I found myself having a super-geeky moment in the week. A thread in one of my groups popped up with someone asking for resources to help with time management. That got my attention, I love a bit of time management.
Is time management valid?
And the replies to it were interesting, with some people questioning the validity of time management. They argued that you “can’t manage time” and instead you should focus on managing yourself and your priorities (I’m paraphrasing big time here). Yes, of course, I don’t disagree with the fact that time is time and you can’t change that. But … I would argue that time management is a totally valid thing to look at and you can use time management techniques to manage your tasks.
This is me taking us down from the high-level goals/values/mindset stuff and thinking about the really practical nitty gritty of how to manage your task list. Particularly when it has eleventy billion things on it, which mine tends to. And I’m thinking maybe we should rebrand “time management” to “task management”.
It was a really interesting discussion and I love seeing other people’s views on the subject. It really shows how people can view things differently. It’s great to get a different perspective, isn’t it? But I’m not ready to throw time management out with the bathwater.
In fact, the whole subject got me fired up. It’s reminded me how much I love anything time management/productivity related. If you looked at my bookshelf I suspect that you would find that I’ve got more books on the subject than anything else. So, I thought I’d have a look at some of my favourites! Here are five that jump out at me:
Book #1: Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
This was the first time management technique that I was introduced to. Before this, I don’t think that I was even aware of the concept of time management. It’s not something I was taught at school, that’s for sure! I went to a workshop where they took us through the technique and I was hooked. Of course, I rushed home and ordered myself a copy of the book (any excuse to buy a new book). It’s a really quick and easy read, and one that I like to revisit every so often.
The whole idea of eating your frog is that the first job you tackle every day is that one that you’re most likely to prevaricate over. Once you’ve done the difficult thing for the day, everything else will feel easy peasy! There’s a lot more to the book than that, but that’s the overriding concept and us Webfooted folk find ourselves talking about eating frogs quite a bit 🤪
Book #2: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Now, this is an absolute classic. If you look up Getting Things Done or GTD you will find loads of resources on the subject. I learnt so much from this book and, even though I probably don’t follow the whole system to the letter, there are bits of it that are ingrained in how we manage our business.
I think one of the game-changers for me was the “tickler file”. For this we use a ring binder with plastic pockets for each month and each day. We call it the “daily file” – I guess because we check it every day for what’s come up. I know these days with all the digital tools available to us, it might seem a bit outdated to have an actual physical file with bits of paper in it … but it works for us. I love having my little pile of slips to process every morning.
But that’s just one bit of the GTD system. There’s so much more to it than that. Like, getting everything out of your head and into a system. Goodness me, I wouldn’t get anywhere if I tried to keep everything in my head these days!
I love the idea of being a productivity ninja!!! This book is written in an engaging style and is crammed full of practical systems which you can apply to your workflow. How To Be A Productivity Ninja works really well alongside GTD – there are a lot of similarities but I feel like this book takes it even further and adds to the system in a really practical way.
Book #4: Super Structured by David Stiernholm
This book really appeals to my desire to be super-duper organised and … erm … structured in how I work. It’s written as a 31-day plan so you can work through it one day at a time, with each day taking you a step closer to being in control of your task list. I love that, for me the best business books are the ones with instantly practical application.
Again, there is a lot about this structure that works well with GTD. For me Getting Things Done, How To Be A Productivity Ninja and Super Structured make a perfect set, and are books that I come back to over and over again when I feel like I need to refresh my approach to task management.
Book #5: Do It Tomorrow by Mark Forster
Now, this one is a different approach and one that I occasionally have a go at implementing. It sets out a time management technique that is very quick to implement and genuinely gives you hope that you can get on top of things. Every day you create a closed list for the day (i.e. once you’ve made the list you can’t add anything more to it) and then put anything new that comes up into a pile to be dealt with tomorrow.
I think I particularly like this because I find that I lose focus very easily if I’m being too reactive to things as they come up throughout the day. So the idea of putting anything new on the list for the next day really helps with that.
I have to say that I’ve never managed to get it working as a system long-term, but I do like having a go with it every now and then if I feel like I need a new perspective on my task list.
I am a massive fan of all five books. And I have to admit that right now I’m itching to read them again. But, as I went through my list I realised that none of them are very recent. That doesn’t take away from their value – they’re all solid books which will continue to be relevant. But I couldn’t help but wonder (in a Carrie Bradshaw kind of way) whether there’s anything published more recently that I should be adding to my time management library… What are your top recommendations for time management books? Comment below or give me a shout, I’d love to hear your thoughts!