Regardless of profession or industry, too many of us feel as though we’re in a continual race against time. Time is money, after all, and it’s all too easy to spend it unwisely. Whether we feel like we spend far too much time on Zoom calls or email management, or like our attention is always spread too thinly, most of us want to improve our relationship with time.
Sadly, there's no quick fix for doing that – productivity apps and hacks alone will be ineffectual if you don’t have the method or mindset to sustain them. The good news is that there are many time management books that can help us evaluate how we use time, and provide the framework to stay focused, manage time better and get more done. To get you inspired, we've picked five of our favourite time management books.
1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
Cal Newport’s Deep Work is a book that’s very close to our hearts at Memory – so much so, that it even formed the basis of our Dewo tool. For many people, one of the reasons why they can’t get as much work done as they’d like is because they’re working in a continual state of distraction; we check our email, continually switch context and pick up our phones whenever they buzz.
The problem with working like this is that it makes doing any deep work impossible. Deep work, according to Newport, is work that’s “performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes our cognitive capabilities to their limit.” It allows us to understand complex information and produce better results, faster. Plus, doing deep work provides us with a true sense of meaning and fulfillment – something that’s rarely possible to achieve via shallow work.
In Deep Work, Newport conveys the value of deep work and outlines the specific disciplines that have the power to alter your mind and habits so you can focus. By minimizing shallow work as much as we can, and structuring our day so we spend as much time possible on deep work, we can reach a flow states and find both meaning and reward in our work.
2. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy
If prioritization is one of your big time management issues, then Eat That Frog! has the power to change your life. If you’re wondering what eating frogs has to do with managing your time, you’re probably not familiar with the old Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. This is a sentiment shared by author Brian Tracy, who explains in his book why tackling your most challenging task first thing will ensure the rest of your day is much more productive.
At its core, Eat That Frog! is about prioritization and beginning with your most important tasks – no matter how much you might be dreading them. As Tracy says, “Your ability to choose between the important and the unimportant is the key determinant of your success in life and work.” Throughout the book, Tracy also shares different time management techniques and addresses issues that most of us face from time to time, like poor productivity and self-discipline. This might be a short book, but its benefits can be far-reaching and long-lasting.
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3. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen
Since its release back in 2001, Getting Things Done has become the go-to book for improving your personal organization and productivity – and for good reason. According to David Allen, if you want to be more productive – and enjoy more free time – you need to know how to relax and keep a cool head during stressful situations. If you don’t have a clear mind, it becomes significantly harder to organize your thoughts, spark creativity and improve your productivity – but many of us spend far too long worrying about the things we’re not doing.
In Getting Things Done, Allen outlines the two components that are required to actually get things done: first, defining what “done” really means (ie. what’s the outcome?) and two, what “doing” looks like (ie. “what’s the action?”). Because many of us only have a vague idea of what we really need to do – let alone how to actually do it and finish it – much of the book focuses on clarity, and how to break big tasks into smaller tasks and turn abstract goals into tangible acts.
4. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam
Many of us think we simply don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do… and if that sounds like you, reading 168 Hours will change that. We all have 168 hours in a week, so why is it that some people are able to do so much more with their time than others? According to author Laura Vanderkam, we’ve all got plenty of time to do the things we want – the problem is that we’re choosing to spend it on the wrong things.
As part of her research, Vanderkam interviewed dozens of successful people and found that they all found ways to make time for what mattered to them. But because many of us have no idea where we’re actually spending our time, the first step is to actually track your time so you can see where and how you’re wasting it. Then, you can “steal time” from yourself – which essentially means, stop frittering time away on things that aren’t meaningful and focus on your core work. By doing this, and viewing your time as hours instead of days, you can get more from the time you have.
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5. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, by Jake Zeratsky and John Knapp
It might have only been released in 2018, but Make Time is already viewed as a classic in the time management genre. During their time working for Google, authors Jake Zeratsky and John Knapp helped hundreds of teams become more productive by changing the ways they worked, and now their book outlines their accessible and original approach: that if you want to have more free time and get more done, you can’t rest on your laurels waiting for something to happen; you need to make the time yourself.
Make Time isn’t about crossing more things off your to-do list, and it doesn’t suggest unrealistic solutions, like turning your phone off all day. It isn’t about making radical changes to the way you work – it’s about those small shifts that we can all implement. The authors propose a four-step framework, and it’s not a one-size-fits all approach; anyone can tailor their suggestions to their personal schedule and habits, but ultimately, by making a few tweaks, we can free ourselves from a state of constant busyness and distraction and channel our energy in a more productive manner.