Rating: 5 of 5: TMBOA Recommended
Author: Jim Randel
What I like about Jim Randel’s The Skinny On books, is that they are like hiring an excerpt consultant to come and spend a couple of hours teaching from their extensive research and experience, all for the price of a couple of cups of coffee. Written in a power point type fashion with wonderfully simple but effective and well illustrated characters, Randel teaches through fictional case studies. Peppered throughout these studies are the wisdom of experts who have been well researched and quoted by Randel along with an extensive bibliography for those wanting to delve deeper. Usually when I attend a conference or listen to an expert speaker, I consider it well worth my time if I can learn one new factoid or item that I can put into practice. While I have read a number of the references Jim uses in his books, I still found multiple take-aways to use going forward making reading The Skinny On books well worth the time.
In The Skinny on: Time Management, there were a number of items that resonated with me. First off is the idea of inertia, that is to say an object at rest stays at rest which is why it is many times easier to do nothing because it takes so much effort to get going; but one can also take advantage of inertia in that once something is moving it tends to stay moving. Therefore, getting things done becomes much easier once one gets started. One of the keys to getting started is when creating to-do lists is to not just list the item to get done, but also the first few key steps that must be taken to accomplish the task. In this way, it is much easier to begin a to-do item because most of the energy required to start is the forming of the action steps, especially the first, to be taken. That way when one gets to the fourth or fifth item on the list for that day, instead of staring at the item and thinking through how to attack it – which likely includes remembering what the item was to begin with, it’s implications, etc. – one skips all these steps because that work has already been done and the first few actions to be taken are already there! On a related note, the author quotes an interesting statistic that one immediately increases their efficiency 25% just by creating a to-do list because of the focus it provides.
The idea of batching similar work is also good because it forces planning, increases focus and as a result increases efficiency; Randel quotes “effective beats busy every time”. Lessons on prioritization are also good. What has worked for me is to use index cards for to-do lists: one to-do for each card. This way I can list the item, its key action steps on the left side of the card, and status on the right side. Each morning I take my list of index cards and prioritize them in order of greatest importance and impact. When each one is done, I collect them in an every growing pile of accomplishments which provides positive reinforcement and feedback in the short term (which helps to keep inertia) and for the bigger items these finished cards serve as reminders of what I’ve accomplished when writing my self review at performance cycle time.
Regardless of the methods you use, Randel’s book contains a lot of information packed into a small and engaging package. Perhaps not all ideas will resonate with everyone, but there is so much good content here, everyone will gain a key take-away or two.