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on 31 March 2017
This book has blown my mind. Quite seriously, I nearly didn't read this because I didn't have time to read a time management book. From stressed out, spread thin, fire fighting, non progressing, overwhelmed, frustrated mum, wife and wanna be success, to calm, strategic, effective and efficient individual who can even cope, nay, feel excited about planning her new website while making huge progress in all other areas AND close the lid on her laptop and hang out with the kids. If you knew me, you would appreciate the magnitude of change and happiness this book has given me. An absolutely incredible book and thank you SO much Mr Mark Forster!!!
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on 16 June 2017
For years I have desperately been reading books on how to manage my time and stop procrastinating, and this is the best one I have found so far.

It gives practical exercises that are easy to follow, and also gives advice for when you 'fall off the wagon' and slide back into old habits, so that you can get back to the organised version of you again.

I finally feel like I am evolving into a proper grown-up, and can get on top of all of my work, emails, chores, and social/family commitments.
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on 18 August 2017
One of the best time management books I have read... in fact, it was the LAST one I ever needed to read!
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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 10 March 2013
It can sometimes feel as though Getting Things Done (GTD) is the only show in town when it comes to personal productivity, and so I have decided to make a conscious effort to explore the lesser known names in the field for the sake of balance and in the hope of unearthing some hidden gems.

Published in 2006 - 4 years after GTD - `Do It Tomorrow' is closer in style to the Richard Templar `Rules' series, and shares some of the same strengths and weakness of those books, in many ways. Forster, like Templar, is strong on principles, and I feel that this is where the greatest value of the book lies.

The basic principles are:

- Have a clear vision
- One thing at a time
- Little and often
- Limits
- Closed lists
- Reduce randomness
- Commitment vs interest
- What do we need

Arguably, these could be thought of as a subset of `Eat That Frog' by Brian Tracy: Focus on key result areas, single handle every task, slice and dice the task, practice creative procrastination, et cetera. However, Forster places a slightly different emphasis.

Single-handling, for example, is often vastly underrated; but Forster makes a powerful case:

"Tackling one thing at a time, getting it right and then moving on to the next thing, has always been the way that successful people have advanced. We tend to think unsuccessful people are unsuccessful because they sit around doing nothing. But it's often for quite the opposite reason: they take on far too much - all sorts of wonderful projects at the same time - and never bring any of them to fruition."

It brought to my mind some lingering misgivings about the applicability of the GTD 2-minute rule under certain circumstances. It is widely quoted that it can take anything from 5 to 20 minutes to recover from an interruption (a text message, a colleague dropping by at your desk, et cetera). I propose that if an interruption generates a task that needs to be done, it may be better to simply handle the task there and then rather than queuing it in your organisation system (even if it takes more than 2 minutes). The logic being that, if you have already suffered the interruption, then the recovery time for your interrupted task has to be endured whether you attempt to refocus immediately, or in 20 minutes. Whereas artificially queuing the newly introduced task introduces a small administrative overhead, and it prevents you from capitalising on the fact that the newly introduced task is fresh in your mind; and it therefore has a certain momentum attached to it that could make it quicker to complete. If you allow the task to go stale, you are storing up the future start-up cost for the newly introduced task, and you still incur the overhead of re-focusing on the interrupted task.

This might be considered heresy in some circles - and there are obvious circumstances where the logic does not hold e.g. if you have a deadline bearing down on you - but I feel it is potentially a more pragmatic approach in real life situations; and it still requires the discipline to decide whether a task is ever going to worth doing.

This leads me on to what I believe is the most fundamental insight in `Do It Tomorrow':

"Prioritising tasks is to be prioritising at the wrong level. The right place for prioritising is at the level of goals and commitments. Since all your work flows from your commitments, it is absolutely essential to be selective about which commitments you are going to take on."

