It Was The Wrong Question To Ask

I recently received an email asking, “What’s the best time management book?

I replied, “There’s no point in suggesting a book, because you won’t make the time or commitment to read it. But I can suggest these five things. When you’ve done these I will suggest a book.”

1. Be committed to change because it’s not easy. This is the most important step. Changing how you operate is extremely difficult. If you are not prepared for pain and discomfort don’t start. Reading a book is not commitment. Your brain is wired a certain way right now and you’ve been reinforcing the patterns for decades, this won’t change by just reading a book.

2. Divide your to-dos into two lists: tasks and projects. Use whatever system works, paper, Evernote, Outlook Tasks. I use Wunderlist. Tasks are one step only. Buy Kindle. Renew Visa. Get car washed. They are completed in one step.

Projects, on the other hand, require multiple steps and are essentially made up of several one step to-dos. Create marketing plan. Prepare for board meeting. Re-do backyard. Fire Sally. Each project requires multiple sub-tasks. Some of those sub-tasks may have sub-tasks. But don’t just list out ‘prepare for board meeting’, list out every sub item so you can clearly see what needs to be completed.

3. Work in 2.5 hour blocks on a single project, always. Use single hour blocks to do admin, single step tasks, and non essential email. Everything you need to get done gets placed in your calendar. EVERYTHING! Every Wednesday and Thursday I have three 2.5 hour blocks in my calendar, each with the subject of what I am working on. Nothing else gets worked on during these 2.5hour blocks. Non-Negotiable.

4. The world is against you. Technology is not neutral. You will lose if you do not take both defensive and offensive action. You need zero notifications on your phone, there is no reason to have them, not if you want to be focused and productive. Install Freedom on your laptop and phone and block all social media from 8 am – 8 pm. You will find even after months of having it installed, you will still, by habit, open up distracting apps.

5. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same every day. Do repeating tasks or functions at the same time and the same day as much as possible. If you run 2-3x per week, make it the same time each day/week and put it in your calendar, eat your meals at the same time everyday, check your email at the same time everyday. Boring wins, routine wins, and having less clutter in your head wins.

I never did hear back from him.