Time Management and Personal Effectiveness…

I have been waiting for a long time to do this post.  A year ago I committed to creating a training session for our PGCE students, and having put that together today, now is an ideal time to publish my thoughts on the Web.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle, Greek philosopher, (384-322BC)
(This also fits with recent brain theory and myelin – see The Talent Code (read 2016) – Daniel Coyle (Author)

In other words, there is hope for us all.  I know that using the knowledge and skills which I outline later, I am far more effective and enjoy my work far more than I did a couple of years ago.  Some of this feel-good-factor is making the most of ICT tools to help me be more effective – I will do a second post about these in the future.

Above all, time management is a misnomer.  you can’t manage time of course.  All you can do is make choices about what you do and when.

Of the many time management books I have bought, and of the smaller number I have read, I will recommend three four (2014:

Eat that Frog (Read 2014) – dealing with Procrastination.  We avoid the the most important things we need at a cost – deal with the most unappealing things first

Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play (Read 2012) – Mark Forster – The best book on the nuts and bolts as it is realistic and deals with being effective in an achievable way.

Getting Things Done (Read 2007) (GTD) – David Allen – used to think it was better than I do now, as I find it creates longer lists than I can cope with…

7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Read 2000)– Stephen Covey – The best book overall.
Just the best book for dealing with what is important.


There is just too much stuff around.  To concentrate on the important things in life you need to ‘declutter’ and be disciplined to prevent any more unnecessary infiltration of unwanted clutter.  As Peter Drucker said “Efficiency is doing things right, Effectiveness is doing the right things” and I would add “at the right time”.

GTD gives a start, although to my mind deals too much with efficiency.  However, I like the three main strands, which are:

1. CAPTURE all the things that need to get done
2. CLARIFY Next Steps
3. REVIEW Regularly

This basic flow chart of the GTD work flow gives the ideas, and will allow you to efficiently deal with your in tray.  If you like more detail, try this advanced flow chart. (both from http://www.davidco.com/ )

However, I rate Mark Forster much more highly for Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play for a short book, some blinding commonsense, and really good ideas.  For example, here are some of them:

1. You can do anything, but not everything.
2. The value you give to something depends on your values in life.
3. Learned to look at your list of tasks and sort them with Must do, Should do, Could do.
4. Learn to say ‘No’

Finally, I must give credit to a book I have gone back to time and time again since first reading it in 1999 and that is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I have found all seven ‘habits’ very powerful ideas.  I particularly recommend his descriptions of:

1. Keeping the balance of P and PC (Overview)
2. Circle of concern / circle of influence (Habit 1 – Be Proactive)
3. The importance of quadrant 2 activities (Habit 3 – Put First things First)

In fact, I quoted from it as recently as the weekend, to use the idea of the balance of P and PC (the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability).  If you were to work in a school where more and more gets squeezed out of you, it may work in the short-term, with increased exam results, but in the intermediate to long-term your capacity for good teaching becomes less, and the quality of product – your relationship with your students and colleagues, and your ability to inspire – reduces… obvious really…  😉