One of the most frequent questions I get from journalists during interviews is “how do you have time to do everything you do? You run Fon, you are an active angel investor in so many companies, you teach at Columbia University, speak at conferences, run your foundation, and on top of that you have your family, your wife, 6 children, you cycle, sail, and so on. How do you do it?”

My answer generally centers around the fact how I have a great team of managers, that they are so good and reliable, that Fon has an amazing pool of talent, I also talk about how much I delegate, and that is all true.But there is another side to this question that I have not told journalists.  I have not done it because I fear sounding obnoxious, elitist, or just weird.  But this is my blog so if I don’t do it here where else?  So here’s the other answer, the more private answer of how I have managed and manage my time.-I don’t watch TV, that alone gives me 14 years more of life for doing other things! If I watch anything it’s Netflix or Youtube, that’s where I get my TV content and movies from.  I rarely go to movie theaters and watch all movies in our home theater with the family.-I am not interested in professional sports, another activity that seems to consume endless hours of many people including most of my guy friends. The Super Bowl went unnoticed. I only watch the World Cup and that is once every four years. Not watching sports, nor commenting or talking about them, is a real time saver.-I read less books than others, I just don’t have 30 hours to devote to each one of them.  I read a lot on the net, and some magazines also short stories during flights.  But just like I practice sports much more than I watch sports (I mountain bike around 8 hours a week) I write much more than I read. I read a lot in my 20s, now it’s my time to contribute to others by writing.  Yes I did read the Steve Jobs bio, or some Nick Hornby, Martin Amis recently. But reading whole books takes too much time for me to be able to do it on a daily basis. I read when I am on vacation, when I sail. That’s when reading feels great and is a real pleasure.

-Personal grooming: many top business people spend a great deal of time selecting their clothes, getting haircuts, manicures, pedicures, massages, and all sorts of time consuming personal grooming activities. I instead sometimes cut my own hair, dress simply, wear sneakers and jeans, never wear ties or suit. My wife chooses my clothes. This alone saves me 83 minutes a day according to some estimates.

-Logistics and commute (this part is only useful for entrepreneurs): I sometimes drive, but I have a driver and while I go anywhere, I work in my car. I don’t need to look for parking. This is clearly a luxury but it is a time saving luxury. Also by design my home is 10m from my office and 20m from the airport, also near my kids schools. I pick up my kids from school every day and spend the afternoon with them. When I travel,  we have homes in New York, Paris and London.  This is partly because I don’t like to pack nor check in hotels, in those homes I find all I need.  I can go in and out quickly. I also have another special luxury which is a small private jet and therefore spend much less time at airports and travel more efficiently point to point. The Citation V increases my environmental footprint but I have built a lot of wind farms to pay for my sins

-Even though my company’s name is Fon I rarely make phone calls.  I communicate over every imaginable platform, Facebook, bbm, whatsapp, Skype, Google Talk, you name it, but phone calls are for family and friends . In business  I prefer electronic media or in person meetings.

-I don’t drink. Yes this one is a shocker but I rarely drink, if anything a glass of wine with a meal. I dislike beer and liquor. Drinking is something that consumes an incredible amount of time in the lives of other people and renders them useless for a lot of other activities for a significant percentage of their lives. Not drinking has put me in difficult positions doing business, especially in Japan.  Same with drugs, I tried many, but didn’t like any.  Cigarettes, cigars, I don’t like any drugs. Being sober at nights, on weekends, already puts me ahead of most of the population in terms of productivity.

-I rarely do business lunches and dinners and spend most meals with family and friends who I really care about. Business meetings are at the office and in the morning. I work from 9 to 2. Afternoons are for family and sports. Evenings for family and friends. My  business meetings instead are invariably short. I am always online and work online. But I don’t like to be at the office just for being at the office. When I am at Fon, my door is open and people can walk in for short meetings.  People at Fon know that I treasure my time, but they also know that I am there every time when I am really needed. Of course I do show up for emergencies, road shows or those moments of the year when I am needed all day. But that is an exception not a rule like with anyone else who does spend their afternoons at the office. Being CEO allows me that benefit. If I was anything else I would have to be at the office all day.

-I am punctual and have little patience for those who aren’t.  I don’t make others wait, I don’t wait for others. The word must have gotten around on this because we all tend to be on time. I don’t waste time waiting.

