Time Management Lessons from Bruce Lee

In case you don’t know, Bruce Lee was a Hong Kong American famous for being an iconic martial artist and changing American perceptions of Asians in film. His short life had a huge impact and most people, simply by hearing his name, can picture a shirtless Bruce with all muscles flexed, especially his face.


Although Bruce Lee was a master of several disciplines of martial arts, he eventually developed his own methodology – a “style of no style” as he called it. Bruce wanted his movements to exist outside of traditional parameters and restrictions that were not optimal in street fighting. His fluid style was a result of muscular and cardiovascular training as well as mental and spiritual preparation.


Bruce Lee was a pretty well-rounded guy.


So what can we learn from Bruce Lee?


Do you ever feel ambushed and outnumbered? Many of my clients say that there is too much to do, not enough hours in the day, and an endless stream of interruptions at work. For Bruce Lee, this situation is akin to fighting 20 attackers in an ice factory, alley, or dojo. How does he succeed and live to fight another day?


How to be like Bruce Lee:

  • Care about the cause. Bruce fights for a reason. You may not be avenging the death of your sister, but you are working for a purpose. What is it? What gets you up in the morning?
  • Act quickly. Bruce doesn’t stop to say, “Hmm. Should I roundhouse kick this guy or shove my fingers through his ribs?” Bruce acts decisively. Trust yourself that you can do the same.
  • Pay attention to the environment. Bruce finds weapons wherever he is. The man can pull a set of nunchuks out of thin air. Listen to others. Be observant of what is happening around you. You will often find what you need to succeed.
  • Get your game face on. To be clear, I don’t recommend slowly peeling off your shirt before entering a contentious situation at work. But there is a psychological benefit of pre-game rituals. Take deep breaths, say some affirmations, or just pause to neutralize your facial expression before turning around to greet someone who has asked if you’ve “got a minute” for the third time that morning.
  • Practice GEPO. No, GEPO is not a martial arts discipline. GEPO stand for Good Enough Press On. When fighting multiple attackers, Bruce doesn’t go for the kill with every shot. He strikes or throws someone and immediately moves on to the next attacker. Even if Kick-To-The-Head Guy gets up, he’ll be slower in round two. If Bruce stopped to analyze his success with each opponent before moving on to the next, he’d be the one thrown through the wall Roadrunner-style.
  • Change your environment. At times, your work environment is not conducive to success. When Bruce found himself fighting in a hall of mirrors, he broke the mirrors. Do you need to rearrange your office? Should you shut your door for a specified period of time each day? Can you successfully work from home?
  • Use your opponent’s momentum against him. Don’t run full speed toward Bruce Lee; he will send you flying through the air. Good leaders, when asked the question “How should I ______?” will typically answer with “What do you think?” This annoying, yet extremely developmental, comeback helps the questioner use their own momentum to find the answer they seek.


Pat Benatar crooned in the 80’s that “Love is a Battlefield” and sometimes work is too. This article was inspired by a client who felt like he was going into battle every day, surrounded on all sides by attackers. However, a few weeks after working with me, he reported to some friends that he really felt like things were under control. So, even if your time management skills are not currently as ripped as Bruce Lee’s abs, you can, with a little instruction, still be victorious.


Any discussion of Bruce Lee is incomplete without a mention of his too-short life. The next time you have about eight minutes to spare, watch this compilation video of Bruce Lee moments. The commentary is enjoyable. Bruce Lee died from an allergic reaction to a medication at age 32. He was not invincible – none of us are. So, perhaps the biggest lesson from his life is to strive for excellence. It is safe to say that I will never be an excellent martial artist and movie star, but I can be excellent in other areas.


If there are barriers to your excellence, such as poor time and task management skills, work to remove them. Contact me. I can help. But, keep in mind that being organized and productive is not an end in itself – it is a means to an end. So…


To what excellent end are you striving?    Tweet your answer.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


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