Mark Matteson’s new book It’s About Time is a practical and insightful look at how to find more time in our lives. It begins by first considering the problem, which is surprisingly, not lack of time, but how we perceive time and what kind of relationship we have with it. Matteson shows that often our reasons for thinking we do not have enough time are excuses we make to keep us from doing what we really want to in life — the revelation readers may then have is not that we don’t have enough time, but that we procrastinate, allowing fear to hold us back from doing what we truly want in life.
Matteson includes a substantial list of “rational lies” we tell ourselves about time, including, “You just can’t get organized around here” and “People keep interrupting me.” Once we admit that we are lying to ourselves, we will realize that the only one controlling our time is us, and then we can learn to make better use of our time according to our true priorities.
Some of the advice in It’s About Time may seem like common sense, but it all serves as a much-needed reminder regardless. For example, Matteson talks about the need to set goals for ourselves, but goals that are time-related—long-term and short-term. He advocates for staying focused on the task at hand, suggesting we set aside a two-hour period and break it into fifteen minute periods. We then time ourselves to make sure we stay focused on our immediate task for the full fifteen minutes, rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted.
And there are many things in life to distract us, from the telephone to constant emails. Matteson offers practical advice for putting these distractions in their proper places so they do not interrupt us or destroy our focus, and so we can serve our customers, employers, personal relationships, and ourselves better, as well as get more done. Additional suggestions include doing the hardest tasks in primetime when we have the most energy, learning how to delegate properly, and perhaps my favorite, “If in doubt, throw it out.”
In one section, Matteson lists “Fifty-Five Great Effectiveness Ideas.” Here are a few that really resonated with me:
31) Ask Yourself: Would anything terrible happen if I didn’t do this item? If the answer is no, don’t do it. No guilt. Guilt is for people who don’t know better.
37) Train Yourself: Go down your list of things to do without skipping to the easier or faster-accomplished items. Stick with the “A’s” on your list until they are completed.
55) Go Over This List Once a Month for a Year. Evaluate your progress and reward your new, positive effectiveness habits. Keep asking yourself, Is what I am doing right now the best use of my time?
I also appreciated Matteson’s Seven-Point Formula for meetings so you can ensure that you don’t waste anyone’s time and you accomplish what is intended. And wow, Matteson gives us permission to take a short nap when we need one!
Once Matteson gives us all this practical information, he branches into later chapters that are less about time management itself than how to make the most valuable use of our time, such as through positive thinking and proper use of social media to further our goals, as well as allow us to have fun without letting it suck up too much time. I also appreciated his reminder to be mindful of other people’s time, such as not forwarding cute emails to everyone but first asking, “Does this add value?” and asking when you call someone, whether he has a minute to talk rather than just launching into an hour-long conversation.
It’s About Time will offer you all the tools you need to take back control of your time as well as learn how to enjoy rather than hoard or fear you are running out of time. And it won’t even take you much time to read this short book—the time you invest in it will pay off in a happier, more time-rich life once you apply its principles.
For more information about Mark Matteson and It’s About Time, visit the author’s website.