Morning Productive Time

If your day is anything like mine you are bombarded by tasks and interruptions throughout the work day. My day is heavily scheduled from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. There is often no down time. No time to reflect, to plan or do much of anything else but deal with each item on my schedule which we call the docket. I am a judge, and our time is heavily scheduled each day. We must hear as many cases during a day as possible, or we are in a trial all day long.  On non-trial days I am scheduled heavily to hear dozens of cases all day long. One recent day I heard over 90 cases in one day. I’ve heard it compared to drinking from a fire hose.

If you have a day like that you must find some time to think, to plan and to get the things done that need to be done outside of that schedule or docket. For me the only time that can happen is first thing in the morning. My docket starts at 8:30 but I get to work no later than 7:00 AM. I get more done in that 90 minutes from 7:00 until 8:30 than I can get done the rest of the day outside of my docket.

Benefits of Morning Time

In early morning everything is fresh. A cup of coffee tastes better at 6:00 AM than it does any time after 10. You are hopefully well rested. Your energy is high. Fatigue from hours of work has not yet set in. There will be few if any other people about to interrupt you. You have quiet and peace around you. This is the perfect time to think, review, plan and work on projects. Your mind is clear and it is the time to schedule things and set priorities.

It is remarkable how much you can get done with one or two hours of time free of interruptions. It is often the most productive time of your day.

If you are naturally a “morning person” like I am it is even better. Morning is when I am most productive. What if you are a “night owl”? First most people can adjust to different schedules. By gradually setting your alarm earlier (and going to bed earlier) you can train your mind and body to function well in the morning. I also find it beneficial to get some exercise in the morning before you sit down to work. It gets the blood moving and wipes those cobwebs away.

If you just cannot be productive before 9:00 AM then shift some of that time to your late afternoon or evening if that works better for your natural rhythms. I still think morning is best because there are fewer interruptions than any time until late at night.

Morning Tasks: Email, Scheduling, Planning, Writing

I divide my mornings into two parts. I arise at 5:00 AM (I assure you that you can get used to that and learn to love it). That is when I exercise, eat a good breakfast, shower and get ready for work.

Then I write. I spend 30 minutes each morning minimum to writing. In fact I am writing this article at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning!

I get to the office by 7:00 AM and then engage in the second part of my morning. Yes I check email. You will read a lot about how you should ignore email first thing in the morning. I disagree. If you communicate heavily through email like I do you need to review those emails first thing in the morning to see what you will need to put on your to-do list. You can sort out what needs to be done immediately and what can wait.

This is also the time I plan for the day and the week. I review my task list and prioritize. I will have no good time to do this for the rest of the day so it gets done before 8:00 AM.

Because my work life is driven by a docket this is also the time to review the cases I will be hearing that day, make sure I’ve read late submissions and am familiar with what needs to be done.

If you have not watched a sunrise lately, heard the first song birds of morning, or felt the coolness of morning you are missing a lot. Enjoy the quiet and peace of early morning and then get important things done so that you can follow your scheduled activities the rest of the day.

Learn more about how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management. Get free lessons on how to use your time more effectively with my Effective Time Management Lessons.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Synopsis of Content:

A thorough exploration of what is currently known about how the human brain functions and how it drives human behavior. Based on many years of research our thinking abilities are divided into two modes: Fast and Slow, or System 1 and System 2.

System 1 operates quickly. It is also automatic, it does not require or permit reflection and protracted thought process. It functions without our even being aware of it, for the most part. System 1 is a pattern recognizer. It quickly recognizes a known pattern. For example, if I say “red, white and…” your System 1 function will instantly think “blue” as the next word, at least it will if you are American.

System 2 operates more slowly. It allocates attention to effortful mental activity, including complex calculations. If I ask you to multiply 3658 x 5.369 you will use System 2. If I ask you to create a business plan you will use System 2.

There are mental functions that System 1 does very well and some it does very poorly and some it does not do at all and the same can be said for System 2.

Because these two systems operate so differently they can have both positive and negative consequences. If you are confronted by a threat you can react quickly to defend yourself or seek safety. You need not use System 2 and contemplate all the possible options available to you – you can act swiftly. When we lived primarily in nature hunting and surviving predators this system was essential but even today it serves us well.

Consider how you drive a car. How often have you driven some distance, lost in thought about something, and not even being aware of all the actions you are taking to properly drive the car? System 1 drives the car while System 2 engages in reflective thought.