-I make social media work for me, sometimes people say, how do you get work done if you spend so much time on social media, but I use social media to take notes, like I have an idea for a business and I blog it, I share it, I work collectively with people, social media looks like a waste of time for others but it saves me time, I recruit on twitter, I brainstorm on Google+ or my blog, I work inside social media, get ideas, its a sanity check many times, crowdsourcing saves me time. When tweeting I use Tweetdeck to time my tweets so they appear at different times of the day when I am doing other things. This allows me to tweet across time zones although sometimes it angers people when they think I don’t answer and I am asleep. I also developed an Android app to listen to my social media on my bike. It’s called Radiome and it reads your social media while it plays music, it’s perfect for my bike.

-Against what many think I sleep and I sleep well, 8 hours or so. Sleeping is an important time of the day. I sleep much better with my wife than alone when I travel without her. Lately I sleep with our 5 month old baby and I still manage to sleep reasonably well because we are lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps 11 hours almost every night. She sleeps much better than my older kids and I think it’s because we adopted co sleeping.

-I go to a couple of conferences a month. What I like about conferences is sometimes the content, like at TED, but mostly the fact that I get to see a lot of people all at once there. Many think conferences are a waste of time. I find them a very efficient way to have a lot of in person meetings in the same place.

-I say no to a lot of formal invitations, events, dinners and business meetings. I see time as sailors see wind or photographers see light, as something to use, manage and shape, not as something to be a victim of, or to see go by. I rather stay at home with my wife and kids than go to some useless business meeting.

-I take a lot of vacations. Around 10 weeks a year of vacation. But only one week in which I am truly disconnected and on vacation. My other 9 weeks of vacation are devoted to family, friends, sports and meditation. Meditation in the sense of thinking deeply about some problem that I am trying to solve. Like my best ideas for work I have while on vacation. Maybe because I think my work is a vacation. Because I love what I do. This is something I can do because I am an entrepreneur, because entrepreneurs get paid for their ideas, not for their time.

And yes, I do have a great team of people who work for me and help me out and I am very, very thankful for what they do.

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Paola Bonomo on February 6, 2012  · 

Let me tell you how much I just LOVE this piece.

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Martin Varsavsky on February 6, 2012  · 

thanks for showing up ahead of the trolls 🙂

Alex S on February 7, 2012  · 

Very interesting post Martin.

I’m intrigued though. To be able to do what you say you must have learned to prioritise your activities very well indeed. Have you always been able to work this way or did you work differently (and longer) earlier in your career?

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Mariano Najles on February 7, 2012  · 

Great post!
I like the idea to see the time like sailors/wind or photographers/light!!
I will post that like a “mental note”
Thanks for sharing!

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Felipe Gallardo on February 7, 2012  · 

Thank you for sharing this with us, after all you are human, good inspiration

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H on February 7, 2012  · 

Martín, as I just tweeted, I do a lot of the same stuff you do. I can SEE how other people waste their time watching game after game of uninteresting sport, etc. Idem with alcohol, cigarettes, etc.


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Andres on February 7, 2012  · 

How did you manage your time 15 or 20 years ago, before you could afford great managers and those luxuries?

The ‘impossible’ part for most people is leaving at 2pm. Spending few time in books/movies/sports/tv/drinking is not that rare/difficult.

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Martin Varsavsky on February 7, 2012  · 

My first million dollars I made at Urban Capital, the story of Urban Capital is in this video As you can see already at 25 I found an amazing partner who I could delegate on and gave him 1/3 of my company. Time was always a very, very precious thing for me. I have managed throughout my career to balance work and life. I have also taken 3 one year sabbaticals at different times in my life.

David Viñuales on February 7, 2012  · 

We all have different interests and ways to spend our time, and yours is really interesting. Quite different from me and the most people I know.

Do you have any management of time for checking email, phone calls, etc?

Your dedication to family and friends is great.

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Martin Varsavsky on February 7, 2012  · 

I carry at least 2 smartphones with me all the time, I currently use a Google Nexus, an iPhone 4S and the new Blackberry Bold. Sometimes I am out with all 3. I use them because each one is good for different things, none is perfect. For long emails or any long form of typing I still prefer the Blackberry keyboard, for everything else iPhone or Androids are better. And yes sometimes my wife complains that I am always connected, I should work on that, take breaks, check once an hour. I find it rude when others are with me but not really. I am also rude that way at times.

javier on February 7, 2012  · 

Thanks a lot for sharing!

One of the reasons I decided not drinking was that I enjoy the day as much as the night, so it made no sense to me to loose the day after because I was with hangover. It’s good to see I am not the only one. which has the same perspective about alcohol and sports.

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Luis Felipe Giraldo on February 7, 2012  · 

How do you deal with procrastination? It’s a headache for me!

