“Time Power”, from @BrianTracy promises many great things. From gaining 2 hours per day to improved productivity and performance to transversing the space-time continuum in a Tardis like invention of his own design. OK, the last one was my addition so I will not hold him to that but let’s review and see if the former two can be delivered upon. I will give bonus points for the time travel one though.
Brian Tracy is well known on the self improvement circuit. Indeed he has been there so long that it is difficult to fathom self development in an era before Brian Tracy. In “Time Power”, he brings a plethora of hints n’ tips to a range of topics across the general area of time management.Often in his material he announces the findings come as a result of reading hundreds of books and articles. I did not recall seeing this statement in the book so perhaps in this case new research was needed and he simply had to delve into his encyclopaedic knowledge on the topic.
Out of interest though, I did search for “hundreds”, and it did come up a few times when referring to the effort required for training and training material. So, next time you read one of Brian’s books see how many times “hundreds”, are mentioned.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the point of the book. The book’s raison d’etre is all encompassing. It aims to cover many aspects of how we view and manage our time both from a bottom up and top down viewpoint. It promises we will have hours more working time per day, have more time with family etc. Let’s have a look in more detail at how these are achieved.
After re-arranging my monstrous mind map I was able to condense the main topics into a few points,
- Objectives of the book
- Work Practice
- Personal development
- Time management
- Time tips
- Items for sales people
- Work – life balance
For each of these areas quite a few useful and interesting points were made. Let’s go through one by one so I can convey the key items.
Objectives of the book
Brian has recognised that the most precious resource today is time and has targeted and marketed this book to aim for those who wish to spend that resource for maximum value. He sets out his stall with the following promises,
- Gain 2 hours every day
- 25% increase in productivity
- Increased sense of control
- More time for family
One of the ideas he proposed to increase productivity is to increase the working time and therefore increase output. To do this, it was suggested to arrive early at work, work through lunch break etc. My personal viewpoint is simply spending more time is not a long term strategy for time management. Some respite is necessary from periods of focus. Additionally, studies have shown that working longer hours does not equate to higher productivity, indeed the opposite can be true.
As for the other points, I think any concerted effort in time management will result in productivity increase simply due to the awareness and focus that it instills when tackling any task. So, increased productivity and sense of control for a well managed time system I can believe.
Several sets of itemised tips were proposed for this including,
- Programming yourself for productivity
- Four steps to high productivity
- Personal productivity tips
Again many good points from these topics. I mention only two items for this,
Select the right tasks to do: Start with clear goals and objectives and for that derive clear plans to achieve them. Those objectives should align with tasks you are good at and for which you are responsible for.
Good execution of the tasks: Concentrate your efforts on the key tasks identified in the above step with the primary consideration of outputting results. You are paid for the results, not for the effort!
The book devotes a lot of time to this topic. I would separate the advice into several categories, of which I only note three.
First, general approach to work and setting the correct ambiance. Basic tips such as single tasking and planning before executing are advocated. Also, his key tips on gaining time are outlined which involves getting up earlier and focusing on the highest productivity prime time. This is the time of the day when one feels most productive and he suggests to best use that time effectively to get maximum benefit.
Secondly, he outlines copious methods to avoid procrastination, 16 to be exact, spanning various strategies including salami slicing tasks, doing smaller/larger tasks first, attain a habit of closure and starting the day with the most unpleasant task. The last point in particular is reminiscent of his advice in “Eat that frog”. Another key contribution under this category is the ability to develop a sense of urgency. Clearly for both reducing procrastination and sense of urgency some discipline is needed, doh!
The last key area dealt with is time saving techniques. To summarise this in one word, “clarity”. Above everything else, clarity is the key theme. So, clarity in setting goals and objectives, setting priorities, clarity in planning and how you spend your time. If such clarity can be combined with focus, which he also lists, it may be the single most important point of the book.
Darn, did I just say clarity and focus are the most important points? Let me add to this important section to the list of key items in the book. The business of setting goals is also dealt with comprehensively by Brian. And, I think he did a good job with this as many great points are made about goal setting. The reel off a few of them,
- Set mastery as your goal. Great tip. No matter your profession, if you master it there will always be a demand. Except, perhaps for VHS recorder repairs.
