Get-It-Done Book Review… and Giveaway!

See below for a chance to get free stuff in the mail! Yay! Free stuff!

Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action… Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant.

–Timothy Ferris, The Four Hour Workweek

I’m a bit addicted to time-management books, but their quality, usefulness and readability are all over the map. I read Ferris’s book and got a couple of things out of it, including the above quote which is brilliant IMO, but overall the book just didn’t hit home with me.

I recently found a new book that embodies the quote above and is actually fun to read. Stever Robbins has a personal productivity podcast (say that five times fast) and has put his best stuff into a book, The Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.

Robbins’s book blends a lot of high level thinking (what are your goals?) with nitty-gritty techniques for being more productive (here’s one: to keep from getting distracted when working a project, make an “interruption list” of things to tend to when you’re done with what you’re working on). His chapter on procrastination has a lot of practical suggestions and is a great complement to Anne Lamott’s angst-ridden meditation on the subject in Bird by Bird. And chapter 1, “Live on Purpose,” deals with goal setting in a very intuitive way. I’ve never really gotten the “vision/ mission/ goal/ objective” distinction, and his stuff on “goal ladders” is simple and makes sense to me.

Robbins also has a great sense of humor. This may be the only time-management book in which zombies play a prominent role. In a section on e-mail, he talks about templates and macros as a way to streamline your communication:

Let’s say your boss has you saying no to a dozen different requests each day: a dog show invitation, a request for money, and someone claiming to be a long-lost child, asking to be added to the will.

Those are pretty different. You want to respond to each individually, but your responses can have paragraphs in common. All might start like this: “Mr. Boss appreciates your letter. Your tragic plight is touching.” Then you add a paragraph or two crushing that person’s hopes and dreams, and you finish up with, “Mr. Boss regrets that he can’t do more for your deeply troubling situation.”

Some of the latter chapters get more theoretical, and the one on building relationships seemed a little utilitarian. Yes, building a network does help you be more productive, but part of my job is to love people whether they can be useful to me or not. Still, it’s worth a read if for no other reason than that he takes that treacly starfish story (you know the one) and gives it a much-needed twist.

This would be a great book for a young person starting out in a career who really wants to get their life together, although others would find it valuable too. (No book of this genre is going to work on people who don’t want to change or who can’t see the need.) It’s a quick read, with several novel suggestions for working smarter.

And! Because I love hearing tips on how other people make their life work, leave your favorite lifehack/best idea in the comments. On Monday I’ll choose someone at random and send them a copy of the Get-It-Done Guy book.


19 thoughts on “Get-It-Done Book Review… and Giveaway!

  1. mamdblueroom says:

    My current favorite tip (not from this book) is to answer e-mail the day after I receive it. So each morning I go through my “yesterday” items and answer, delete or otherwise deal with each and every message.

    Some productivity gurus say to only check e-mail a couple times a day, or never in the morning, etc. That doesn’t work for me. Sometimes truly urgent stuff comes in that needs to be dealt with quickly, so I check e-mail more often than that. But answering yesterday’s e-mail today helps me avoid getting distracted and sucked in. Also, if I wait, stuff often gets resolved without my intervention.

    If the other person deems something urgent that I have deemed non-urgent, well, that’s what the phone is for.

  2. Kate says:

    I might have to get this just to find out what his twist on the starfish story is. Treacly though it is, it works for me when I start to feel guilty about not doing enough.

  3. mb says:

    This isn’t really revolutionary, but: I’m not “allowed” (by me) to take the mail anywhere but to the mail sorting place (in my husband’s home office). There from one chair I sort, recycle, put business bills in their place, pay my own bills (immediately, I keep a checkbook there), stamp outgoing things, and return them to the mailbox.

    Since I was a child I’ve been a maniac for the mail, so waiting to do it until I’m ready to process it is a powerful motivator. 🙂

  4. Manya says:

    I’ve got two. Neither are revolutionary but they both help me greatly.
    1. I set my watch for 20 minutes and do whatever it is (clean the kitchen, answer emails I’ve been putting off, work on part of an analysis I’m dreading) because I can do ANYTHING for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes I’ve either accomplished something or am so involved in the task that I keep going or both. This saves me a ton of time being overwhelmed by a task and not starting it. My mom taught me that trick two and a half decades ago and now it seems to pop up in ever book I read.
    2. Remember the Milk is really helpful to me for a non-intuitive reason. You’re asked to estimate the amount of time a task will take and often, when I do that, I’ll think “oh, for heaven’s sake – just do it now” or “that would fit between this activity and that, do it then.” This works amazingly well for me; little niggling stuff on which I would otherwise procrastinate gets done.

