Stop Spending Time… Invest It! (Book Review)

In her recent release, The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, time coach Elizabeth Saunders tackles success in life by moving beyond what we’ve already learned about time management.  I’ve long held that time management is the key to unlocking potential.  This perspective has been influenced greatly by Stephen Covey’s First Things First and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  Yet for years, my unbalanced life has belied these dog-eared books, but not for lack of insight or intention.  In The 3 Secrets, Elizabeth brings her approach for taming patterns of thought, emotion and behavior to the fore, and this is quickly resulting in an upward spiral of success for me, both personally and professionally.

At the core of the book are the three “secrets” that fundamentally extend common time management themes.  Secret #1 is “Clarify Action-Based Priorities,” which calls for moving beyond setting priorities to identifying, scheduling, and monitoring very specific actions (e.g., run three miles after work on Tuesday and Thursday).  Inertia wins wherever there is ambiguity in your intentions… or in your calendar.  Secret #2 is “Set Realistic Expectations,” which exalts progress over perfection and especially over others’ often misaligned expectations.  This is an investment approach that builds success over time, not on the hope of a windfall.  Secret #3 is “Strengthen Simple Routines.”  This takes the actions and expectations of #1 and #2 and makes them as automatic as possible by creating, practicing, and reinforcing habits.  There is an entire chapter of “done-for-you” routines–everything from project planning to exercising, and from building relationships to buying groceries.

Now, back to thoughts and emotions.  The real key to unlocking the three secrets is in understanding your personality and behaviors.  From the outset, The 3 Secrets addresses the “crippling emotions” which prevent us from making progress.  As it turns out, establishing a hierarchy of goals and neatly labeling file folders won’t even come close to addressing the feelings of overwhelm, guilt, fear and frustration that often keep us from moving forward in a new direction.  ”Key Mental Shifts” are identified throughout the book which help to chart a custom course from negative to positive emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.  And exercises at the end of each chapter reinforce the principles and their application.  For me, this journaling made it a much more personalized and relevant learning experience.  It certainly got me in touch with my time gremlins!

In my view, Elizabeth Saunders has created a first-class field guide for achieving “work-life brilliance.”  It succeeds at expanding and, more importantly, personalizing the principles of time management.  For me, this has contributed to some breakthrough thinking, especially favoring progress and making incremental daily investments that are already beginning to compound.  Among other improvements, I’m spending more time with my family, more time focused strategically and with my leadership team at work, more time exercising and eating right (I’ve lost 15 pounds!), I’m getting better sleep, and I’m finally blogging.  All with more focus and calm.  Okay, it’s true that my email inbox could use considerably more investment right now, but there’s a done-for-me routine for that too!

Your time is your life.  If you’re feeling more spent than invested, I recommend The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment to help you start taking it back.

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