that, for difficult courses not as important to my major, evening classes were usually much easier. So, instead of dealing with “Rasoff the Ream Artist,” I took the same class with “Easy ‘A’ Fanta” and took my organic chemistry lab at night with a grad student. Instead of dropping the class to avoid flunking it, I ended up with a solid ‘B’ grade AND I learned more.
Priority #2 was to establish strict study habits. So, from Sunday through Thursday night, I studied. I gave myself an hour of leisure after dinner, then it was to my room for studying until midnight and sometimes later. For two and a half years, I stuck to this schedule almost without exception. (My only regret was that I missed concerts with Hendrix, Joplin and Santana!) The structure my study schedule and class attendance provided led me to the conclusions I discuss in Maxim 6.
Priority #3 was to learn HOW to study, a skill I never needed in high school. Mungo taught me at least three practices in this respect. First, follow the advice of Dante: “He listens well who takes notes.” Take written notes during class and highlight anything that appears to be particularly important. Second, try to schedule an hour between classes and use that hour to immediately reinforce what you learned in the prior class. I kept a notebook for each class. During that hour, I would rewrite the notes I scribbled down on loose paper into something more structured and coherent. This practice proved to be an invaluable organizational tool when studying for tests and making it through finals week when exams were plentiful and time was at a premium.
By exam time, my notes were so comprehensive, I did not need to refer back to the text. I studied for final exams by making “notes of my notes” and crammed the day before by making notes of those notes. Writing has a way of reinforcing learning and recent studies have shown “writing” means with a pen or pencil, not a keyboard (really).
Third, unrelated to Mungo’s note-taking techniques, on my own I discovered the “PQRST” study method (you can Google this for more information). The “PQRST” stands for Preview, Question, Read, Study, Test. I used this formula throughout college and later in my career when I earned four professional designations in my industry.
Another time management maxim I learned (Maxim 3) was what Mr. Miyagi referred to as “balance” in the movie The Karate Kid (apparently, I also learned screenwriting and didn’t know it!). Yes, I devoted a lot of time to my studies. I had no choice if I wanted to keep my scholarship and graduate on time. However, as I got into my new routine, I found time in the mornings, at lunch, after dinner, and on most weekends for my resident fraternity obligations, personal time, socializing with friends, and even playing in a band my senior year.
Again, at this point I had no idea that I was ‘inventing’ time management…prioritizing, goal setting, organizing, structuring, habituating. All I knew was that what I was doing worked. After dropping courses I would otherwise have flunked my third semester and finishing with an abysmal 1.31 GPA, to stay on course I had to get special permission to take 21 hours my fourth semester, an extraordinarily tough task given my track record to date. Taking 21 hours of difficult collegiate courses in a semester is quite an undertaking. So how did I do? Dean’s list. And my dramatically improved performance continued to graduation.
And, surprisingly, this was the real revelation…mentally and emotionally while taking 21 hours of courses to end my sophomore year, it felt like I had far more free time than when I was only taking 12 hours. Reflecting back, I now realize the mental and emotional stress I was under that third semester and how it impacted my perception of time.
Years later when I was formally introduced to time management by attending seminars and reading dozens of books on the subject (see the Appendix), I realized that I had ‘invented,’ or at least discovered, “time management” years earlier as a struggling college student. This led me to design my own time management seminar that I’ve delivered in various forms since 1993 and whose practices and principles I offer in this book.
As you will discover in the following pages, I believe that “time management” is all about priorities and structure. It’s about simplifying, organizing, and habitually executing around balanced priorities within a structured framework. I hope this enables you to learn principles and practices that took me months and years to realize.
— Bill Wilson
Sometime in late 2018 or early 2019 (I hope)