What Forster says is obvious, but powerful: That, on average, you can only accept a day's incoming work per day (and that has to include everything from the most to the least important tasks whether you like it or not). The fatal flaw in most personal productivity systems is the failure to recognise that unimportant things have to get done too. "Iron my work shirt for tomorrow", "Put my crisp packet in the bin", "Spend 5 minutes checking your timesheets" can never be as high a priority as "Put together presentation for executive committee" or "Set up personal pension" but these things still have to happen. So the mantra that "You should only ever work on your highest priority task, and pursue that until it is complete" is partially flawed because it ignores that fact that you will ultimately take 30 seconds out of your day to put your crisp packet in the bin and you will spend 5 minutes checking your timesheets regardless of what else needs to be done.

If you can accept this basic premise - that low priority stuff also has to happen somehow - then prioritising at the task level becomes less important because either you have an appropriate level of goals and commitments, or you don't; and if you don't, then prioritising will only delay, at best, the disintegration of your system to the point where administering it starts to take more and more time, and you enter a death spiral. I can say from personal experience that I have, on occasion in the past, reached the point where I have had so much work on my plate that administering the prioritisation of my work has taken more than a full day. It is obvious in those situations that something is wrong, and the only solution under those circumstances is to eliminate some of your goals and commitments.

I would recommend `Do It Tomorrow' to anybody with an interest in personal productivity.
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on 16 May 2012
I found parts of this book really useful. You really need to re-read it and make notes to get the most out of it, and there's quite a lot here: I finished up with a deck of 40 Powerpoint slides with 5-10 bullet points on each! Now I've been implementing the system for a few days, I've managed to get quite a lot done.

The system seems to be tailored mostly towards independent or home-workers and clock-watchers; I'm not sure how well it would work in fast-paced / high-pressure / team-based / mobile / agile environments, and I see no evidence that Forster knows either. Some explanation of where these principles are and are not applicable would be useful. However, you can get a feel for his ideas and apply them non-literally. The Scrum software-development methodology, for example, works on some similar priniciples using closed lists, except using a timeframe of weeks instead of a single day.

I'd have liked to have seen some explanation of why a day, and only a day is chosen as the timeframe for closed lists. Why not "what I'm going to do this morning"? What about planning what I'm doing this week? I don't personally recognize the situation where the bulk of our work arrives one day in nice little chunks and is dealt with the next. More of my work comes from structured projects or tasks working towards particular goals; the reality is that you need to plan dependencies and structure large swathes of work, and this book doesn't deal with that at all. Chapter 14 is on "dealing with projects", but it doesn't say much apart from a downright illogical argument that you should do your least urgent things first (so that they don't become urgent... disregarding the actual urgent tasks that are fast becoming emergencies...), and a few tips on delegating.

Nevertheless, I think the basic ideas are good: closed "will-do" lists being way better than open "to-do" lists, buffer zones, choosing your commitments, and recognizing what your real work is. It's a smorgasbord of techniques with good tips for example for overcoming resistance and procrastination. It really does need to be supplemented with additional practical techniques, however. Timeboxing is mentioned (as "working in timed bursts"), but you'll need to look this up in more detail elsewhere (try searching on "pomodoro technique"), as a way of motivating yourself on timescales finer than a day. You'll need to figure out for yourself a practical system of recording a list of tasks prior to scheduling, then organizing them into your task diary (ToodleDo seems pretty good, combined with a client for your mobile device like DGT GTD for Android).
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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 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 1 February 2008
Like many of the other reviewers I have read many other books on time management and yet, no matter how theoretically wonderful they were, never managed to find the time (!) to put anything useful into practice. "Do it tomorrow" is different: it is short; it is simple; it is easy to put into practice; it works!

If, like me, you are serially disorganized or never quite have enough hours in a day (which presumably you are since you are reading this review), buy this book, read it and do what Mr Foster says. I was fairly skeptical at first - some of the advice, such as lying to yourself in the "I'll just get the file out" technique, seems pure trickery - but it works, and works in a way that nothing has seemed to work before (at least for me). I believe that this is largely due to the simplicity of both the principles and the techniques to help you implement them.

It is a terrible cliche to say that this book has changed my life but it is not so very far from the truth. Thank you Mr Foster!
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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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