Book reviews – Do it tomorrow

Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster

This article was first published in May 2007 in Student Accountant.

At first sight this looks more like a guide to procrastination than time management, but that’s because it’s taking a completely different approach to this much written about subject. The basic idea is to eliminate random approaches to getting work done by scheduling work for the next day, rather than trying to deal with it immediately. Providing a buffer zone of at least one day means you can organise your tasks in a realistic way, thus eliminating the constant build-up of backlogs. ‘Few things are so urgent that they wouldn’t be better put off till tomorrow,’ writes Mark Forster.

Those who have found standard advice about time management has done little to improve their effectiveness should gain new inspiration from this book. The author believes that the normal approaches – of prioritisation by importance and ‘to do’ lists – are fundamentally wrong as ‘they tend to make us do more of what gave us the problem in the first place’. Underpinning this approach is the concept of a closed list. This is very different from a standard to do list in that it’s something you don’t add to. It’s a list that always gets smaller, consequently providing a real sense of achievement and increased motivation. Items on a closed list don’t need to be done in any order; because it’s all going to get done in a day – it doesn’t matter which tasks you do first or last. On a conventional list, low priority tasks often end up shifted to the next list and the ones after that, so backlogs build quickly. The author’s advice is that there should only be two days on which work gets actioned: ‘today or tomorrow, the strong preference is for tomorrow’.

The book’s 16 chapters are full of practical advice and interesting insights. There’s quite a bit on realistic goal setting and managing commitments. ‘A good rule to use is never say yes to anything unless you can say it wholeheartedly.’

Although the text is rather dense it’s a surprisingly easy book to read. So much of what’s there makes good sense which encourages you to keep going. The explanations and justifications for the mañana approach are clear, with good use of analogies to push the point home. Dotted throughout the book are quizzes and checklists that reinforce the message, with practical exercises to help you put it all into practice. The promised returns for a few small adjustments are attractive – time to call your own.

Irene Krechowiecka is a careers coach and journalist

Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management, Mark Forster, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0 340 90912 9