I am not quite sure why it seems like the people who imagine ways to get things done efficiently so often imagine the setting to be the office. I would love to get my household chores, or my creative pursuits done on a timely basis as well. The first two books I read as I started my journey to amazing time management skills were both written by old white men. I genuinely don’t have any fetishes regarding geriatric pasty males, these were just the first two books I happened to dig into. It is true, however, that both of their books have sold enough copies that they must be doing something people find irresistible, at least long enough to grab a book off the shelf and pay for it. The books had other things in common, but we will get to that later.
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
This book started me out with some pretty enticing list-making. I made my overall, “Put everything you can imagine doing” list with not too much trouble. There are a couple of steps between getting the master list together and actually getting things done. Allen basically gives you permission to get everything that would take 2 minutes or less out of the way as you are sorting everything into the original list. I kind of did that naturally. I would periodically look up as I was reading the book and working on lists and realize that I was finding performance dates for my daughter’s play to put on the calendar, or responding to an email. It was like sleep driving: when you don’t realize you momentarily snoozed until you woke up and then you were pretty weirded out by it. But hey, I got a couple of quick things done that had been annoying me. I proceeded, after all this, to make several “Action Lists” with specific steps listed to accomplish everything on my previous list. I liked Allen’s idea for listing things by what you need to get them done. You start an “In front of the computer” list if a number of things need to be done at a computer with internet. Then you are more tempted to dive into some of those very specific things on your list rather than jump into a raring game of Fortnight next time you plop in front of that screen, and feel really accomplished.
The last list he recommends is a Maybe/Someday list, which is basically a bucket list. He doesn’t really say what to do with it, but it sure is a fun list to write as you imagine all of those amazing beach vacations you are going to go on and the band you are going to front. Oh, or not.
Once you have all of this sorted out you are going to need to schedule a weekly review to keep all of this up to date. The threat here is that if your mind doesn’t trust the lists you made because they are incomplete or inaccurate in some way, you will head back into the zone where your brain starts worrying about all of these activities in the background. All of this will get you more stressed out and less efficient, therefore defeating the purpose of making all these lists and reading this book.
The rest of the book adds details, and tips, and motivates you to get up and do it, but after a while you kind of get it. The book could truly be half as long and the information would get across plenty clearly. It was a decent book, and I think I will give some of the lists I chose a chance.
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
This book is short and sweet. It is full of common sense, if disjointed tips and tricks to get you organized. I don’t know that the information in this book is going to make you successful and rich, as some of the anecdotes in the book suggest, but I imagine it could help. Tracy begins by explaining the “Frog” part of the title. Apparently that represents the worst or most important thing you need to do in any given day. He says to knock that thing out right away. Then he proceeds to recommend how to organize yourself so the rest of your day will flow well and you will get important things done efficiently. All of this prep and organization involves, you guessed it, lists. There is a master list, and then monthly, weekly and daily lists. Which feel pretty similar to the types of lists I was making for “Getting Things Done”.
Then, Tracy “hopped” (See what I did there) into his tips and tricks. He had a chapter on his 80/20 rule, which he credited to an Italian economist. Vilfredo Pareto, according to Tracy, discovered that those numbers account for a lot of things related to economics. He claimed that 20% of your activities will be responsible for 80% of your results, and 20% of your customers will account for 80% of your sales. A similar example would be something along the lines of 80% of statistics are made up on the spot and 20% have science to back them up. Interesting, but really broad, not that I am an economist.
Tracy encouraged you to find those things that are of the most value to your life and work, and concentrate on those, seeing as you won’t have time to get everything done in a day, anyway. If you skim the rest of the chapter titles you will be able to harvest his wisdom relatively efficiently. The chapters from the middle onward are barely over few pages and tend to elaborate just a bit on what the chapter title states pretty clearly. The advice is fairly basic like, have balance and take things one step at a time.
I do love my lists, so these books definitely gave me an occasion to explore new ones. I am already taking advantage of a lot of the simplistic advice. These books give you a handful of things to think about, but I wouldn’t set aside all of your reading time to scour these for wisdom when a quick scan will do.