Whoever coined the term “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” won the day on this little gem of a book. I have to be honest, when I got a stack of books in the mail a few weeks ago this one was not #1 on my list to read. It’s not very thick and the cover kind of confused me with the smoke wisps (which I later figured out were supposed to be part of the secretive vibe and a part of an entire Secrets series that Wiley Publishers produces). I decided to flip through all the books before choosing the review order and what I found inside of it not only pushed it to being the first book in the stack to get a review, but also has absolutely changed my life.
Maura Thomas is the author of Personal Productivity Secrets as well as a speaker, trainer and blogger at Regain Your Time.com. This is her first book and was just published this spring and I truly believe that she is going to have the next big organizing programs on par with Franklin-Covey, and the Getting Things Done systems.
Several months ago in complete despair at our house and my personal life I actually sat down and self diagnosed myself as having ADD. After talking it over with Kevin and going in for some prayer at our church (as we believe that ADD can have spiritual dynamics as well) I began a process of learning how to manage my time and to be kind to myself in this process. Throughout our marriage I have off and on received emails from FLYlady.net, which can be totally overwhelming. The absolute most life changing things that I received from her were a handful of podcasts that are designed to help you focus. They are literally just her talking and talking for 15 minutes to an hour telling you what to get done or how to focus.
So you can imagine I was totally thrilled when I read Maura’s section on how most of us are actually CREATING lifestyles that cause self induced ADD symptoms and that most of us actually don’t have ADD!
This is in no way meant to discount those who do struggle with it because I absolutely know that it is a real problem that can require outside help. But rather as an encouragement to those who struggle with similar symptoms and those who have diagnosed ADD/ADHD that this book can provide solid real life suggestions on how to manage the stress and complexity of our lives.
Over the years I have tried dozens of organizing systems, task lists, planners, software and none of them have helped me as much as this book has. The biggest differences in my opinions are this:
- Attention management instead of Time Management
- Written for todays world of email/social networking/insane amounts of information
- Clear, easily integrated systems
- Photos of what these systems should like like vs what they shouldn’t look like
- Easy to read– in writing style and page organization
If you read my post about how to survive major remodeling, you will remember that I am a huge advocate of systems. When a system is broken there is nothing but frustration and anxiety regarding that whole aspect of your life. This is hands down the best set of systems I have found for managing life craziness (appointments/papers/tasks/email).
The chapters in this book are as follows:
Managing Your Attention
1. Stop Trying to Manage Your Time
2. Changing Your Mind: Attention Management
The Empowered Productivity System
3. Empowering Your Productivity
4. Controlling the Constant Chatter
5. Supplementing Brainpower with Technology
6. Clearing Your Mind Now
7. Capture, Store, Act
8. Clearing Your Space
9. Emerging Concepts in Information Management
10. The T.E.S.S.T. Process
11. Controlling Your Email
12. Defending Your Attention Using Technology
Tools For Success
13. Mastering Your Technology
14. Managing New Communication- Social Media
15. Implications for Groups and Teams
16. Modern Conveniences-Reviews and Recommendations
Recommended Book List
Just to give you a taste of one part that I wanted to jump up and down screaming “Yes! Yes! Someone finally understands my brain!” here’s an excerpt of Chapter 5:
“Sorting By Priority: ABC Doesn’t Work
Many people prioritize their work using a rating system such as ABC (or 123, or High-Low-Medium), assuming that it provides a quick way to decide what needs to be done next.
Unfortunately, chances are good that everything you write down is important to you. In fact, the main reason you write tasks down (or enter them on an electronic list) is because they are weighing on your mind and you don’t want to forget them. The things that aren’t important don’t even make it onto your list, so almost everything gets the highest priority; and if you do happen to assign a lower priority to some items, they never get done, unless and until something happens to make them a higher priority. In other words, ABC doesn’t work.
When you want to prioritize your work, order your tasks by due date, using the date you’d like to have the task completed by. Although a given date may be arbitrary, using due dates helps you see when the amount of work you’ve assigned to a day is unrealistic, therefore enabling you to spread them out appropriately over the coming days and weeks.
Warning: Some people make the mistake of assigning the task to an appointment on the calendar for the arbitrary due date they selected. Picking an arbitrary due date for a task does not give it a stronger relationship to time, so entering that task on your calendar just artificially clutters your calendar. [...] this creates several problems:
- It’s common to be overly optimistic about all the things you can get done in a day, so you’re raced with the task of having to remember to move the things that you neglected to do on a a given day. But your other days have their own agendas, and your undone tasks start to pile up.
- It sets you up to start the day focusing on the things you failed to accomplish yesterday, which is not very motivating.
- There will come a time where you forget to move something that you didn’t do and then it won’t get done. This is called “slipping through the cracks,” and you want to minimize the potential for that to happen. So, prioritize by due date, but do it on your task list and not your calendar.