Ever since I was a little girl, I have made myself a daily to-do list. I cross out tasks as I accomplish them, and I try to set aside time for both short- and long-term goals. I write down appointments, meetings and deadlines, and I make adjustments in my schedule if something takes longer than I thought.
However, as my life has gotten busier and my distractions have gotten, well, more distracting, I have found that some of my methods of time management don’t work so well any more. In fact, I sometimes get too busy, and I forget to budget in “down” time. My productivity, my creativity, and often my sanity, suffer as a result.
Time management – the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours of your day in order to accomplish your goals – has always been an important part of being successful. Today, as more and more devices are distracting us, effective time management is more important than ever. Just ask anyone who has paused to “just check” her messages only to come up for air to find a big chunk of her morning gone with a big deadline looming.
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Five Top Picks For Books On Time Management
If you need some help getting your time management skills back on track, here is our round-up of some of the best books on the subject.
Books on time management – Getting Things Done by David Allen (2002)
David Allen is recognized as a leading expert in time management, and he has gotten that reputation because of this simple yet often ignored premise: our ability to get things done is directly proportional to our ability to relax.
How often do you spend your “down” time worrying about what you are not doing? Allen shows his readers how to overcome the feelings of being stuck or overwhelmed, and he gives tips on how to stay focused. His “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule may be just what you need.
Favorite Quote: “A basic truism I have discovered over 20 years of coaching and training is that most of the stress people experience comes from inappropriately managed commitments they make or accept. Even those who are not consciously ‘stressed out’ will invariably experience greater relaxation, better focus and increased productive energy when they learn more effectively to control the ‘open loops’ of their lives.”
Books on time management – 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman (2012)
A writer for Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman shows us how our constant busyness is limiting our success. In a series of short but thoughtful chapters, he demonstrates how we can actually accomplish more by doing less.
The book’s title comes from the author’s plan of devoting five minutes to plan at both the beginning and end of each workday and then an additional one minute per hour of a typical eight-hour work day to stop and question if you are on track with that plan. Bregman contends that those 18 minutes will help you cut out the unimportant stuff and help keep you focused on what really matters.
Favorite Quote: “Reducing your forward momentum is the first step to freeing yourself from the beliefs, habit, feelings, and busyness that may be limiting you.”
Books on time management – Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy (2007)
Are you a procrastinator? Then you will want to read Tracy’s ideas to help you stop putting things off. Using Mark Twain’s humorous notion that if you had to eat a live frog every morning, you would at least know that the worst part of your day was over, Tracy instructs us is tackle our own personal “frogs” first each day.
According to Tracy, when you tackle the most important tasks – the opens you are likely to put off – first, you will accomplish more and will have greater satisfaction in life.
Favorite Quote: “Throughout my career, I have discovered and rediscovered a simple truth. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status and happiness in life.”
Books on time management – 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam (2011)
By interviewing dozens of successful people, Vanderkam discovered that they had some time management rules in common. Basically, they focus on the important stuff and let the other stuff go.
She gives a practical guide to cutting back your time on unfulfilling activities and instead rearranging your week – your 168 hours — to give priority to what matters most to you. The author’ personal examples and insights make this book easy to read and enjoyable.
Favorite Quote: “The weekly 168-hour cycle is big enough to give a true picture pf our lives. Years and decades are made up of a mosaic of repeating patterns of 168 hours. Yes, there is room for randomness and the mosaic will evolve over time, but whether you pay attention to the patterns is still a choice. Largely the true picture of our lives will be a function of how we set the tiles.”
Books on time management – First Things First by Stephen R. Covey (1994)
Even though its publication precedes much of the technology that has enveloped our lives, Covey’s ground-breaking book still offers much to help us manage our time more effectively. The author provides a matrix for prioritizing your work and identifying your goals in order to have a more balanced and satisfying life.
Covey’s four task quadrants are: 1. Important and Urgent 2. Important and Not Urgent 3. Urgent and Not Important 4. Not Urgent and Not Important. He contends most of us spend too much time in quadrants 3 and 4 with quadrant 1 following close behind. He contends most of us, however, put off the time we spend in quadrant 2.
Favorite Quote: “Our struggle to put things first can be characterized by the contrast between two powerful tools that direct us: the clock and the compass. The clock represents our commitment, appointments, schedules, goals, activities – what we do with and how we manage out time. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction – what we feel is important and how we lead our lives. The struggle comes when we sense a gap between the clock and the compass – when what we do doesn’t contribute to what is most important in our lives.”