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on 23 August 2006
Mark Forster's new book, "Do it Tomorrow", is quite likely the only book you'll ever need to manage your time and your life (I should know--I've read most of the others!)

From closed lists to the manana principle, Mark's thinking is infused with clarity, applicability and a deep knowledge of human nature gleaned from his years of hands-on experience in coaching. You will find truly new ideas here--ideas that may go against your deeply held beliefs about time management (what? DON'T prioritise??); but start applying them and you'll see startling results almost immediately.

I've been applying Mark's principles for a month now and I can't imagine working any other way. I'm now on top of my work, have systems in place for incoming jobs, and I have time for my personal life. Every item on my "will-do" list gets crossed out by the end of the day. All with zero stress.

Most of all, the principles are simple and easy to apply on a daily basis, unlike so many books out there that necessitate you to spend more time planning what to do than actually doing it--so easy to apply, in fact, that you can start implementing them even before you finish reading the book!

A resounding 5 stars!!
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on 6 August 2006
Having read and enjoyed Mark Forster's two previous comprehensive books on time management, I was wondering what he could possibly have left to say on the subject but "Do It Tomorrow..." is packed with new ideas and innovative thinking.

I read this book in just a few hours because (a) it's an easy and interesting read, and (b) I couldn't wait to get to the end to get started using the principles. I could see from the outset that they would work for me. After finishing, I immediately started applying the principles to clear an inbox of emails that had grown to 955 in size. His advice on dealing with backlogs (both electronic and paper) is worth the purchase of the book alone.

The style amalgamates those of his previous two books as Mark uses his own working environment as the testing ground throughout, the book gives systems for clearing backlogs, dealing with day-to-day work, identifying what's actually in a day's work, getting past stuck states, preventing projects becoming emergencies.

But apart from all this, I think the most helpful outcome for many readers will be that it gives permission for us all to stop beating ourselves up and stressing out and yet we'll still get our work done.

Personally, I think it's Mark's best work yet. There's only one thing that I would recommend you don't put off until tomorrow, buying this book. Buy it today and start cutting yourself some slack AND getting your life back in order tomorrow.
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VINE VOICEon 21 April 2008
You could skip pages 1-108 and not really miss very much at all!

The author has some good tips and ideas to pass on, but unfortunately spends far too many pages presenting his theories on the way we think and feel; the side of our brain that plans versus the side that reacts; how to get one to fool the other.

There seems to be a laborious amount of repetition of these theories, I'm afraid those 100-odd pages are best described as waffle.

The form, presentation and layout of the book could also be a good deal better. Most contemporary books in this genre would make use of illustrations, relevant pictures, quotations etc. This book has none of these embellishments; it consists of 200 pages of plain text. The book contains many question & answer exercises, often running to ten or so questions, causing the answers to be 2 pages on from the relevant question - trivial, but believe me tedious when it has occurred enough times.

Another odd thing about the book is that the author has chosen to present a 'quick start' guide on one page as a preface before page 1:
"This book will tell you much more about how to do this, but the method essentially consists of these four steps"
1 - Put all the work you are behind on into backlog folders and put it where you can't see it.
2 - Collect all your incoming work during the day and deal with it the next day. Group similar tasks .... Aim to clear the lot every day.
3 - If anything is too urgent to leave for tomorrow, write it down and action it at a convenient time. Never take even the simplest action without writing it down first.
4 - Spend some time clearing the backlog folders every day. When you've finally cleared them, find something else you want to get sorted and start doing that first thing every day instead.

I can understand the principle of "tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em", but there's just no hook or wow factor in that preface, to then follow it up with 100 pages of waffle!!!

The final chapter seems completely at odds with the bulk of the book, one can almost sense that this time management guru was almost late for his deadline and wrapped it up quickly. After so many verbose chapters we are very directly and succintly told the best way to file (lever arch folders) and that it's best to keep these on a bookshelf and to always replace the most recently used folder at the left hand end - an interesting alternative to filing cabinets, I could see it working, I reckon it's probably a good idea. These ideas are presented in a few pages of greyed-boxes, looking different to the rest of the book.

The author refers to his use of Microsoft Outlook, and of striving for a single collecting point, then advocates a day journal, and a page-a-day diary, and a determination to write everything down before doing anything.

In my humble opinion, if you want help and a methodology for managing the modern ills and overloads of email, tasks, time scheduling and project management it would be a far better use of your time to read 'Take back your Life using Microsoft Outlook' by Sally McGhee. I read this book and bought copies for several colleagues. We all had Outlook, but by using that book gained a greater understanding of the capabilities of the software AND a common language for managing work effectively.

My apologies for going against the crowd, I anticipate that I run the risk of negative feedback from the many 5-star raters who have gone before. Might I ask that if you disagree with my review and decide to award me negative feedback that you also take just one moment to add a comment as to where we disagree? (Thanks for that)
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on 10 November 2006
Mark Forster, voted one of Britain's top ten coaches, has a rare gift - enabling the naturally disorganised to take control of their working day and feel at the end of it that they've achieved what they set out to do, not just once, but every day.

