Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Not the Bible, But It'll Do In A Pinch

I have a confession to make: Like many a BYU student, I spent my college years toting around a Franklin planner. Like many graduates, I continued to lug it around long after my student days ended. For a good 12 years or so, it accompanied me everywhere. My husband affectionately dubbed it my Brain. A couple years ago, I realized I wasn't using it enough to justify the high cost of yearly refill paper, so I abandoned it. Now, I scratch out my daily To Do list on a legal pad. It's not nearly as pretty, but it's much, much cheaper. Despite the fact that I no longer carry around a Franklin planner, I still consider Stephen R. Covey to be a time management God. I swear I haven't read anything original on the subject since the publication of his Bible, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in 1989. Every time management how-to I've read since then seems to simply parrot Covey's ideas. Just so we're clear - if you're only going to read one book on the subject, make it Covey's.

Considering my Franklin/Covey obsession, it's probably not hard to understand why I approached Time Management In An Instant with skepticism. Could it really contain anything new? Since it's a slim volume promising learning "in an instant," I asked myself, "Hey - what have you got to lose?" The answer was nothing, so I gave it a shot. Did this Steven R. Covey devotee learn anything new? Not really, but I did gain some new insight on some old time management techniques. And while it didn't happen "in an instant," it did happen pretty darn fast.

The authors of Time Management In An Instant, Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, run Sterling Consulting Group. As consultants, they have advised such companies as Microsoft, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Marriott Hotels. They've co-authored several books together. With such success under their belts, it's safe to assume they know a little something about effective time management. According to them, increasing efficiency boils down to 3 core principles: Planning, eliminating distractions, and accomplishing tasks through doing or delegating. In 60 quick chapters, they tell you exactly how to accomplish this. Each section contains exercises, tips and Hot Hints on relevant topics, like how to set realistic goals, how to make the most of business meetings, the importance of taking real vacations, and how to delegate effectively. While it doesn't say anything you don't already know, it does underscore the importance of basic time management principles.

Most of the information in the book applies directly to business professionals, which means it doesn't quite translate into my life as a SAHM (I only wish I could convince my kids not to distract me simply by hanging a "Do Not Disturb" sign on my cubicle). However, there were a couple of concepts that really rang true to me. One is the idea that "time can't really be managed (an hour is an hour) [but] your energy can" (41). They emphasize that completed tasks boost your energy, while lingering jobs zap it. Hence, when I straighten my house before I go to bed, I wake up feeling better than if I don't. The other is the importance of getting a good night's sleep. Yes, I know this is as basic as it gets, but I can't think of anything else that effects my efficiency as much as exhaustion. So, while Time Management In An Instant offers plenty of great advice on filing systems, how to deal with e-mail, and how to choose the right planner for you (Go, Franklin!), this is what jumped out most to me.

Yes, I'm still a Steven R. Covey groupie. Still, if you want to learn the basic principles of time management and you don't have a lot of time, Time Management In An Instant is the way to go. It's fast, to-the-point, and the perfect size for toting along in your briefcase. It can't replace a Bible like 7 Habits, but it's excellent as a quick, basic reference guide.

Now, to prove what a good little student I am, I'm headed off to bed. Watch out, world - tomorrow, I'm going to be a laundry-folding, cookie-baking, dust-sweeping machine. Now, where did I put that "Do Not Disturb" sign ...

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: G (although the subject matter might be a little dull for children)

6 comments:

  1. I have a confession: I have lived into adulthood without reading The 7 Habits book. You've intrigued me enough to pick up both books mentioned (even though I am NOT a fan of self-help.

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  2. I thought I was the only person that hadn't read the 7 Habits :) Time Management is a quick read and I know in my schedule - a fast read is very helpful :)

    Nikki Leigh

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  3. Charlotte - You grew up in Utah and went to BYU and you haven't read The 7 Habits? I'm astonished!

    I read it in high school, when I didn't need the information nearly as much as I would in college and beyond. I should really re-read it.

    Nikki - You should read it! The TIME MANAGEMENT IN AN INSTANT book is good, but it's kind of like reading Cliff's Notes of the Bible instead of the Bible itself, you know?

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  4. Well, since we're all confessing...
    Never read "7 Habits" but I do carry a Franklin Planner. They are a vital part of my son's TBI recovery, so I started using one as well. Fondly (or not so much) called, "The Datebook".
    On a side note, Franklin/Covey donates all the materials needed to the rehab program. How cool is that?

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  5. Thanks so much for the great article and shout out about the book. I love 7 habits by the way :-)

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  6. I love the way you're rating the books like a movie. Okay, Charlotte and Nikki Leigh, Valerie and I all have something in common. My husband loved 7 Habits. I couldn't drag myself through it.

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