In any business career, some skills can legitimately be classified as optional extras. It is possible for executives to rise high in an organisation without ever being great in front of customers, or understanding the minutiae of fair-value accounting. Where necessary, they can simply turn to colleagues or call on outside experts for advice.
But, as author and consultant Patrick Forsyth points out in Successful Time Management, there is one skill no one can afford to be without. It is the ability to get and stay organised.
To be effective, he notes, everyone needs a well-thought out system of personal rules and practices for better self-management. To this end, the book sets out a series of time-saving principles and practical tips divided into two key areas - planning and implementation.
The aim is to emphasise the importance of individual choice and action, plus the realisation that there is always room for improvement.
"Good time-management is an overriding factor that can differentiate people of otherwise equal talent and ability," the author says. A starting premise is that all of us can benefit from reviewing the way we work. In most cases, there is a tendency towards self-delusion concerning the amount of time - both productive and otherwise - spent on different tasks. There is also a widespread knack of confusing activity with achievement.
To create a real understanding of where each day goes, Forsyth suggests using a "log" to record the hours and minutes spent on distinct activities over a set period. Time-consuming perhaps, but it's often an essential first step in identifying where inefficiencies and interruptions eat into the working day.
Such a log also helps to set new objectives and plan change. It is a question of investing some time now to save substantially more in the years ahead. The process should consider everything from obligations - real and imagined - to communication, delegation and future commitments to find ways of working smarter, not harder.
With clear priorities and a system that suits you, it becomes possible to redefine tasks eliminating what's needless.
Forsyth presents ideas and reminders around this central theme. The reader should apply the logic or imagination necessary to adapt them to personal circumstances and company practices. Forsyth keeps sections pithy and uncluttered. In doing so, he follows two of his own tips - eliminate the unnecessary and make a habit of brevity.
Effective time management is a personal tool, not a standardised approach
Beware of favourite tasks - it is easy to spend more time than necessary on what you like doing
You can only do one thing at a time, so decide on priorities
Surfing the internet remains one of the major sources of distraction
Occasionally, make it a priority to tackle outstanding miscellaneous tasks
From chaos to order
Title Unstuff Your Life!: Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good Author Andrew J. Mellen Publisher Avery Publishing Group Subject Time management
Arguably the most organised man in America, Andrew J. Mellen has created unique and lasting techniques for streamlined living, and bringing order out of chaos. In Unstuff Your Life!, he offers an action-based plan to help readers achieve organisational bliss.
Readers will free up time by finding out:
where to find a permanent home for your keys and wallet
how to sort the mail in a manageable and time-effective way