In personality terms there is a continuum between those who are highly organised, systematic, methodical and disciplined, and those who, well, aren't... I naturally incline towards the less organised end of the scale, and I need good structures in place to help me keep on top of things. But "time management" doesn't work for me, and Mark Forster knows that I'm not alone.

So how are his systems different? Firstly, the two sacred cows of traditional time management, the "to do" list and prioritising by importance and urgency, are challenged and found sadly wanting. "They tend to make us do more of what gave us the problem in the first place" he asserts. "There are only three reasons why we are behind: we are working inefficiently, we have too much to do, or we have too little time to do it in."

The primary focus of the book is on working efficiently - i.e. getting through things as quickly as possible. There are real "aha" moments: Don't wait to put in new systems until you've dealt with the backlog - you never will, was my favourite. Mark Forster deals with all the main challenges of modern working, whether you are a one-person band, a senior manager or working in an open plan office with all the distractions that brings. His solution to email is just exquisite. But you must read the book.
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on 17 May 2007
1st edition (2006), 203 pages

Do It Tomorrow is only the fourth useful book on time management that I've come across (the other three are The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker and The Management of Time by James T Mackay - the last two of which were published decades ago).

Most standard time management dogma seems to involve advice about how to cram ever more of what you are currently doing into your day. I have been deeply suspicious of this approach for a long time now. It never worked for me and I've not seen it working for other people either.

I'll quote a paragraph from the beginning of chapter four (`The Problem with Time Management') which gives a good flavour of Forster's style and approach to his subject:

"The two things I want to examine are the concept of prioritising by importance and the frequently used tool of making a to-do list. Both of these tend to be the sacred cows of time management, and I believe both of them are fundamentally wrong. The reason is the same in both cases: they tend to make us do more of what gave us the problem in the first place."

It is a great shame that it is so rare for an author to pay close attention to the evidence, even if it leads to conclusions totally opposite to conventional wisdom on the subject. Mark Forster is one of those authors and I strongly advise reading his terrific little book - you won't be disappointed.
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on 7 December 2013
Do It Tomorrow.

There are 16 chapters in the book. Chapter 16 is two pages long and doesn't really count.

There is a lot of overlap between many of the chapters. My only criticism of the book is that after making notes on each chapter, then standing back and analysing my notes I realised that 8 of the chapters could be condensed into a single chapter that was slightly larger than average but more concisely worded. That said, this book only cost me £3.98 for a good used copy and the style in which it is written and the way it is laid out made it easy to devour this book quickly and start putting the system to use. It is well worth the money and I highly recommend it.

I've given it 5 stars despite the overlap and repetition because of the sheer power of some of the insights I've gained from the book.

There are no pictures or diagrams in the book, just text, but it still does very well making it's points.

My 3 take home points were these:

1. Closed lists are the only tool you need.
A closed list is simply a to-do list that is compiled at the end of a working day and represents your to-do list for tomorrow (hence the title of the book). The list is said to be closed because it can't be added to during the next day when you work on it. You simply do everything that is on the list and nothing more. As new work comes in, put it on your closed list for the next day. Exceptions to this rule should be rare. An open to-do list is one that has no limits imposed and can just be added to whatever, whenever. Thus it becomes rather unwieldy and most of it never gets completed.

Once you fully understand what a closed list is, keep it in mind as you read the book and you'll see that all the good time management practices that Mark Forster recommends are made possible by the use of closed lists. Likewise all the benefits of this system are derived from closed lists. Take closed lists out of the equation and the entire book would cease to exist.

2. Prioritising by importance is a complete and utter fallacy.
This was the biggest insight I gained from this book and it sheds light on and makes sense of so much other time management advice I have read over the years.

Doing the classic time management thing of prioritising by importance is meaningless. Yes, that's right, meaningless. In almost every book or blog post I've ever read on time management it mentions that you should look at what you have to do and then prioritise by importance and then take action on the most important thing to the exclusion of all the smaller more trivial things that you could be doing.

Essentially, by categorising things as important or unimportant says is that you are basically choosing what you are going to do well, and what you are going to do badly. You're choosing what you will work on and what you will leave to rot.

Prioritising by importance like this at TASK LEVEL is too little too late. It's calling 999 (or 911) after your house has already burned down.The unimportant things will never be done. They will build up, creating a massive backlog. These things may not be the MOST important things, but some of them will still be seriously important. If left undone, they will, sooner or later assert their importance upon you.

Mark Forster says that all your work flows from commitments. Commitments are goals you set for yourself, or responsibilities that are given to you (or opportunities offered to you) by people further up the hierarchy i.e. your boss.

It is commitment level that you should make decisions at, not task level. Mark's argument is that if you take on a commitment (a project for example) then you should be prepared do 100% of the tasks it creates to the best of your ability, not just cherry pick the ones you want to do.