As good as System 1 is at driving and escaping saber tooth tigers it does not do so well in evaluating new and complex problems. It leads us to make assumptions (some valid and some very mistaken) and to make decisions based on those often invalid assumptions. System 1 limits our tendency to consider new ideas and question old ones.

Once we understand how the two systems work we can intentionally invoke System 2 where we need it.

What I found useful about this book:

Life is full of decision making. This book helps us understand how we make decisions and how to make them more accurately and effectively. We can understand how we make invalid assumptions and decisions. We can learn to be more accurate in our thinking when we are aware of how these two systems work.

Readability/Writing Quality:

This book is written by a scientist. Though it is aimed at a general audience it is rather dense. It requires some intense mental effort to understand, or as the author would say, it requires System 2 thinking. While it can be a bit challenging to get through the book it also conveys a great deal of information and the journey is worth the effort.

Notes on Author:

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University.

Other Books by the Author:

International Differences in Well-Being
Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment
Choices, Values and Frames
Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology
Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases
Attention and Effort

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. It is important to understand and recognize that we think in more than one way and that on a very basic level that thinking can be divided between a fast and slow mode. Fast thinking allows us to survive and to learn skills and practice them without undue thought. Slow thinking allows to create, invent, understand and calculate.
  2. Intuition, which can serve us well in many ways, also serves us poorly in many others and should be looked upon with skepticism. It is a product of our fast thinking system which largely functions without verification and accuracy.
  3. To obtain the most from our slow thinking capacity we must put forth significant effort. We must question all assumptions and resist the easy and often erroneous conclusions that the fast thinking mind jumps to. Bearing this in mind can make us more accurate and successful in our thinking.

Publication Information:
Title and Author: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Copyright holder: © 2011 by Daniel Kahneman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Book of the month for June 2015.

Get the book here:


Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Getting Back on Track

Yehong Zhu posted 70 ideas on how to get back on track – that is how to live better – on Quora. It was then reposted on This is a fascinating list of ideas, tips, and insights. A few of them are very important. They all teach us something of value. Here are just a few examples:

3 Figure out what your values are and stick with them.

8 Trust your gut. When your spidey sense is tingling, pay close attention. Somehow it knows better than you do when something is right or wrong.

18 Whenever you can, pay it forward.

32 Work hard.

69 Life is short, and death is the great equalizer. Do everything you want to do while you can. There’s no time for anything else.

That is just a small sample. Some you will find very useful, others not so much.

Read all of Zhu’s 70 ideas here.
Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Book Review By Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Synopsis of Content:

The sub-title to this book describes its contents in one sense, “Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants”. It may also have been called, “the limited power of the powerful”.

Despite myths like David and Goliath we most often assume that those in power and those with power will prevail over the weaker side in any contest. Gladwell tells us a number of true stories, beginning with David and Goliath that show how and why the more powerful side in a dispute or battle may often not win. He illustrates how the “weaker” party can use their perceived weakness as a strength and prevail. He shows how the abuse of power can be self-defeating.

He shows how a novice coach who knew nothing about basketball led his team to victory over better trained teams. He demonstrates how smaller class sizes in schools do not always provide better education. The theme continues with how attending the most prestigious universities may not be the best choice for students; the power, for some, of disabilities such as dyslexia; and struggles by those in the civil rights movement and during war that defeated a more powerful foe.

From these stories he argues certain principles: that there are disadvantages to advantage; and advantages to disadvantage; that challenge and difficulty can produce strength; that there are inherent limits to power; and that power itself, used in smaller doses can be more effective, but used in larger doses can backfire.

Gladwell also admits there are limits to these theories. At times the more powerful do win, perhaps in the majority of situations. But if the underdog is cunning enough and brave enough and perhaps most importantly persistent enough the underdog can often win over the more powerful foe.

The lessons offered by this book have many applications. For the parent who wants to be effective guiding children, the supervisor or manager who wants to use his authority wisely to direct employees, the government leader who wishes to mobilize support for a proposal or the person fighting the uphill battle against those with greater perceived power there are valuable lessons in this book.

The lessons here are not that the weak always prevail against the strong. In fact the author acknowledges that more often the strong prevail against the weak. His challenge to us is to redefine strong and weak. His point is that though not always, very often what we perceive as weakness can possess strength and what we perceive as strength can be weak and in those situations the weak will prevail over the strong.

