The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture


Randy Pausch

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The Last Lecture: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

When Jai sends Randy to buy groceries, he uses a self-scan machine. It malfunctions, and he accidentally pays $16.55 twice instead of once. Randy has a decision to make—he could find the manager, tell him or her the story, fill out a form, and get one of the charges removed, which would take ten or fifteen minutes and be no fun for Randy, or he could leave. Given how little time Randy has left, he decides he is happier to have fifteen minutes than sixteen dollars, so he leaves the store having paid extra. All Randy’s life, he has been aware that time is finite, and managing time well is one of the most important skills to leading a successful life.
While losing $16.55 isn’t a perfect outcome for Randy, he uses the double-scanning obstacle as an opportunity to think clearly about his situation and decide what the best way to proceed is. So, when he leaves the store, he is happy and positive about his decision to keep ten or fifteen minutes rather than get his money back.
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Randy lists off many pieces of advice regarding time management. First, it must be managed explicitly, with a budget, like money: for example, you shouldn’t waste time on irrelevant details (“it doesn’t matter how well you polish the underside of a bannister”). Randy is a big believer in plans and to-do lists because if you have a plan, you can always change it. Randy urges readers to ask themselves if they are spending time on the right things—he gives the example of a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette while protesting a local construction site because she’s worried the jackhammers will harm her unborn child. Randy also says that a good filing system will save you time later, and that rethinking how you spend your time on hold on the telephone (perhaps by having alternate activities to do while on hold) is a smart idea.
Attitude and positive behavior are best put to use after having weighed all of the variables. For example, although the pregnant woman at the construction site seems to be taking proactive steps to help her child, her negative behavior of smoking a cigarette while pregnant is almost certainly more harmful than the vibrations of jackhammers that she’s protesting. Being both realistic and positive is needed if you want to actually impact the world around you successfully.
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Related Quotes
Randy is also a huge proponent of delegating. He says that it’s never too early to delegate, and that he does it with his students and his kids. Randy also recommends taking “a time out” every once in a while, and that it’s not a real vacation if you’re reading emails or taking work messages. When Jai and Randy went on their honeymoon, his boss felt that people needed a way to contact him. So, Randy made a phone message saying that he waited until he was 39 to get married, so he’s going away for a month. Then Randy gave the number to his in-laws’ house, and said that if the emergency merits interrupting their only daughter’s honeymoon, his in-laws could find a way to get in touch. Naturally, Randy and Jai went a month without getting any calls. Randy ends the chapter by saying “Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.”
Believing that other people can do something is often the first step in allowing them to understand their own capabilities. That is why Randy believes that delegating is a powerful way to teach people what they’re capable of. In some ways, delegating can serve as a “head fake,” because the act of doing whatever task the person is told to do simultaneously teaches them that they are capable of accomplishing things they weren’t aware they could do before.
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