One of the most common criticisms that I have launched at authors of books that supposedly contain the most effective advice is that the details are lacking. This renders the advice correct but of limited use. I cannot level that criticism against the author of this book. Randel puts forward some very basic and accurate advice on time management. It all begins with the idea that you must consider time as a limited commodity to be spent as wisely as possible. The starting point is making a list of how you currently spend your precious commodity of 168 hours per week. The next step is to examine and prioritize the list, making the fundamental decisions regarding what is the most important and ruthlessly culling the insignificant.
The best advice in the book and one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever encountered is developed from the chart in caption 145. There are four quadrants to the chart and the captions are:
I) Important and urgent
II) Urgent, but not important
III) Important, but not urgent
IV) Not urgent and not important
There can be no dispute that the items in category I are the most important, taking precedence over all others and that the items in category IV should be done after all others. However, the major item of advice is that when you are prioritizing, the second level of selections should be out of category III rather than category II. In other words, whenever you are deciding on what task to perform, make sure that what you select is an important one. Another item emphasized that is almost as important is to never mistake being busy for being productive. They are not the same thing, and at times it can be hard to differentiate between the two.
One myth that I would like to see destroyed is that the modern worker is more harried and pressured than previous generations. This is essentially nonsense, a few generations ago, a large percentage of the population worked on farms with little in the way of modern equipment. My father grew up on a farm where the machinery was pulled by horses, the corn was picked by hand and you chopped wood for heat. Those people worked hard from sunup to sundown under intense pressure for survival, as the crops and livestock were their livelihood. When you talk to them, it is clear very quickly that they were superb at setting priorities and managing their time, doing what had to be done when it had to be done. Many of the old farmers that I have talked to sounded very much like Randel when they would tell me how they used to manage their time, keeping their daily, weekly and seasonal schedules in their heads.