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Lesson 6: Identify Your Less Important Time

Gary North, Ph.D.
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Did you start filling in your time manager?

Lesson 6


This may be off the track, but I think it's time to tell you about Larry "Fats" Goldberg. Fats Goldberg was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 160 pounds. That's not fat. But he used to weigh 320 pounds. That is fat. Really fat. Kills-you-by-age-48 fat.

He died in 2003 from complications associated with Alzheimer's disease. His weight did not kill him.

One day, decades ago, he went cold turkey on the foods he loved. He went on a rigorous diet. But he knew he couldn't stick with it if he could never again eat what he really loved. So, he made a deal with himself. He would stop eating anything but the usual low-calorie foods for three weeks. Then, with his appetite under control (he hoped), he would have one day when he would eat anything he wanted, in any quantity. Then he vowed to go back on the diet for another week.

He did it. It worked. He was able to get back on the diet after his one day of gluttony. He could go back onto it because he knew that one week later, he could again pig out -- an odd phrase to use, since he was Jewish.

Twice a year, he would fly from New York City to Kansas City, Missouri, where he had grown up. For seven days, he would eat. The word "eat" barely does justice to the quantity of food he would consume. One day's intake is described in Chapter 1 of a book by the humorist, Calvin Trillin, who in this case was not being funny. Here is a section from a review of Trillin's book, "American Fried."

His friend Fats Goldberg (who owned Goldberg's Pizzeria in New York City, the neon sign of which is now in the Smithsonian) plays a large part in this book. Fats actually lost 160 pounds, and now weighs 160 pounds. He accomplished this by an extremely stringent diet, and allows himself to go all out only when he returns to Kansas City for a visit. He says that he can put on 17 pounds in one week. Here's some of their conversation:

" 'Just what did you eat on a big day in Kansas City the week you gained seventeen pounds?' I asked. I was prepared to make a list.

'Well, for breakfast I'd have two eggs, six biscuits with butter and jelly, half a quart of milk, six link sausage, six strips of bacon, and a couple of homemade cinnamon rolls,' Fats said. 'Then I'd hit MacLean's Bakery. They have a kind of fried cinnamon roll I love. Maybe I'd have two or three of them. Then, on the way downtown to have lunch with somebody, I might stop at Kresge's and have two chili dogs and a couple of root beers. . . . Then I'd go to lunch.'"


Then he would fly back to New York City and resume his diet. This strategy kept him going psychologically.

He owned a pizzeria, but he didn't allow himself the pleasure of eating his pizzas.

In 1985, he wrote a diet book, Controlled Cheating.

The secret of his diet, he said, is that it allowed him hope. He knew that he would be able to eat all he wanted. He just would not do this all the time. He paid the price of being slender by sticking to his diet. He paid the price of being able to stay on his diet by going off the diet for one day a week and then for one week, twice a year, separated by six months.

Fats said that on his "days off," he ate what he really loved. He allowed himself to eat anything, but he wouldn't eat marshmallows. He thought marshmallows are bland, even though sweet. He ate only what he really could not live without and still stay on his diet. If it was going to fatten him up for that day -- he sometimes gained five pounds -- he was only going to eat the good stuff.

I don't recommend Fats Goldberg's diet. That's for a fat person to decide, with a physician's advice (as Fats insisted in his book). But I do recommend that you do what Fats did -- with time, not food. You've got to go onto a time diet. You have got to stop wasting time. You have got to make the minutes count. But you don't have to make EVERY minute count. You must cut yourself some slack.

I call this marshmallow time. Fats Goldberg avoided marshmallows because they have nothing going for them except for being sweet. He wanted flavor.

You've probably got a lot of marshmallow time in your life. If you work after school, maybe not. But if you aren't on an athletic team, and if you don't have a job, then you've got a lot of marshmallows.

You need to identify them. They are going to pay for a big chunk of your academic success.

Time is passing. While you're awake or asleep or merely asleep at the wheel, time is getting away from you. You can waste it or make it work for you. It's your choice.

Ben Franklin wrote in 1746, "time is money." He was wrong. Time is far more valuable than money. If you lose money, you can work hard and make replacement money. You can't order another year of time -- or even a minute. When it comes to an hour of time, everyone gets the same amount of time per hour. When you don't, you die.

A warning: for some people, TV is addictive. There is a book about this: "The Plug-in Drug." When you sit down to watch TV for a few minutes, you may find that hours have gone by before you turn it off. If you have this addiction, you must ration TV time as if it were a dangerous drug.

My father-in-law was a brilliant scholar. He read a book a day -- underlining and making notes -- for at least sixty years. But when he was over age 80, he got cancer. To ease the pain by distracting his mind, he watched TV all day long. Television served as a drug. That's all right if you have read over 18,000 books and have written three dozen books yourself. It's not all right if you're in high school.

If you can't recall what the shows were about that you watched two nights ago, you are watching too much TV.


Let me tell you my story. (Yawn. Snore.)

At age 14, in my sophomore year, I got a job in a record store.

(Records: round, black plastic disks with grooves imprinted on them, which, when a needle or stylus in a "tone arm" was placed in one of them while the disk was spinning, produced music, or at least what I thought was music. My parents thought otherwise. "Turn that stuff down!" Historical note: the first stereo headphones were introduced in late 1958, when I was a senior in high school. I bought a pair that year: Koss. The first commercial audio CD's arrived in 1982. Ancient history.)