What I found useful about this book:
The stories Gladwell tells us provide an engaging read that gives dimension and power to the principles he is conveying. This is not a dry book about politics or power, this is an engaging book about people and how they use, misuse and lose power over others.

Readability/Writing Quality:  
The book is very well written as with all of Gladwell’s work. The story telling makes it read much like a light novel. It is difficult to put down. He does a masterful job of linking one concept and example with another.

Notes on Author:
Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist and author. He has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1996.

Other Books by This Author:

What the Dog Saw
The Tipping Point

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Our perception of power and weakness can be deceiving. Human interaction is complex and a “weaker” person with sufficient persistence and intelligence can often overcome or outwit a more powerful opponent.
  2. Those in power should never assume they are guaranteed to prevail because of their power. The abuse of power can delegitimize one such that one loses influence – one’s power becomes less effective.
  3. Those fighting abusive power must remember that if the persist and if they exercise flexibility and adaptability against more powerful but usually less flexible opponents they have a significant chance of attaining what they want.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Copyright holder: 2013 by Malcolm Gladwell

Publisher: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company

Buy the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was one of the giants of the 20th century. His eloquence, courage and tenacity are lessons for us all.

Learn about this remarkable man who achieved so much and to whom we owe so much.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The Success Essentials by Daniel R. Murphy

Book Review

Title and Author:  The Success Essentials by Daniel R. Murphy

Synopsis of Content:

The central message of this book is that success can be learned. We can read about the success of others and observe what they do in daily life and from their successes and failures we can learn what to do and what not to do.

No matter what we set out to do this book teaches the fundamental skills and disciplines that have allowed so many successful people to excel and achieve what they set out to achieve.

The book discusses the importance of attitude and our mental state to success. It teaches how to determine our chief aim or goal in life and how to focus on that. It tells us why that is so critical to success.

You then learn about the power of dedication and persistence, the price one must pay for genuine success, the importance of planning and setting goals, and the importance of executing on those plans. Finally there is a lot of discussion about self-discipline in a number of areas to enable us to succeed.

What I found useful about this book:

This book is based on proven techniques for success. There are no secrets to success and no magic involved. It is about proper focus, planning, execution and persistent dedication. It is about developing and maintaining the proper disciplines to achieve.

Readability/Writing Quality:  
The book is aimed at a general audience. It is well organized and easy to read.

Notes on Author:
The author has spent the last three decades studying success. He put what he learned into practice to go from poverty to become a successful public servant and rise to the top of his organization. He writes and blogs on success, leadership, wealth building, and personal development.

Other Books by This Author:
Your Financial Success
Effective Time Management

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Success begins in the mind. We must determine what we want to achieve and develop commitment and dedication to that aim. We must believe we will achieve what we set out to do.
  2. Proper planning is essential to success. We must set goals properly and then execute on them daily to succeed.
  3. Success in any endeavor requires a high level of commitment, dogged persistence and the cultivation of proven self-discipline. Focus and hard work are essential to success.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The Success Essentials by Daniel R. Murphy

Copyright holder: 2011 and 2013 by Daniel R. Murphy

Publisher: Albany Publishing Company

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

What if You Do Not Have a Passion

The success gurus tell us every day on their blogs, their newsletters and their books that you must have a passion – an overriding complete and overwhelming passion for what you are doing with your life. It may be your job/career/profession/calling. It may be an avocation beyond your job. It may be a devotion to one’s children. Whatever it is it must be what motivates you and what gives you that sense of ultimate satisfaction in life.

You must, they say, have a passion.

I think not. It is wonderful if you do have a passion. It may even be better if you have one. It can also be worse. A passion can be so overwhelming and consuming that it does as much damage as good.

It is true that people often accomplish the impossible because of this all-consuming passion. It can give us a purpose in life that is intoxicating. But not everyone has such a passion. For many, perhaps most, life is about earning a living, paying the bills, making some progress and loving those we care about. For many their job is something they do to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table.

On balance I do believe that having a passion or major purpose in life is a good thing. It gives direction. It provides focus. It energizes. Properly used and controlled it can be a very wonderful thing to have. People have accomplished so much out of their passions. Edison’s passion for invention improved the world in a thousand ways. Michael Jordan’s passion for basketball made him one of the best, if not the best player ever. Steve Jobs’ passion created the most unique technology company in the world and changed all our lives with that technology.

Passion or Purpose

It is important however to acknowledge that everyone will not have such a passion. It is unique and does not visit everyone. Many people do just fine in life without such an all-consuming passion. They succeed at their work, they raise their families and they contribute to society in all sorts of positive ways. They find contentment and even happiness without an all-consuming passion and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing inadequate about that.