  5. Becca says:

    I *have* to have my containers! I find that with kids and pets, small pieces and parts accumulate–and scatter. I’m not nearly as organized as you, but I hate having something in my hand with no idea where to put it.
    I use everything from small pottery bowls (hubby’s guitar picks) to Rubbermaid containers (regular storage) to Ziplock bags (kids’ puzzles).
    As far as time management, well, one step at a time…

  6. Charlotte Lohrenz says:

    Newest time saver is I can spend way too much time planning meals. Here is a limited selection of very good ones every week; pick from those and I am done. Best of all it generates the shopping list (which I hand off to the husband…another time saver).

  7. Thank you so much for the wonderful review! I’m glad you are finding the book useful and fun.

    I’d like to clear up one slight thing that I clearly didn’t convey well. You write: “Yes, building a network does help you be more productive, but part of my job is to love people whether they can be useful to me or not”

    I hope I didn’t give the impression that one should only build relationships for work! I happen to be a vehement devotee the notion that people are far more important than profit, and that this whole mindset of “Let’s network so we can use each other” is almost a completely different thing from actually having relationships. It’s more like some weird kind of deferred transaction.

    That said, there are some relationships that you’ll only form for business purposes. Chances are most of your co-workers are not people you will be close to after leaving your job, for instance.

    Even in relationships that mean a lot to you, it’s worth taking the time to find out what the other person values, so if you decide you want to be nice to them, you know how to do it in a way they’ll value. My tips are about how to build and maintain *any* kind of relationship, and I leave the purpose of the relationship (business or pleasure) up to you.

    • mamdblueroom says:

      Well said Stever, and thanks so much for stopping by!

      I hear you. I think that the relationship-building chapter is such a novel element to include in a book like this that it made for a little hiccup, that’s all. However, your points here are well taken.

  8. P.S. Thank you thank you thank you for noticing the starfish story! That was one of the very first things I wrote and am really quite proud of it. I’d never before realized that the original starfish story is … well, I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the book yet 🙂

  9. Jeanny House says:

    My best time-saver is to cook two or three times as much of a recipe as I’m going to need, then packaging up and freezing the leftovers. On busy nights, or when I need to take a lunch with me, I can just pop something out of the freezer and nuke it.

  10. MB McCandless says:

    I’ve been wasting time trying to think of a time saver and low and behold, my best one will be getting up away from the computer, taking a power nap and then having some supper followed by a short time to plan tomorrow. OH that’s it! Taking the time the night before to plan / preview tomorrow’s schedule. When I’m really good, I’m also doing this on Saturday for the upcoming week, quarterly and yearly. I also use Google Calendars and love being able to have separate calendars for each family member that I can view together and I love the option of sending SMS messages to my phone to remind me of things. No more missed appointments!

  11. Lee says:

    I’ve also been holding off on replying to emails until the next day – it has really helped.

    Also, I’ve started using the phone more. I used to screen a lot of my calls, but then I ended up spending more time returning the call or playing phone tag. If I just answer it, I can usually deal with whatever it is and be done with it. Also, I try not to use email when the phone makes more sense: sometimes, scheduling a meeting over email takes six messages and three days; on the phone, it takes five minutes.

  12. I have a monthly accordion divider for regular bills (utilities, credit cards, etc.) Most of my bills are paid automatically (either through the vendor or my bank account), so it’s mostly a matter of reviewing for accuracy and making sure I have enough money in the account.

    Anyway, I file bills by the month they’re due. A year later, by the time I return to that month, if I haven’t needed to use them, I shred the whole bunch from last year and keep cycling through. Makes it so much easier to find things and to not have to worry about when to clear them out!

  13. sko3 says:

    I have a lot of tote bags. Each bag has the “right” stuff for a particular kind of outing (outdoor outing with daughter, grocery shopping trip, restaurant with daughter, etc.). All I do is transfer my phone and wallet and go. And since there are different little child entertainment items in each bag, none of them get boring.

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