I got on the school bus at about 7:00 a.m. I was at school by 7:30, when school began. We got out at 2:30. The bus dropped me off close to the record store at about 3. I worked until 6. Then I walked home. Unlike grandparents' mythical stories about walking to school in the snow, there was no snow where I lived: Manhattan Beach, California, south of Los Angeles. It was beach boy country. Surfing, USA. It never snowed.

(Side note: the kid brother -- he was about my age, actually -- of one of my best friends in high school really was a Beach Boy: Al Jardine. Al played lead guitar. He's the "Help Me, Rhonda" guy. The group was formed two years after I had graduated and moved away. They all lived in Hawthorne, which was five miles inland. If they had been honest, they would have called their group The Five Miles Inland Boys.)

On Saturdays, I put in a full day: 10 to 6.

In my junior and senior years, I was in the school plays. I was student body president in the second half of my senior year, so I had to cut back on my record store time. I was also in charge of putting together Southern California's annual meeting of the California Scholarship Federation, which was like the National Honor Society. (The NHS is not prominent in California.) Over 1,000 students attended.

I wasn't a straight-A student. I got more than half A's. I received one C: trigonometry. I survived.

I studied in the evening. I didn't watch much TV. I went to bed about 11. I probably didn't get enough sleep. Most teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep. Don't cut corners on your sleep time. It's not healthy. But you may be able to use cat naps during the afternoon to compensate for late-night hours.

I learned how to cut time corners. I had to. So do you. You can do it if you really want to.


Cutting Study Time Corners

Time is the #2 edge you can gain on your competitors. (The #1 edge is lecturing to the wall.) Your IQ is probably fixed. Your academic interests are probably close to fixed. So, you need to get an edge where you're really able to change.

Time management is a big one. If you can learn how to squeeze more out of the clock, you'll get ahead of the competition a little each day.

You had better find ways to apply what you learn in this course. The problem is, this takes practice. You can't learn how to play a musical instrument by reading a book on how to play it. Neither can you master the art of effective study by taking a course.

You're not alone. Others are taking this course. They are beginning to make changes that will give them an edge for the rest of their lives. They want reinforcement. You will want reinforcement. I make it possible for like-minded people to get together and share their insights.

What works for you? What doesn't? Find out if others are having similar successes and similar failures. You can do this by participating in my study skills forum. It's open to all members of this site.




Get out a copy of TV Guide or whatever you use to find out which programs you want to watch this week. Mark the shows you really don't want to miss.

In pencil, list these in your weekly scheduler. If they begin to fill up your waking hours, you will have to cut out the junk shows. But get everything entered.

The must-see weekly shows should go into your monthly calendar.

Television may be causing you to short-change your academic career. This could cost you a college career, a good job, and a nice home in a good neighborhood. Or maybe not. Maybe you'll finally change your ways at age 20 or 30. But bad habits are difficult to break. That is Fats Goldberg's message.

Start erasing shows in your weekly scheduler. Count their cost: lost time. Then erase the low-return shows.

When I was first married, my wife and I agreed to pay 25 cents per half hour for any show we wanted to watch. The person who wanted to see a show would pay. The other one could watch for free. We exempted the evening news and documentaries. We then gave the money to charity. There was almost no money. At 50 cents per hour (about $1.75 in today's depreciated money), only two shows were worth watching each week. I paid for one ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show"), and my wife paid for the other ("The Bob Newhart Show"). They were shown back-to-back on Saturday nights.

With our spare time, we started our home-based newsletter business. That business was the first step in our earning millions of dollars.

What if we had watched TV instead? What would "free" TV have cost us?

There are no free lunches. You must pay for your academic success. The place to start looking for academic currency is your daily consumption of TV.

Can you record your favorite shows? If so, you can watch them on your day off.

Yes, you are entitled to a day off. If you're Jewish or a Seventh-Day Adventist, it's Saturday. If you're a Christian, it's Sunday. If you're nothing in particular. I recommend Sunday.

Your day off is when you re-charge your emotional batteries. Working seven days a week is possible, but it's not wise. You should not treat yourself as if you were a machine. Work hard for six days, but on one day a week, you should relax.

I work 72 hours a week, but I do not work on Sunday. I relax on Sunday. I go to church, and I may go to the library or Barnes & Noble. I come home and usually take a long nap. I have done this consistently ever since my college days.

The only TV show that I always watch is "Sunday Morning." I learn a lot, usually about things that are not very important. I have a few laughs. Bill Geist is amusing. I watch a few shows on PBS, usually on travel or history. If I had cable, I might watch old movies or the History Channel. But that would be on Sunday or in the evening. There is an old saying: "If you want to be successful, you should work half a day. It doesn't matter which half."

I have estimated that you must pick up an extra 15 to 20 hours per week from your existing schedule. See how many hours you can extract from the marshmallow part of your TV schedule. Can you find 10 hours? How much of this can you tape record and watch on your weekend's day off?


You have to pay for success with time.

Time's a-wastin'.

Time is running out, no matter how you allocate it.

If you work after school, you must give up most TV, except on your day off. Record your favorite shows for viewing on your day off.

If it isn't in your scheduler, don't watch any TV show. Or allow yourself one hour's leeway, maximum, per week.


In your weekly scheduler, write down in pencil what shows you want to watch. Be prepared to cut out a lot of them if you're addicted to TV. Keep an eraser handy.

List your must-see shows in your monthly calendar. These aren't marshmallows. Watch them. But if you can record them and watch them on your day off, do it.

Don't forget to lecture to the wall: one page, one book.

Any time you want to ask me specific questions regarding your plans for college, you can find out where to contact me by clicking this link: Answers.
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