Time management can be a struggle, especially for busy people trying to find a way to fit business, family and personal goals into their everyday lives. You want to give your partner and children the time and attention they deserve, develop your friendships, give your all at work and somehow still make it to your kid’s soccer practice and get dinner on the table. It can be overwhelming. Sadly, it’s impossible to gain extra hours in the day. But reading books to find techniques that help you improve your time management can make a big difference.
Best time management books
Part of struggling with time management is deciding which tasks to focus on each day. With seemingly unlimited options and distractions, finding your priorities can be challenging.
Below, we look at 10 of the best time management books, both classics and current bestsellers, each with its own system of prioritization and structure. Take a look and find one with time management strategies that will work best for you.
By Cal Newport
In Newport’s Deep Work, readers learn how to find and cultivate a capacity for deep focus on important tasks. The book’s first part makes a case for how we have lost the ability to focus on complex problems and allow too many things to distract us. The second part offers strategies to help increase your deep work while maintaining your busy schedule. Instead of saying that all distractions are bad, Newport focuses more on incorporating intense focus when required by implementing four rules that help readers transform their habits.
By Oliver Burkeman
The premise of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals is that if you live to 80, you’ll have 4,000 weeks to accomplish your goals and priorities. We all know we have limited time, so Burkeman argues that we should focus more on how we will fill our (hopefully) 4,000 weeks with meaning rather than just to-do lists, emails and distractions. Although the book focuses on a spiritual and philosophical approach to time management, it offers tools for constructing a meaningful life and rejecting the idea that we can, or should, do it all.
By Alice Boyes, Ph.D.
If a one-size-fits-all approach to time management doesn’t feel like it would be helpful, give Stress-Free Productivity a try. In it, Boyes argues that everyone has their unique productivity quirks that help them accomplish tasks. And because everyone has their own way of being effective, rigid systems probably won’t work. Instead, Boyes offers a framework to help you develop a personal system from the latest research on productivity and provides quizzes to help you find your productivity strengths.
By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Many think time management means widening their focus to do as much as possible. Keller and Papasan argue that successful people focus on one thing at a time. Once you establish your main priority, whether career, family or financial goals, you can remove distractions that don’t move you closer to your “one thing.” The book covers tips on learning how to say no, building momentum, staying on track and finding what matters most because discovering your “one thing” can help you find more time for what counts in life.
By Brian Tracy
In his book, Tracy focuses on practical time management tips to accomplish big tasks. Many people wish for just an extra hour or two in their day, but most of us don’t believe it’s possible to achieve. However, Tracy provides 21 strategies to help people find up to two hours daily using tips like batching tasks, avoiding procrastination and identifying key result areas. At just 112 pages, it’s a quick read to help you get a little more done each day.
By Laura Vanderkam
Vanderkam is well-known for her time management strategies. Her first of several books, 168 Hours is a classic for those looking to maximize their accomplishments. While everyone has the same 168 hours in a week (24 hours in a day, seven days in a week), Vanderkam noticed that successful people use their time differently. Rather than let important tasks like exercise or family time slip when daily life gets in the way, they use their 168 hours effectively to fit everything into their day. By rearranging your schedule, you’ll have more time for what matters most.
By Brian Tracy
Tracy’s second time management book on our list focuses on reducing procrastination so you can get more done. The title comes from a quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, best do it first thing in the morning.” Whether or not Mark Twain said it is up for debate, but tackling your most significant problem or most important task (i.e., your “frog”) first thing in the morning to get it out of the way can be a helpful strategy. Tracy provides techniques like breaking a task into smaller pieces and focusing on a single aspect to help you manage your daily “frogs.”
By Stephen R. Covey
A classic in personal development and time management, this book details daily habits for readers to incorporate into their lives. The seven habits include being proactive, putting first things first, beginning with the end in mind and sharpening the saw. With Covey’s principles, readers can learn to handle change, take action, develop proactive responses and become more effective in their personal and professional lives.
9. Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Hacking Laziness, Building Self Discipline, and Overcoming Procrastination
By Nils Salzgeber
Severe procrastinators may find this time management book helpful. Salzgeber helps people overcome procrastination and the guilt that can come with it. He explains the difference between procrastinators and non-procrastinators and offers more than 20 strategies to help get things done—even when you don’t feel like it. If you’ve ever felt criticized or beaten yourself up for procrastinating too much, this book can help you rethink your struggle and find the motivation to complete necessary tasks.
By Laura Vanderkam
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the world and life are unpredictable. In Vanderkam’s book Tranquility by Tuesday, she argues that if you want something to happen, you must design your life to make it happen. While you can’t predict every work crisis, child emergency or car repair, you can lay the groundwork to help you prioritize critical tasks. By developing a resilient schedule instead of a perfect schedule, you can prioritize what’s essential and handle the chaos of everyday life.
While each book focuses on different time management techniques, most have the common themes of determining your priorities and establishing a system that works for you. As you read these books, look for a time management system that resonates with you and work on adapting it to fit your life.
Photo by LightField Studios/Shutterstock.com