Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review -- The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress (Abandoned)

The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress by

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This was the first book I read under my new policy. I decided that I was adding more books to my list than I'd ever read and that the last book I read took a monh to chew my way through. I decided that each book would get a week to prove itself -- either I would read it every day and be committed to it, or I would abandon it within a week and pick up another one. If this had happened after I'd read this book, it might have suggested the book helped. But since it happened before I read this book, I think it suggested that I'm no stranger to the techniques in this book.

I'm guessing that a recommendation in So Good They Can't Ignore You (My Review) led me to this book as that book's author wrote the foreward for this book.

However, I abandoned this book. I started on Sunday night and read chapter 1. She begins to describe the different elements you want to keep in balance and presents what some sample days might look like for different kinds of people. She also described the ways time management fails us and invites the reader to read the book in whatever works for them, making call-outs to specific chapters, a pattern repeated in the rest of what I read. The next day, I read chapter 2, a very helpful chapter on the psychology of why you suck at time management. I would recommend chapter 2 to everyone. This was an insightful chapter and helped me even recognize a few things for myself. At this point, I was tracking with the book.

However, by day 3, I was reading while I took my mid-day walk and found myself leafing through the book. In 15 minutes I'd flipped through the remaining pages and decided there was no need to invest further in this book.

The author is a successful time management coach. She's, no doubt, helped quite a few people. She knows her stuff. But I think where she's probably a very engaging and effective consultant in person, the book falls flat. It might be difficult for it not - in person, her coaching is going to be tailored for the audience whereas the book has to work on all levels to a wide variety of audiences at different stages of their time management journey. For lack of a better word. Sorry. "Journey" feels lazy or at least overused.

Anyhow, if you've followed this blog for any length of time, you saw my year-long effort to look at my own time management and task management. Where I had hoped the book would be practical, it was more psychology. Where I'd been curious about specific tactics, I didn't find anything new. Where I'd hoped for relevancy, I found generic information that I do not think is accurate. How is it not accurate? When you write to a wide audience, you can't specific. But when you speak in generalizations, that's ultimately untrue in one way shape or form for your audience.

The lie is that you are in control.

Unless you are single, without children, and have a trust fund, you will answer to someone else. You can't simply say "no" to an assignment from a boss, even if it's not effective use of your time or has an impossible deadline. You can't schedule out time with your children like you're George Banks (It's grand to be an Englishman in 1910 / King Edward's on the throne; / It's the age of men) unless you want to be as absentee as he was. You are not in control. Shoot, you can't even do a dentist appointment for 3 in the morning because that's what's most convenient to you. You can't even plan out your weekends if your HOA suddenly sends you a letter saying that your entire house must be painted in 30 days and you have to mail them the proposed paint colors first (even if you want to repaint with the same colors) and then wait for them to mail you back their approval. You need to let go of the idea of an absolute firm grip, cut yourself some slack, understand why you fail, and understand how you can change.

So this book takes you through changing your mental perceptions. No joke, at one point as I read this, I could hear Stuart Smalley... you are good enough, you are smart enough and dog-gone it, people like you.

So what of the actual secrets themselves? No so secret. Figure out what's truly important to you. You can't do it all, you can't have it all. Figure out the main areas of your life, and then figure out within each area, what's the most important. (In other words, define your epics, create and groom your backlog.)

Second, realize you can't do it all. Set reasonable expectations. In other words, plan a reasonable sprint. At this point I was skimming, so don't know if she said that or not, but what's currently working for me is having different plans on different horizons. I have my daily list, a rough idea of what needs to get done. Dominated by the routine. And then I have the monthly list - a selection of bigger items I want to accomplish. The two work hand-in-hand. I don't accomplish everything off either list, but both help me clarify because neither tries to list off everything on my to-do list, just the most important.

Third, strengthen simple routines. If you want to be successful in the big things, you need to be successful in the small things. Making your bed every morning is a simple thing, but it means within seconds of getting out of bed, you've already accomplished something. If you have OCD, perhaps you've already put that into Remember the Milk (I haven't actually done this, it was just an example. Lori's the one who usually makes the bed.) Of all the secrets, this is probably the best one and probably the most helpful.

If you have trouble with time-management, you may get something from this book. But since this book tries to address every possible way someone might fail at time management, it comes across as daunting, stressful or depressing. I would much more recommend a coach or mentor or someone who can work with you on your time management issues.

Or, if that's not an option available to you, a careful examination over time might work. It did for me.

Either way, your efforts at time management cannot survive in a vacuum. If others inform or contribute to your to do list, share the list with them. If it's a boss, manage up. If they just gave you a new assignment and it conflicts with the deadlines of other work you think is important, have them help you prioritize. That helps them to see what all is on your plate and makes them a participant in the decision-making -- and that's crucial if the new assignment means an older assignment can't be completed on schedule. Same at home - if you have a list of things you want to get to, make sure your spouse is aware of that list. They can tell you if some things aren't important (or - and this is a blessing - they might volunteer to do something off your list) and they can see how asking you to go to a parent/teacher meeting that wasn't on the calendar might suddenly cause stress. But most important of all, remain flexible. In 5 years, no one will remember what day of the week it was that you put more toilet paper under each bathroom sink, but when you flop down on the floor in the living room, packages of toilet paper flying everywhere and then your children pile on you and get mercilously tickled for it - they'll remember that.

I am still not 100% productive with my time, but I think I am achieving more and what I am getting done is more of the important, and I no longer feel stressed about what I haven't been able to get to or when someone else changes my schedule. And so in the end, I do achieve slightly more, but I certainly have far less stress, but it was my own journey that helped me to reach that point, not this book.


The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: Achieve More Success with Less Stress (Amazon.com)
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