Tag: organisation

‘Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play’ by Mark Forster

I love books like this. They basically buy into what I’ve always felt – that work and play are seriously allied. Work is best when seen as a form of play, and play benefits from being taken as seriously as work. It is all about getting a balance. The book recommends we all increase our ‘depth’ activities such as walking, yoga and reading, but mainly it is about useful activity.
As is the case with many of these books, much of the advice seems logical – like decide on one thing you’ll do the next day (work or leisure related) without fail. Or start small with organisation and become a little more demanding with yourself day by day, pushing yourself only to your maximum capacity.
One of the statements that really resonated with me was that you can’t manage time (because time just ‘is’) but that you can manage what you give attention to. It is easy to be busy without achieving much – because you’ve been taken over by trivia. We need to know the big picture and where we want to be. This way, we don’t avoid trivia and stress, we just deal with them in a focused way.
What I took away from this book was the importance of dealing with your own resistance to the big, scary, important tasks. I know that I can spend happy hours on paperwork, but when it comes to something more scary, I always feel like I need a clean desk before I can even approach it. Hence important stuff does not get done with the priority it deserves.   
Real effectiveness depends on the ability to cut through to what really matters and to concentrate on that. I know this, because the alternative is unthinkable…
When you follow the disorganised path of least resistance, the way you live your life is almost completely the result of outward stimuli – connected with other peoples’ disapproval and expectations. But if you overcome resistance and take action before resistance builds up, if you break large tasks into smaller ones and increase the pains of not doing the task, resistance is more pointless. You need to get resistance working for you by setting up good routines and as much automation as possible.
Say NO, in order to make space in your life for new projects. You need to focus on the right things – not the insignificant busy-making tasks which take attention from the bigger picture.  The author recommends you cost out the activities you deploy your attention on. Split things into must do, should do and could do, and do the ‘musts’ first! Start a daunting project TODAY. Do the thing you fear most first, and this just makes everything else seem relatively easy. We will only change something if the pain of doing it is greater than the pain of changing.
Free-flowing tasks which don’t have time scale are often those for which we have the most resistance. Natural inertia prevents us from starting, but it is also what keeps us going thereafter. The best antidote for fear is action.
When you use resistance as a guide and a motivator, what is important gets actioned first, days become easier, anxiety and tension are dispersed, procrastination is eliminated, real work gets done, ‘busy’ work withers away, concentration is maintained, and crises are prevented. If you don’t use this as a guide, the entire opposite happens.
I took a lot from this book the first time I read it. I still listen to the advice now.
Resistance is FUTILE!

‘The Mind Gym: Give me Time’

‘The Mind Gym: Give me Time’ is one in a series of books which includes other titles such as ‘Achieve More By Thinking Differently’ and ‘Relationships’. I first encountered this title when desperately in need of some organisation in my life.

To me, the main element of this book is that we will never have enough time because something will always appear to fill whatever time we have available. But we can change our attitudes about time, and how we use it. The more we feel in control of our time, and the more we are immersed in useful activity, the better we feel about how it is spent. And we can change our own habitual thoughts and activities to deal with this, to be flexible and to concentrate on just the right amount of pressure, to ensure we carry out activities with impact. Basically, the book is about making the most of the time we have, enjoying the choices we make, and how to use out best hours for the most challenging tasks. We are encouraged to be polychrons, or multitaskers as, apparently ‘It is easier to excel at more sophisticated and complex roles if you prefer doing several things at the same time’.

So, how does this happen? How can we succeed at using time well? There are a number of ways:
  • Keep eyes open for new opportunities – don’t let plans take over and be inflexible.
  • Finish things!
  • Do you waste time by not planning of being disorganised?
  • Use repetitive tasks like washing-up give you time to think.
  • Don’t let other people ruin your day.
  • Don’t save pleasure for leisure – enjoy your work too.
  • Get an internal locus of control.
  • Evaluate decisions carefully.
  • Defer judgement – be flexible.
  • Take pleasure and time over simple things.
  • Visualise calmness.
  • Organise – keys, money, bag etc.
  • Find systems to reduce the effort requires for menial tasks.
  • Focus on the present, not the future. Enjoy the here and now.
  • Don’t insist on destructive perfection and adherence to rigid beliefs.

Time spent doing something often bears no relation to the quality of the output, and a really good time manager does more than just manage their time; they are flexible and sensitive to what’s going on around them, making time for the unexpected, time to switch off and to recharge batteries.

Ways of doing this include:
  • Setting challenging goals.
  • Rewarding yourself.
  • Double your time estimates.
  • Move your body to change perspectives.
  • Mix with active people.
  • Break tasks into small chunks.
  • Break hours into 15 minute slots.
  • Start on a dreaded task for just 5 minutes – then continue if you want.

One of the most interesting parts of this book is the advice that you should write a mission for life.  Your mission should combine pleasure, challenge and meaning, meaningful and pleasurable duty. Also, consider your future direction in these areas: physical, mental, social, occupational, financial, familial and intimate. Consider the year ahead and your hopes for these areas, then work towards making it all happen. What impact will next year’s direction have on all your different life roles?

But also, don’t forget to love time by yourself – learn from your mind’s wanderings and reduce dead time – perhaps keeping a notebook or knitting while watching television. 

Life isn’t too short, we just don’t make the best of the time we’ve got.  This book helps focus the mind on small changes we can make that will help us best utilise time. It isn’t a book about filling every single moment of every single day. It is more about accepting that we need both challenging and fulfilling work time, and possibly productive down time too, as both make us the well rounded human beings that tend to be happier and healthier.

I haven’t read any of the other books in this series as yet, and I haven’t applied all the advice of this book to my life, but a lot of it makes a huge amount of sense. The book is simply written and very readable, meaning it is easy to dip in and out of when a little inspiration is required.