Do you feel like a chicken with its head cut off most days. Well I did too. Until I was introduced to time management and productivity books. Now I read them all the time to find new hacks to get more done in a day. Here are 4 books that really helped me out.
I don’t know about you, but there just never seems to be enough hours in a day. I just want to do ALL THE THINGS and quite frankly the idea of compromising or giving something up just doesn’t jive with my goal oriented and over achiever type of personality.
I want to cook everything from scratch, work out daily, mediate daily, spend meaningful time with my kids PLUS build a business that involves marketing on social media, writing weekly articles and newsletters, help out clients through career coaching and resume writing and more. Never mind the fact that I also have a part time job Career Transitioning, have to deal with all the admin associated with running a business and want some semblance of a social life!
I know that it is impossible to do all of that all the time, but I want to at least try my hardest to become my most efficient self so that I can tick off a ton of boxes every day. As an information gatherer and a reader, it comes as no surprise that I have probably read every Time Management and Productivity book on the market. So my time management is a hodge podge of all of these ideas that I’ve learnt but my system is one that also changes all the time depending on the week and my life at that moment.
Here are four books that really made an impact on my life, ones that I feel have allowed me to get more things done in a day.
1. The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
This is the very first book I read about productivity about 10 years ago when I was laid off from my agency recruiting job. Back then I wrote most of the ideas off as I didn’t think it really applied to me. But there were a few things I did implement and took to heart.
I loved his concept of the “New Rich” how your total take home salary isn’t how you should define your worth. In order to be a New Rich person, you need to create a life you WANT. This really resonated with me at the time as I was in the process of interviewing for a job I really wanted (Corporate Recruiter), only 5 minutes away from my house. But it was going to be a big pay cut. This book sparked a great conversation with husband in terms of what we value most. Money wasn’t at the top of the list, not even close. We also did the calculation and the hourly rate really wasn’t that different when you took into account the hours and money saved from not commuting and extra time at the office. So when the offer did come through it was an easy yes, and saying goodbye to the stress and the commute more than made up for the loss of some money.
Some specific time management tools of his I have implemented over the years are figuring how much time it really takes to complete a task and sticking to it, finding a way to eliminate meetings (or a way to join in remotely), and outsourcing/delegating the tasks you are able to.
When I am at my most productive, I’m following some of his ideas – don’t arrive at your desk without a plan or else you will just dawdle away the day in your inbox and being busy is a form of laziness (similar to a Gretchen Rubin thought that you can procrastinate with work).
In my opinion for 99% of the population the concept of a 4 hour workweek is laughable. But I would still recommend this book to all of you as it gives great insights on how to save you some time. Especially if you work somewhere traditional where they want you at your desk, this book talks about how to convince your boss to let you work from home on Fridays, now who wouldn’t want that!
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R Covey
This was the second book on time management that I read, since it is listed on pretty much all productivity and time management must read lists! This book showed me that my career, just like my life, was completely within my control. You can’t just sit back and wait for your dream career to land in your lap – you have to BE PROACTIVE (Habit #1), and you need to remember to place what you value most above all others so you need to PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST (Habit #3). There are 4 other habits, but for me and my career these are the two that have been most useful to getting me to where I am today.
His quadrant is also such a key for time management and learning how to prioritize your daily, weekly and monthly tasks. By examining the need for this task and the deadline allows us to plan out how our schedule should look.
If you are a reader, then definitely pick this one up. If not, then googling it and reading an article or two will suffice and everyone and their mother has written about it, for good reason!
3. Get you Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
I love the no-nonsense style of this writer, and honestly as someone who doesn’t like being confined by the corporate world, I could relate to her story of giving it all up to pursue her dreams.
Plus, her approach is right up my alley with her three steps – Strategize (plan of action to achieve a goal), Focus (break it down and schedule it) and Commit (set yourself up for success). She leans into negative thinking as a way to propel you to take action which works especially well for those who don’t have a clear direction of where they want to go or what they want to do, they just know that they want to leave or put an end to what they are doing.
Sarah wants you to be very specific with your goals in terms of time management. For example, say you are struggling to keep atop of your current workload. Take a look at the core of what YOU CAN CONTROL. Are you spending too much time on social media? Then perhaps the solution is to limit your time online. And then focus on your impulse, do you feel the twitch and call of social media? Confront that impulse head on to put a stop to it!
One of my most used time management tips came from this book and that is the concept of a “MUST DO LIST”. Sarah recommends that you have a large running master to do list and that every day you prioritize that list based on urgency and importance (similar to above!) and then move that to your MUST DO List. That is your focus for the day, nothing else!
I highly recommend this book, it is a fun read with some great tips and a little bit of inspiration for anyone wanting a career change.
4. Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
This is one of the most recent productivity books I have read. I loved it – the idea of SAVERS (Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing) is something I fully believe in. But it has been one of the most difficult to put into place. I have bits and pieces throughout my day. I meditate every night before I go to bed (96 days straight right now), I read every day and I exercise/move most days.
I want to do the rest, and I agree with the author that the mornings that I get up early and get all of that accomplished are the days that I am most productive as it sets a great tone for the day.
My problem (or excuse) is my kids. I have a 6.5 yo and a 5 yo who wake up at 6am and quite frankly I don’t want to get up any earlier. And even if, on the odd day, they are sleeping, when I try to sneak downstairs it ends up waking them up. Plus, first thing in the morning they just want to be near me, typically they want to snuggle in bed (there are only a few more years of that and I want to soak those cuddles up!) and then be in the same room as me so it is hard to focus.
But I believe so much in this. I believe that setting your intentions and your goals will not only increase your productivity but also increase the likelihood of you being a success. So I literally just researched a shorter version (since the book recommends about 90 minutes) and came across the 6 minute Miracle Morning by Hal. I’m going to tweak it to 8 minutes and only focus on the pieces I don’t do every day:
Silence: 2 minute gratitude meditation (in addition to my nightly meditation)
Affirmation: 2 minutes affirmations
Visulaization: 2 minutes visualization
Exercise: during the day
Reading: during the day
Scribing: 2 minute scribing – my gratitude, my daily goals and plan.
Anyone willing to join me? Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it went!
The amazing thing about Happiness Books and these Productivity books is that they introduce to us concepts that we may never have thought about. But more importantly, they tell us the story of how to make the changes and how those changes can have a lasting impact on our lives. So if you are stuck in a job you hate and don’t know what to do, they can help you figure out what you want and how to make the time in a day to get there.
If even that is overwhelming, how about a 30 minute phone call – we can chat for free, let’s strategize where you are, where you want to go and how to get there.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.