I suggest that what we all do need is a sense of purpose. Like many buzzwords to day “passion” is over used. Often when the word is used people really mean a purpose. Humans do not do well without a purpose in life. A purpose may also be something we are passionate about. It may evolve into a true passion.

If you do have a passion that is great. It can be very great. But not having one is not a failure. Maybe the more important question is whether you have a sense of purpose in your life. It may be to raise your children well. It may be to be a good spouse. It may be linked to your job, career or profession. Psychological research clearly shows that people are happier, more productive and healthier if they have a sense of purpose.

We are all different and what motivates us is as unique as we are. Pursuing what is important and meaningful to us may be far more important than discovering a passion in life.

A passion is a wonderful gift we can use to achieve much. We can also achieve what we truly want in life without one. We can be happy and lead a rewarding life with a sense of purpose whether or not there is a passion.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Book Review

Review By Dr Carmen Lynne

By: Ramit Sethi (2010); ISBN 978-0-7611-4748-0; Book Price: $15.95

In this book, you can find out how to start with any amount of money and become wealthy.

Be Rich

Ramit Sethi is the founder and writer of, which hosts over 250,000 readers every month. He is a recent graduate of Stanford University and a co-founder of PBwiki, an online collaboration company. He is a New York Times Bestselling author featured on ABC News, CNN, and Wall Street Journal, etc.

Learning to be rich

Ramit Sethi presents 9 chapters to help readers to learn to be rich. He shares on optimizing credit cards (Ch. 1), beating the banks (Ch. 2), investing (Ch. 3), conscious spending (Ch. 4), saving while you sleep (Ch. 5), the myth of financial expertise (Ch. 6), picking a portfolio that will make you rich (Ch. 7), optimizing finances (Ch. 8), and more.

Enjoy learning how money works

Ramit Sethi has a fresh style aimed at resourcing readers to enjoy the process of becoming rich. He says, “Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t. This book isn’t about telling you to stop buying lattes. Instead, it’s about being able to actually spend more on the things you love… ”

Ramit employs points to deliver concise keys. Discussing credit cards and winning over debt, he shares, “The Six Commandments of Credit Cards… 1. Pay off your credit card regularly… 2. Get all fees waived on your card… 3. Negotiate a lower APR (annual percentage rate)… 4. Keep your cards for a long time and keep them active… ”

The teaching that Ramit presents is punctuated with helpful hints as, “Online savings accounts let you earn dramatically more interest with lower hassle.” These hints add value to readers and keep interest high!

Potent headings as, “Investing is the single most effective way to get rich” will inspire interest and engage readers.

Sethi works hard to correct false concepts, as in frugal V’s cheap. He suggests, “… we confused frugality with cheapness… Frugality isn’t about cutting your spending on everything… It’s about making your own decisions…”

The attraction of Ramit Sethi’s teaching is his intermittent focus on benefits. He relays, “Unlike other people, who worry about money (because they never learned how it works), you get to focus on the things you love.”

Get rich results

Ramit Sethi skillfully instructs readers to get rich results while maintaining an engaging presentation of ideas. For quick wealth building ideas:

Success Step: Describe a simple map for becoming rich (e.g. work,

innovate, save, invest… ); Follow your map!

Article Source: I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Book Review

Book of the Month for March 2015

Your Margin of Safety

There is a fundamental engineering principle that we can apply to many areas of our lives to avoid failures and enhance the chance of success. It is the margin of safety – the idea engineers use to design things to have a greater capacity than they will likely need thereby avoiding failure. Bridges are designed to carry many more thousands of pounds than vehicles will weigh. Dams are designed to hold back more water than will actually accumulate. Structures are designed to withstand more stress it is anticipated will occur.

In a recent blog post James Clear discusses this engineering concept and what happens when it fails. As an example he cites the failures of the levees during Hurricane Katrina that caused such severe flooding in New Orleans.

This principle to design things to withstand more stress than they are likely to experience is called the margin of safety. As Clear points out we can use the margin of safety in our everyday life in many ways to insure greater success and avoid the stress of failures. Clear provides some excellent examples of this in his post but there is one that I use all the time in time management. Always allow more time than you think you will need to avoid being late or missing an appointment. I see people missing or showing up late for appointments all the time. On rare occasion that is unavoidable. Something happens we could not begin to predict. But most of the time people are late because they did not prepare in advance, they did not leave early enough, they did not allow enough time to get where they need to be.

