Running out of time
Robert Genn

July 24, 2009

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction 
and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  
In September 2006 he learned he had pancreatic cancer. Feeling the need to 
spend as much time as possible with his family, Randy cleared his desk and 
moved his wife, Jai, and their three young children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe, 
to another state. Here, he rationalized, the children might be better able to 
receive the wisdom of their grandparents and begin a life without their dad. 
A cheerful, optimistic and innately curious chap from the get-go, Randy seemed 
to accept his fate with more equanimity than his friends and colleagues gave 
him. As was the tradition with retiring faculty at CMU, he was asked to give a 
last lecture, a mix of summing up and parting advice to any students or 
others who might be interested. Just as knowing when the date and time of the 
end of a vacation determines how one might take advantage of the last days, 
such a lecture might be particularly cogent. Four hundred people showed up. 
Videos were made. A book came out if it. Among other things, Randy gave some 
straightforward advice to anyone who might be running out of time.

Time must be explicitly managed, like money. 
You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
Break big tasks into small ones and put them on lists.
Ask yourself if you're spending time on the right stuff.
Develop a good filing system and stick with it.
Get yourself a speakerphone so your hands can stay busy.
Learn to delegate, and especially empower younger people. 
Make occasional time for a genuine time out.

To those who heard Randy's reminders, and those who have read "The Last 
Lecture" in book form, it seems incredible that such straightforward 
suggestions can come from a terminally ill person. Running out of time, 
Randy's remaining days were joyful--not that he was going to receive some 
special dispensation, but he was empowered with the idea that people can be 
simple bridges to one another. Life itself will go on after we depart, and 
there will be others eager to keep the faith of trying to figure things out 
and pass on their findings. Our world is a moldable, improvable place. 

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008. He was 47 years old.  

Best regards,


PS: "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than 
you think." (Randy Pausch)

Esoterica: Randy was upbeat and witty during his lecture, alternating between 
wisecracks and insights on computer science and engineering education. After 
doing a few push-ups on stage, he gave advice on building multi-disciplinary 
collaborations, working in groups and interacting with others, and offered
inspirational life lessons. Speakers who followed up were in tears. CMU will 
celebrate Pausch's impact on the world with a raised pedestrian bridge to 
connect the new Computer Science Building and the Center for the Arts, 
symbolizing the way Pausch linked disciplines.