Note that I say make decisions at commitment level, because you still shouldn't actually prioritise by importance at commitment level. Don't allocate less time to your commitments, take on fewer commitments in the first place. Advice that we have all heard before, but the way Mark Forster highlights it, it really struck a chord with me.

So if you or your team are at capacity already, don't start neglecting some of what you're doing, push back to your boss and say that if he/she wants you to do this new project or take on a new responsibility, you'll have to give up something that you're already doing.

It's like having a baby and then prioritising, at TASK LEVEL the feeding of that child over and above everything else such as the grooming, hygiene, healthcare and education. Yes the child will never go hungry, and will remain alive, but it will be smelly, unkempt, diseased and stupid.

The correct time to pick and choose is at commitment level: "Do I want to have a child at all?"

If the answer is yes, then you do all tasks related to raising the child as best you can, don't prioritise.

Other examples might be:
"Do I want to join the fund-raising committee?"
"Do I want to coach the soccer team?"

Commitment level, is where you manage your time, not task level.

Manage overall capacity, not priorities within that capacity.

3. Prioritising by urgency should be for other people's work
If you work in an organisation that deals with a lot of genuine emergencies then you will have a structure and a system in place to deal with them. Think hospitals or any of the emergency services.

Most apparently urgent tasks are urgent because somewhere along the line, someone has left something undone for a considerable period of time and it has now become urgent. If someone gives you something allegedly urgent to do, then write it down and look at the words. Think. Does this really need to be done today? What are the consequences of not doing it today? Ideally you'd like to put it on your closed list for tomorrow and DO IT TOMORROW. How long will it take? Can you action it later on when you have some free time?

You personally should never need to prioritise any of your own work as urgent because using the Do It Tomorrow system, you're so organised, you don't let things go undone for very long. You make an early start on everything using the power of the closed list, and stay on top of your workload.
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on 27 February 2007
I've read all three of Mark Forster's books, and was waiting eagerly for months for this one to come out. I was not disappointed; it's an excellent, tightly-written, book packed with great advice on time-management.

Mark writes in a very accessible style, but with great insight into the way in which people actually think and behave. I found his advice most helpful as a student, and even now I'm working in a 9-5 job (where my day is at the mercy of various managers) I still find the tips on managing a workload, dealing with backlogs and organising myself very helpful indeed.

If you're thinking about buying *Do it Tomorrow*, you might want to read Mark's blog at [...] -- he updates it regularly (most days) and always has something interesting to say.

This book could save you many, many times the cover price, in my opinion. Buying it definitely shouldn't be on your list for 'Tomorrow'; do it today!
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on 8 July 2006
I've read Mark Forster's previous two books and I've benefited from advice in both - from developing "depth habits" of meditation, journalling and walking to maintaining a dialogue between my (idealised) future and my (imperfect) current selves.

In some ways it's too early to review this book. It will merit its stars if I'm still using his system in five years time.On the other hand, I tried some of his ideas last week and I feel a lot more in control of my office. I "declared a backlog" and put a whole pile of papers in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet. I then dealt with each day's paperwork the following day and chipped away at the backlog when I could. The bottom drawer is now empty and I have a "closed list" of actions waitng for me on Monday morning. Of course there are some situations that do need to be dealt with immediately, but I'm in a better mental state for these.

I've previously been an adherant of David Allen and his "Getting Things Done" mantra. Whilst there's a lot of value in that - particularly the advice on Weekly Reviews, identifying Desirable Outcomes and Next Actions - I've tended to build up a lot of open lists for each "context for action".

I thought Forster was particualrly strong on the difference between commitments and interests. The menu metaphor was powerful; in choosing some commitments you are also rejecting others. Forster makes it clear that if you can't, on a regular basis, action all of one day's incoming on the following day, then you're always going to have problems. It seems an obvious point, but it's one that's missed by other Time Management experts.

Of course, I'm breaking one of the rules at the moment. I've allowed myself to be diverted from yesterday's closed list of tasks to rather "randomly" write this review. There's enough good sense in this book to sugest that the habits it recommends are worth acquiring.
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on 1 April 2007
To my utter relief, I read the first half of this book and was already using its advice by the next day at work. The really big thing for me was how much calmer it made me - I tend to become a little paralysed by the mountain on my desk (what do I start first?!) But this book really removes the quiet panic from the pit of my stomach.

I still have too much in my in tray, but now I have a much better way of dealing with it and I know it's not me being inefficient, it's just that there really is too much to do. Now I'm getting more of it done and I'm less stressed about it.
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on 12 December 2006
I have never been inspired enough to post an Internet review for anything until this book came into my life. 'Do it Tomorrow' has changed my life. It is the first and only time management system for me that has ever worked. I am more productive than I ever thought possible. I sleep well for the first time in my adult life. Also, I found time for the important things in life like family, fitness, lunch! I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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