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Michelle on February 7, 2012  · 

Thanks for an honest and personal article.
Being selective in social engagement, and using social media as a tool work great for me too. Question is, for an entrepreneur, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish personal and business gatherings, how do you tackle that? Thanks!

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Martin Varsavsky on February 7, 2012  · 

I rarely do business with friends. But I many times become friends with people I do business with.

Felipe F. Aramburu on February 7, 2012  · 

Great post Martin!! It’s a shame our country doesn’t work hard to do business with you giving you proper incentives rather than asking for coimas!!

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chris on February 7, 2012  · 

sorry – but sounds like my idea of hell..

i made a few million – more than enough – stopped in 2003 to work for charities – do something genuinely meaningful (been involved in generating £480m for charities) – and work in coffee shops – where its enjoyable and you are with your ‘customers’ the public…

I drink beer, watch football and loads of other sports, have four kids i see all the time (went to the cinema with my 13yr old son tonight), cycle about 100 miles a week, run 20k (bike raced around the world and ran 10 marathons between 40-45) and play football, im 48,

Work hard, play hard, enjoy life

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Martin Varsavsky on February 7, 2012  · 

really? what’s the big difference?

chris on February 7, 2012  · 

a life without the joys of companionship while supporting a sports team, without reading books, without watching some of your kids / teenage TV with them, without going to the cinema – without too much human contact: infrequent (even family) phone calls, no public transport (or commuter cycling), private car to go ten mins to office, without a beer with your mates (you dont have to drink until you’re useless) – you seem to have cut every one out except business and family – the meaningful relationships of friends and the general mixing with other humans…..

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Martin Varsavsky on February 7, 2012  · 

Answering would be poor management of my time 🙂

chris on February 7, 2012  · 

on that we agree!

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Hector Hernandez on February 7, 2012  · 

Muy buen post Martin. Lo disfruté mucho … me gusta tu estilo.

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Marcelo Ruiz on February 7, 2012  · 

I follow many of your tips but now I’m interested in changing my feeling that loosing time is loosing money. I want to be able to spend time doing any other random things without feeling guilty that I lost X dollars. Is that possible?

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Martin Varsavsky on February 7, 2012  · 

If wasting time was wasting money I’d be broke. I would say the opposite, my best ideas come out of that nothingness that I may be involved with, that has nothing to do with work. Like Fon, I had the idea of Fon randomly walking around Le Marais in Paris looking for wifi. It is there that I thought of the global federation of routers who share wifi that is now the largest wifi network in the world. And it was because I wanted WiFi. For myself.

Axel on February 7, 2012  · 

This is a fundamental post on what every entrepreneur has to learn. And it is more elegant than saying “time is money”.

TV, Time out when you don’t really enjoy it, badly planned ineffective travel, all these are the things I cut out of my life early on.

Valuing those who are really close to you and your profession which as an entrepreneur also means it is vocational above socially normed but basically useless activities is a key to success.

“I see time as sailors see wind” is a new favorite quote of mine.

Thanks for this post, which I will discuss with those I work with!

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Silvia on February 7, 2012  · 

Me parece genial que una persona como usted comparta esta cuasi intimidad. Me enseña. Gracias.

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Eduardo Lina on February 7, 2012  · 

Well… As I see it, this is a good piece of writing. I have enjoyed the content, too. Undoubtedly, I have not wasted my time reading it. Once again then, thanks for sharing.

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Et on February 7, 2012  · 

Good advice. The only downside I see in your approach is being always connected. For me the ideal approach would be having a personal website where you can read all your news and post in all your social media, and even see the comments. And also to having all your contacts in the same instant messaging client, also accesible by this website. I prefer Gtalk over WhatsApp because I can type with my computer too. This website would be a compilation of RSS from all social media, news and emails. Netvibes is good for this, but not perfect.

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Marcel Botha on February 7, 2012  · 

Martin, a great post that myself and many can find inspiration from. I already abide by a lot of these, but can surely pick up a couple more good habits. Now where is that plane I ordered 🙂

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Colin on February 7, 2012  · 

Interesting interview and debate.

Chris….just as a matter of interest, what did you make your millions from?

Just being curious!

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Sil on February 7, 2012  · 

Me encantó! simplemente eso.

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Orin on February 8, 2012  · 

I was going to conclude that all this made Jack A Dull Boy, till I got to the part where you leave work at 2. Still, I couldn’t live your life. I’m at a part of building my business where I cut back on TV similarly to how you describe it, but there’s no way I’d give up a deep love of sport or a chance to sit down with beer and burgers and watch the Super Bowl. Or support my soccer team Arsenal in home games at their stadium. Or destroy an outstanding bottle of Chilean red in a buzzy, unforgettable night in Sao Paulo in the company of friends.

