How many American humorists have had an asteroid named after them? No one except America’s beloved humorist, Mark Twain. (Henry David Thoreau has his own, but he is the only other general American author to claim that fame.)

Although he never graduated from elementary school, Twain was dubbed “the father of American literature” by William Faulkner. His wry observations remain and remind us of ways to improve our lives. To illustrate: “If you have to swallow a frog,” he advised, “don’t stare at it too long.” 

For those interested in improving productivity via adding routines to their days, make it a general rule to get the hardest or least interesting task or figurative frog out of the way as early in the day as possible.


America’s first psychologist, William James (brother of novelist Henry), was interested in the formation of habits. If you want a particular action to become a lifelong habit, he maintained you should perform that action for 30 days in a row. Whether you are following the Frog Rule or the adhering to the 4-T Technique described below, start with a commitment to performing your new routine for one full month. After that, your efforts should become automatic.


It seems that those individuals who use time inefficiently are the same individuals who complain about a lack of time. Whenever you find the procrastination monster breathing down your neck, use the 4-T Technique. Ask yourself:

Is the task–

due Today?

due Tomorrow?

Time-independent (no actual deadline)?

related to the True reason for the existence of your job or to an important element of your life?

These questions should remind you that we’re all given the same gift of time–24 hours a day–and that some people use it to great advantage while others complain about the inadequacy of the gift.

Think about the work you’ve been putting off. Apply the 4-T test to it.


It was Peter Drucker, Father of Modern Management Science, who stated that efficiency means “doing things right,” while effectiveness means “doing the right things right.” If the things you choose to do all day long are not advancing the mission (corporate or personal), they are probably things that fall into one of these less-than-effective categories:

1. Fire-Fighting

Think about the work required of you on both short-term and long-term bases. Then, plan a schedule for your next day of work.

2. Interruptions

Although you may choose not to be as assertive as Napoleon, who promised, “You can ask me for anything you like…..except time,” you will have to find the words that allow you to continue working when others try to interrupt. Your first assignment in this category is to create (and promise to use) five phrases to subvert interruptions. Your second task is to read the following list aloud to yourself at the beginning of each workday.

1. I’m disciplined enough to simply list all the people and things that may demand my time instead of stopping my work to attend to those people and those things.

2. I’m interested enough to examine the list at the end of each day (for at least a week) to learn what kinds of interruptions are hindering my accomplishments.

3. I’m tactful enough to advise co-workers of the times when I can’t be interrupted.

4. I’m realistic enough to know I’m capable of eliminating some of the distractions that currently plague me.

5. I’m professional enough to follow through on all the distractions I temporarily put aside in order to make a serious dent in a complicated project.

3. Poor Planning

Are your strategic plans worthless? They are, according to futurist John Naisbitt, if they’ve been written without a strategic vision in mind. While your plans may not be strategic in terms of the organization’s vision, they should nonetheless reflect your personal improvement-goals. These are but a few of the questions to keep in mind as you make plans to improve your use of time and to enhance your contribution to the organization.

√ What am I doing and doing well?

√ What am I doing and not doing well?

√ What measurements will gauge my success?

√ What evidence do I have that I am thinking globally (organizationally) and acting

locally (applying broad issues to my own spheres of operation and influence).

√ What am I not doing that I should be doing?

√ Which of my outputs will have the greatest impact on the departmental or organizational mission?

√ What do our customers want/need/deserve/expect?

√ What mistakes have been made recently by those in comparable positions?

√ How would I define the realities that face us?

√ What combinations/alliances could optimize the time spent on planning and the

effort expended on ultimately implementing the plans made?

Incorporate answers to any three of the above questions into a plan for improved productivity or better use of organizational time.


Religious singer/songwriter and pastor Mike Murdock asserts “the secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” To help ensure your future is bright, incorporate efficient time usage into your daily routine.


  • Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60+ books, the most recent of which ("Applying Mr. Einstein") will be released by HRD Press in 2020. You can reach her at [email protected].