Like nearly every woman I know, I have more demands on my time than I have time to get them all done. I'm always on the lookout for tips on how to make the most of the time I have, and tools to help me be more efficient and productive, saving time for fun and family. For years I've collected books on time management and organization. I've gleaned ideas from each of them, but here are three of my favorites:
- Getting Things Done: David Allen's book, subtitled “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” has become a classic. In Allen's own words, “The methods I present [in the book] are based on two key objectives: (1) capturing all the things that need to get done — now, later, someday, big, little, or in between — into a logical and trusted system outside of your head and off your mind; and (2) disciplining yourself to make front-end decisions about all of the ‘inputs' you let into your life so that you will always have a plan for ‘next actions' that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment.” Allen's theory, which I've found to be true for me, is that the combined weight of all the “little” things that we need to remember and do ultimately create a level of background stress that wears us out and keeps us from being as productive and at peace as we could be. Although planners and websites and apps abound that will help implement the GTD approach, you don't need any of them to benefit from reading this book. If you have found yourself forgetting appointments or letting days go by without accomplishing your goals, or even if you're getting things done but feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, I highly recommend this book. Learn more about the GTD system at davidco.com.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Written by Stephen R. Covey, this book resulted in a whole line of planners and accessories, as well as a number of sequels and related books and other materals. Where GTD is a book of tactics and techniques for organizing the many demands on our time and attention, 7 Habits is more of a philosophy book in the sense of putting time management techniques in a context of habits and, really, perspectives about how life should be lived: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win/win, seek first to understand and then to be understood, synergies, and sharpen the saw. When the demands of your life overwhelm you, it's tempting to reach for the quick fix — another app, another device, another tool to help do the tasks in front of you. But that's the best time to take a step back, reconsider the concepts discussed in Covey's book, and use them as guiding principles as you decide how to spend your time and energy. Covey is on the web at stephencovey.com.
- Time Management from the Inside Out (and its companion volume, Organizing from the Inside Out): Both by Julie Morgenstern, these books help the reader look within to evaluate personal preferences and style and then using that understanding to implement the many tips and techniques Morgenstern offers to get control over the tasks and stuff that clutter our lives. Lots of worksheets to help you think through the process, and examples of how to to set things up to work for you. Find Julie on the web at juliemorgenstern.com.
I have many more books in my personal library on the subjects of time management and organization, but I'm always on the lookout for great ideas. If there's a book that you recommend, please tell me about it in a comment below. If there's a particular element of time management or organization that's giving you trouble, leave a comment about that, too, and I'll respond.