Your existence seems almost monkish to me, which begs the question. Was it a conscious decision to cut out those things, or were you always so singularly focused and (dont mean to be rude), uninterested in stuff and generally uninteresting?

The car and driver? Agreed. If you could afford it, reclaim hours of your life from behind the wheel. But mind you, you’ll never know the thrill of winding up the up the windows, cranking up Jose Feliciano full blast, and bellowing/singing badly.

Your loss has been your considerable gain.

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Adan on February 8, 2012  · 

Great piece on what it takes to get things done. And even during your free time, you’re still thinking…

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Beto on February 8, 2012  · 

Thanks for this post Martin. I do find many points in common with what you say here and with what most GTD / time management fanatics say elsewhere. I personally have become increasingly conscious of the high value of time since it’s something you can’t buy more of even if you could. (Okay, being able to delegate does “buy” you some, I give you that). I don’t watch TV or movies by habit either, I do all my work from home now (no ugly traffic to deal with!) and being connected 24/7 is essential for me to be on top of my job needs without being ball-and-chained to a desk. While getting a private jet is out of the question for me, I wished WiFi were a standard in all commercial planes by now (so I can turn flying time into productive time). I also like my meetings short and to the point. Working remotely helps a lot with that.

I however have to disagree with the booze part. I still like to have myself a sip or two of single malt after a hard day at work – but only if I have decided to do nothing else for the rest of the day 😀

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Alain on February 8, 2012  · 

@Martin: great piece. I was expecting you to also mention something that I practice: carefully screening business meetings/calls/conferences etc. Sometimes it would be nice to meet someone just for the sake of meeting them. But it is much more important and valuable to meet them when one has something tangible to discuss. It is a huge time saver and a win-win for everyone. Also I take cabs everywhere (your driver example): saves on finding a parking space, remembering to fill the tank, pay the inevitable fines but most of all I can work while someone else’s focuses on the driving.

@Chris: I think you just missed the point. Commuter trains are rarely one of the great pleasures of life. But to each his own. Sure you can own a pub, watch TV all day, have your friends & family visit for drinks, all in the same place and all at the same time! It’s most efficient wouldn’t you agree? 😉 Here Martin explained how he manages to live a busier life than most, avoiding huge time wasters, while still maintaining a focus on noble priorities like family. To each his own…

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Martin Varsavsky on February 9, 2012  · 

yes before i had a driver I used to take cabs, before that the NYC subway which many times beats cabs….

Angelina on February 8, 2012  · 

Three points: 1) Great article, 2) I’d bet that the most important part of this is that you seem to have a lot of “Yeses” in life. That always makes the “No’s” easier to say. 3) You’re damn right about the driving–driving is an atrocious waste of time.

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carsten on February 8, 2012  · 

i agree with limit to TV and watching sports. they are passive. but to me the Internet, especially social media, is falling into the same category. for me the best time management practice has been to install StayFocused on all my browsers and limit my Facebook, Twitter, Google+ … time to a combined 5minutes a day. so far i have not missed a thing and on top of it i have more time to read books and magazines and actually spend time thinking about it rather than drowning in info crap.

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Kris Tuttle on February 9, 2012  · 

Good post Martin. These are far more practical than most books on the topic. I’ve always been with you on the TV stuff. Haven’t really watched it my whole life and it’s given me all those hours to do things. I continue to be amazed when I see stats on how many hours the average person wastes in front of the TV. Very odd.

Social media remains a challenge because it takes some smarts to figure out how to do it right and make it work for you. As for private driver and jet that’s not something many can adopt but working from home and doing many things via webcast can save much travel. Trains are good too since you can work and think during the ride. Less dead time.

In 2012 I cut back sharply on alcohol and it’s definitely been a boost to productivity. By not having any during the week you are productive after dinner and sharper on rising. I’m willing to relax more on the weekend with the family but in this case I think it all goes together well.

We can all hope that popularity of this post leads more people to give up on TV and instead use their energies more productively!

Always a pleasure to see/hear from you.


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Martin Varsavsky on February 9, 2012  · 

I want to emphasize that it is not that I don’t drink or watch tv because I want to be productive. I just don’t like to drink or watch TV, it’s not an effort. I also don’t like French cheeses and many people love them 🙂

Eduardo on February 9, 2012  · 

Martin, first of all thanks for sharing your some of your personal methods to improve our balance in life.

