Book review: ‘Time Mastery’, by John McLachlan and Karen Meager


We’re all busy – so it seems. With research reporting that almost half of UK workers feel overwhelmed at work, it’s no wonder I often hear people asking for tips on ‘time management’. My first response is that time isn’t something we can manage – it will be 4 minutes’ later in 4 minutes’ time, no matter what you do – but we can manage ourselves. It’s why the Zoomly workshop on this topic is called ‘Plan and prioritise’. That ‘time management’ is a myth is a point made upfront in this practical and insightful book. The authors of ‘Time Mastery: Banish Time Management Forever’ point out that many tools for time management consume effort and, er, time.

Identify what to change
Instead of setting up elaborate systems, we need to identify the habits to change. But first we must assess our attitudes to ‘three life resources’: Time, Health and Money. Whilst this might sound obvious, what caught my eye was the authors’ assertion that to make the most of our health and wealth, we need to ensure our short-term behaviour is focused on the long-term goal. How often do we (or organisations for that matter) lose sight of the long-term view and behave impulsively, often sabotaging our goals?

Time wasters and how to handle them
There’s a great chapter entitled ‘The Magnificent Seven Time Wasters’ – #5 really resonated with me – with tips on how to handle them. I can report they are working well so far. Next, McLachlan & Meager provide practical steps to resolve internal conflicts, e.g. ‘fitness vs work?’, ‘saving vs seeing friends?’, that can sap our energy and focus.

How do you think about time?
An eye-opener for me was how we have different preferences when we think about time. Some of us think in hour-long chunks, others in days or weeks or even longer. Some of us will think in sequential steps and others in broad themes. Each preference has its pros and cons for how we plan our time – as well as ways in which we can waste it – and the suggestions on what to do more/less of are really simple. The authors’ website has free quizzes you can complete to find out your preferences – well worth a look. There are plenty of tips for responding to others’ requests for your time and asking others for theirs. The final part of Time Mastery suggests two ‘pathways’ to success’; which you choose will depend on your situation and preferences.

Highly recommended, whether you simply want some time-saving tips or if you’re feeling overwhelmed and know you’re part of the problem, but don’t know where to start.

You may also find this post useful: Productivity tip – understand 3 kinds of time

Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’

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