As an example Google Maps tells me it will take one hour and 23 minutes to get the airport from my home. I know from experience however that traffic snarls will often require more time than that. I always allow at least two full hours to get there. If I get there a few minutes early there is no problem. If traffic is bad I may just get there in time. I build in a margin of safety. I am not stressed and I am not late.

I am generally a risk averse. I try to minimize risk. I understand that those who love to take risk may scoff at this idea and may leave at the last possible moment. If that is the way you like to live that is fine. But if you like to reduce stress and be on time allow extra time to get where you are going.

Similar margins of safety can be utilized in your finances, investing, project management and most anything you do. Over engineer your life a bit and it will reduce stress and you will meet your deadlines and get there on time with what you need.

Read the rest of Clear’s post here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The 5 Choices by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne

A book review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  The 5 Choices by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne – Subtitle: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity

Synopsis of Content:

In 1989 Stephen R. Covey published his now famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In 2015 three influential executives at Franklin Covey, published this book, The 5 Choices, to take up where Covey left off over 25 years ago.

The 5 Choices focuses on the management of Decision Making, Attention Management and Energy Management on a personal level. Just as Covey sought to provide solutions for business people who were becoming overwhelmed with the demands of work and other life obligations these authors have sought to bring those ideas into the 21st Century. They begin with the assumption that today’s world is more complex, busier, more demanding and more distracting than the world of the 1980s. Among the causes of this greater complexity and distraction are all the digital intrusions and tools that exist today. This book seeks to help us manage those digital intrusions and tools so we can achieve more and be less harried and chaotic in the process.

The book is divided into four main sections: Decision Management, Attention Management, Energy Management and finally Being a Q2 Leader. Each of the three first sections contains subsections which constitute the 5 Choices as follows:

Decision Management:

  1. Act on the Important; Don’t React to the Urgent
  2. Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary

Attention Management:

  1. Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Schedule the Gravel
  2. Rule Technology, Don’t Let it Rule You

Energy Management:

  1. Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out

Choices 1, 3 and 5 are straight out of Covey’s play book. However they are not simply a repeat of the 1989 book. They develop the concepts to a higher level than Covey’s book did and they have updated them to be more relevant to the current world and especially to today’s technology. Choices 2 and 4 are completely new ideas though they too have their roots in Covey’s work. It includes useful ideas on how to manage social media and email and how to avoid those technologies from burying us.

The entire book is built around the Time Matrix that Covey taught about. This concept was not actually invented by Covey, it was invented by Dwight D. Eisenhower and before Covey’s book was called the Eisenhower Box.

The Time Matrix is a tool used to divide all our tasks and activities into four quadrants: Q1 – Urgent and Important; Q2 – Not Urgent and Important; Q3 – Urgent and Not Important; and Q4 – Neither Urgent or Important. The goal is to focus as much time and energy on Q2 activities so as to minimize Q1 and Q3 activities and to get rid of Q4 activity altogether.

What I found useful about this book:

This book takes a fresh look at much of what Covey wrote about and makes it more relevant to the 21st century. The ideas surrounding Q2 activity especially are more helpful and more well developed than anything I’ve seen in this area since 1989.

Equally useful and insightful are the parts that address how to manage technology and make it serve us rather than allow us to serve it. I highly recommend this book.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is very well written and well organized. It is easy to read. The authors build upon more basic concepts and develop them more intensely.

Notes on Author:

Kory Kogon is an executive at Franklin Covey with a lot of experience in management, productivity, and communications.

Adam Merrill is vice president for Innovations at Franklin Covey and has worked in the time management and productivity fields for 25 years.

Leena Rinne is a senior consultant with Franklin Covey with 15 years’ experience in international business. She specializes in client relationship management.

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Time and Energy devoted to Q2 activities makes us more productive, focused and capable. It allows us to direct our lives and prevents external forces from controlling us.
  1. The more we can avoid the urgency addiction and focus on what is important the less harried we will be and the more effective we can be.
  1. It is essential to get control over technology and limit its tendency to dominate our time and attention while using its tools to make us more effective. This requires an on-going effort and focus but pays off greatly and gives us more time for important work.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The 5 Choices by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne

Copyright holder: 2015 by FranklinCovey Co.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A Books2Wealth Book of the Month: February 2015 

Buy the book here:


Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.