Most of the entrepreneurs says that the best things you can do is to lear how to say: Not, in many ways, and for sure the arr of delegate. Im completely agree but i think this is mostly when you have reached the point where ur company is not a just a start up instead is changing in a formal company.

Many times is hard to find the balance with the work on your computer and all the things are surrounded on internet as social media but u defined it in a perfect way. and this reminds me what your friend Andy Freire says in how to learn to stop working when u finish office and your start your father work at home.

Thanks a lot

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Ramiro Ferrer on February 12, 2012  · 

Thank you Martin for this helpful and interesting post!
I’m sure -as you hint- that many of the problems people have regarding the lack of time are just distraction-related; too much TV, too much web browsing, too much gadgets, too much stuff to maintain, etc.
Most people would be able to live off 4 hours of work, 4 days a week if it weren’t for the artificial need to buy more and more stuff: one more car, one more house, one more TV set…
In a way, you live a frugal life (at least when compared with your possibilities) and that is the main key to live in this world.

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Sumitra on February 12, 2012  · 

It was a very interesting post for this new reader, thanks to the NYT interview with Jimmy Wales, who mentioned it today. And I admit that I didn’t have time to read all the comments, stellar as they might be:-). At the risk of dating myself, as an academic, I would prefer not to use social media as you do. But I was struck by your comment that you find books more time-consuming than what happens on the internet. James Kwak, who blogs for Baseline Scenario, and no stranger to using all tools available, claimed that he found it time-wasting to read the proliferating blogs, so he sticks to books more often. I hope I am paraphrasing him correctly. That would be my inclination too. I would think that given the ever-expanding blogosphere, one would find it daunting to get the important stuff from it without spending a lot of time.

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Sumitra on February 12, 2012  · 

Oops, in my earlier comment #42, I think I made an error in paraphrasing James Qwak. He might have said that he prefers books to articles. I suppose I attributed my sentiments to him by quoting a preference for books over blogs. That’s like putting somebody else in your shoes than the other way round. My sincere apologies!

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Marjorie R. Asturias on February 15, 2012  · 

Howdy! I won’t add to the many accolades already posted except to say that I loooved this post. I did want to provide a quick tip about not drinking in Japan. I lived there for a couple of years after college (the usual route of young, fresh-faced adults in Japan – I taught English) and had the same issue – I didn’t and still don’t drink. What I told everyone was that I’m allergic to alcohol, which apparently was satisfactory enough an answer that I was never pressed on the issue. (The Japanese word for allergic/allergy is “arerugi.”) I knew better than to tell folks that I simply don’t drink – it just opens up too many conversations I’d rather not engage in!


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Maureen White on February 17, 2012  · 

Thank you for challenging the dominant paradigm that “time is money.” I am always fascinated by people’s conceptions of time, which is very cultural. For example, seeing time as linear and as something that can be “wasted” is very white, western viewpoint. There is a great book that explores this called “A Sideways Look at Time.”

I want to emphasize that achieving the life/work balance you describe does not require lots of money. I work in the non-profit sector and have always made a very modest income. Six months ago I decided to move from full-time work to part-time. It means a financial trade-off but having the extra time is worth every penny. I too do not own a TV and do not watch sports, which I agree are time sinks. I spend my extra time reading, seeing friends and neighbors, cooking healthy food, gardeing, travelling, and volunteering. It does not involve owning a bunch of homes, having a private jet or a driver. It simply requires an understanding that true contentment comes from feeling that what you currently have is enough, and not constantly chasing more dollars or more possessions or more status. When I live simply and let go of any attachment to stuff, I feel truly happy and free. I encourage everyone to try it!

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OSScar on February 27, 2012  · 

Por favor no me tomes por un troll, no vengo a molestar ni a criticarte ni condenarte, pero he de decirte que te vas a arrepentir en unos años; ahora puede parecerte fantastico tener éxito en los negocios y que disfrutas mucho, pero tu vida tiene un tiempo limitado, pero pareces no darte cuenta.

Ojalá descubras pronto el significado de lo que es la vida. Me alegro mucho por tu éxito profesional, que lo disfrutes, te lo digo sinceramente. 🙂

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Barry on February 27, 2012  · 

On the money. So much time wasted.

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José Luis Pérez on February 28, 2012  · 

Great post Martin. Thanks for sharing!

Time management is a rather complicated issue everybody faces. Your approach to it looks fantastic, but it is not a valid recipe for all of us (I imagine this was not your intention). How best manage one person’s time depends on many factors like type of job, family, wealth and objectives in life. However, from your words we all can get some useful tips to implement in our own way on managing our time not matter what the target is.

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