Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein

Lakein, Alan. How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. 1973. New York: Signet, 1974.

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life is a short, direct guide to practical time management. The essence of Alan Lakein’s approach is setting priorities and planning.

The early chapters of the book present techniques for identifying and setting your priorities. It addresses both big goals and manageable tasks.

I put one of these prioritizing techniques, related to my to-do list, to immediate use. This has helped me spend more time on things that are important to me. It also helped me to feel less guilty about dropping low-priority things off my to-do list. If something is unimportant, I shouldn’t waste my time on it or let it clutter my to-do list.

Lakein isn’t judgmental about priorities. He doesn’t tell you what you should be doing. The book is about helping you accomplish what is important to you.

Planning goes hand-in-hand with setting priorities. Lakein says, “Control starts with planning.” Planning is simply making decisions about what you want to do, when you want to do it, and sometimes how you want to do it. I’ve seen complicated planning systems, but Lakein keeps is simple: make a list and set priorities.

Lakein also recommends scheduling. Life is full of routine and needful things that can take over our days. Making time for the things that are important means setting aside time to do them and not doing other stuff, especially less important stuff, during that time.

The latter chapters of the book present several techniques for staying on track with your priorities. Whether you need to carve out time, get started, break down overwhelming tasks, overcome fear or get back on track when you backslide (it’s bound to happen), Lakein has helpful suggestions for overcoming these and other obstacles.

I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Lakein earlier, especially in this time-obsessed age. Maybe it’s because his book predates fancy, leather-bound planning binders, personal digital assitants and smart phones. This may be why his methods seem simpler than some other programs. His methods are compatible with today’s popular tools for time management, though they were developed when the tools were paper lists and calendars.

Lakein’s focus is practical and he doesn’t give much attention to deep theories. His tone is often like the conversational, no-nonsense, blunt self-help books of earlier decades. This makes the book readable and useful and maybe you, like me, will find something in it you can use right away.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in
The Richest Man Who Ever Lived by Steven K. Scott