- Biggest time waster is losing sight of your goal.
- Focus on output, solutions and contributions. Find ways to add value
- Advice on how to determine goals
- Why am I on the payroll?
- Which are my key result areas?
- Which tasks can I, and only I do to make a real difference?
- Identify roadblocks/limiting steps to achieving goals and work to remove them
- Develop absolute clarity on the complete subject area
The message here is very simple. Invest time in yourself and improve your skills. Timeless advice and shared by other practitioners in the area. Stephen Covey would describe it as “sharpening the saw”. Jim Rohn, would say “work harder on yourself than you do on your job”. I this feeds back into the concepts of achieving the mystical state of mastery.
Two key sets of practices/principles are dealt with here.
- Seven practices for time power
- 12 principles for peak performance
Of the seven practices, the two that I think are most noteworthy are to be disciplined in whatever you are trying to instill and stick at it for 21 days – apparently the time frame over which new activities become ingrained habits.
Of the 12 principles I think the most useful is to see yourself in terms of a factory, with inputs, processes and outputs. You get paid for the outputs, not for the inputs or even the processes – physically manifested as “work”. As your time management skills improve it forces greatest focus on maximising the results in the time available. This may be through disciplined task selection or becoming more efficient in your processes for example.
I think it is at this point that Brian and I start to diverge in our opinions. A key concept in the book is that working more hours equates to getting more done. So, if one gets up early, skips lunch and works late then there is clearly more time to do value added work. My issues with this is three-fold,
- It is difficult to maintain focus for prolonged purpose and longer times. Some break is needed, and indeed some digestion time for lunch!
- Productivity reduces with longer working hours
- I see some conflict with the work-life balance promoted later in the book
One interesting raised in this section though is the concept of the “golden hour”. This is where you get up an hour earlier and invest that time in yourself, whether it be spent on education material, physical health or motivation or indeed all three. I can see how that could be beneficial if you can drag yourself out of a warm comfortable bed at 5:30am.
One other good point raised is not to get caught up in small things. There is a constant temptation to clear up little things. However, often these little things extend into hours reducing the available time for something more useful.
Three key areas of management are dealt with by Brian,
- Project management
- Decision Making
For project management the topic is dealt with in a fairly superficial way. This is not a criticism, but merely the outcome of covering many aspects of time management in a single, relatively concise book. Several general good points are given such as “starting with the end in mind”, identifying limiting factors and risks and clarity both for oneself and with the team.
Delegation is always a key method to amplify productivity. One key point that Brian emphasises is to identifying tasks which you can do well and only you. Those are the tasks that you should be focussed on and any other tasks, including those you cannot do well or are tasks that can be done by lower paid staff should be delegated.
Items for sales people
Sorry guys, I am not a sales person so skipped this chapter. If any sales people visit and are in desperate need of a review of that section then let me know.
Work – life balance
Simple ageless comments that are hard to argue with. These relate to family time vs. work time,
- Prioritize family. Position work and all other commitments around that
- Work requires quality time and family requires quantity time.
For easily digestible tips on time management you could do worse than Time Power.If I were to summarise the book it would be to set goals, be clear on how they are to be done and exercise focus and discipline in their execution. Can the book deliver on it’s promises of 2 hours more per day, 25 percent increase in productivity and increased sense of control? I believe so but that may be inherent in two items – getting up earlier and putting focus on the work you do and how you do it. Simply re-aligning your activities to your uppermost objectives could alone achieve the quoted 25%. So, perhaps such information is not the preserve of this book alone but it does do a reasonable job of giving many useful tips to achieve it’s stated aims.
Normally when I am going through text books I take some notes on a mind map. When reading “Time Power”, from Brian Tracy there were so many points that I wanted to record that my mind map was creaking under the strain. From my burdened mind map I can therefore conclude that this book has many noteworthy points and on that basis alone is worth the read. Check out the little dots below, each a recorded point from the book, and, that’s not all of them!