It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.

It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste. – Henry Ford

I can't remember how many times I've caught myself staring out into space, just while writing this blog...

I can’t remember how many times I’ve caught myself staring out into space, just while doing this blog. How easily distracted are you? How much time do you waste, or misuse?

What does that mean?
This quote, as one might expect from one of the foremost industrialists of his era, is about work. Specifically how to get ahead, or to get more done than the next guy (or gal).

He specifies what he has observed, presumably in his factories. Most of the people who are getting ahead, he states, are doing so by being busy while others are busy wasting time.

Remember, we all get the same number of hours in a day. It’s just what we do with them. Back in Henry’s day, the whistle blew and you started. It blew again, and you stopped. Everybody put in the same number of hours.

The ones who managed to goof off the least tended to get the most done. Call it focus, call it attention, call it what ever you want, they had it, where the others didn’t.

When it came time for raises and promotions, guess who was on the short list? Not the people wasting time, right?

Why is staying focused important?  
Time is the one thing in which we are all equal. We all get the same number of minutes in an hour, and the same number of hours in a day. While no one knows how many days may be in their life, for the shorter haul, we’re all exactly equal.

For those who are easily distracted, this can be a real problem. Staying focused and staying on task can be quite difficult. There are tricks, every person with this challenge has their own methods, tried and proven. But the point is to remain on task.

We all waste some amount of time. Whether it’s day dreaming or talking over the water-cooler, there are things we should be doing, but instead we are wasting time. Yes, we all need a little break now and then. But at some point, the break becomes broken, and time becomes wasted.

The better we can be at staying on task, on being focused, the less time we are likely to waste. Yes, it is far easier said than done. But it can be done. Even for scatter-brained people like myself.

Where can I apply this in my life?
We all have tasks during which we waste more time than others. Some tasks involve us so much, that time gets away from us. That’s fine, until you start missing important events because of your excess of focus. Like pretty much anything, both too much and too little is a not good.

What kinds of things distract you? When do you find your attention wandering the most? Are there tasks which engage you more than others? What, besides meetings, tend to completely destroy your ability to focus? Or can you survive meetings? They put me to sleep, or send my mind wandering.

As for things I do for remaining focused when doing tasks which tend to result in more than average time wasted, I start with distractions. Music is a very common one for people to use. Brain power which might otherwise be working on distracting you are, instead, distracted by the music.

Another thing which works for me is to try to make sure I’m well rested. That isn’t always easy to do, so I use instant-awake, in the form of caffeine. Not the best thing for the system, but sometimes sleep won’t come, and deadlines must be met.

Another trick for helping to sleep, especially for those with an overactive mind or imagination, is meditation. Trying to meditate yourself to sleep is not considered a great idea, but you can use the meditation to help calm the mind, allowing sleep to come naturally.

There are supplements which can help ease falling asleep, as well as help with alertness. Each person is different, and will have to find what things work best for them.

What are the distractions for your most important tasks? Can you close your browser and hide your e-mail for an hour or two? Can you maximize what you are working on, so nothing else is visible, and able to catch your eye? What about your phone or your neighbors at work? Headphones and blinders?

Everyone will have different needs, and everyone will find different paths. But there are ways to make use of that time which others waste. The only question is how will you do it, and how far will you go to make it happen?

Only you can help yourself get ahead. Only you can make these decisions. Only you will have to face the consequences, unless you are the provider for others. Stay focused, and work hard. Eventually, you will get ahead.

From: Twitter, @mister_quotes
confirmed at :
Photo by Steven Perez

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4 Responses to It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.

  1. doug 4 September 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I read many of your blog posts, keep up the good writing. The only issue with this one is the last sentence, hard work is necessary but not sufficient for getting ahead, often hard work allows you to just survive.

    • philosiblog 5 September 2013 at 3:21 am #

      Ok, but where would the hypothetical person who is working hard just to survive be if they weren’t working hard? Compared to that position, they have already achieved some measure of success. I believe the issue here is the definition of success. If you define it as “still breathing” you may be aiming a little low, but to a terminal cancer patient, that may be a major accomplishment. We all have different definitions and different ambitions. Mine is different from yours, or from your hypothetical person. None are right, none are wrong. They are simply different.

      Thanks for the comment, it was interesting to consider. Please feel free to continue reading and commenting. I look forward to your next comment. 🙂

      • doug 5 September 2013 at 1:57 pm #

        maybe the key is to find and believe in your own definition of success, not those that are out in popular culture, yet theres nothing wrong with them if they coincide with yours.

      • philosiblog 6 September 2013 at 4:08 am #

        Agreed. Thanks again for participating!

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