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Summary: Successful Time Management: How to be Organized, Productive and Get Things Done by Patrick Forsyth

  • The book is a guide for improving one’s time management skills and adopting new work practices that enhance efficiency and effectiveness.
  • The book presents seven principles of time management, with proven tips, tools, and techniques to help readers review and assess their current situation, and implement changes that suit their needs and goals.
  • The book also provides practical exercises, useful templates, and top tips to help readers minimize time-wasting and interruptions, and focus on the priorities that will lead to success in their job and career.

Successful Time Management (2003) is a practical guide containing tools and techniques to improve workflow productivity. It offers time-saving and actionable advice that will help you organize projects, delegate tasks, and select priorities in the workplace.

Introduction: Save time to get ahead.

Are you drowning in a sea of paperwork, never-ending emails, and time-consuming meetings? Is work so hectic and overwhelming that you feel you can never get enough done?

Well, fear not!

This summary will help you develop a key skill that’s imperative to navigating the modern workplace: the art of time management. Here, you’ll find the tools and techniques you need to be efficient, effective, and focused on what truly matters – no matter your line of work.

So let’s not waste any more time. Jump in, and get ready to unlock your true productivity potential.

Book Summary: Successful Time Management - How to be Organized, Productive and Get Things Done

Time-saving foundations

If you work in a modern office, you’ll agree that time is precious – and that there never seems to be enough of it.

But ask yourself this: How much time do you actually spend working, and how much time do you spend figuring out what to work on, searching for documents, writing repetitive emails, and so on?

Actually, don’t just ask yourself this. Keep a time log for a week. Record every task you do throughout the day and sort them into plannable time, reactive time, and wasted time. Plannable time is the time you take for your actual work. Reactive time is the time you spend responding to people, fixing tech problems, and putting out other fires. Wasted time is, well, wasted time.

You’ll be shocked how much of your week the latter two take up.

But with the right strategies, this can change.

Time management is an indispensable skill for anyone looking to get ahead in the workplace. Since time management is essentially self-management, what works best for you will depend on your unique situation. But there are a few foundational elements of good time management that apply across the board.

The first element is planning. Before you do anything, figure out how to do it best. The golden rule here is that the time you invest in understanding and organizing a task is time you’ll save doubly when executing it.

You may have heard the acronym “SMART objectives”. Setting SMART objectives means setting objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed. Such clear-cut goals provide clarity and direction.

The second element of good time-management is proper implementation. The most important strategy here is to break your big tasks into smaller, more manageable subtasks. If you’ve set SMART objectives, this should be relatively easy. Breaking up tasks also allows for easier progress tracking.

Which brings us to the third element: monitoring. Regularly evaluating your results and methods will help you stay on track in the long-term.

The fourth and final element revolves around communication. Clear briefing and efficient reporting can minimize costly misunderstandings and unnecessary back-and-forth with your colleagues.

So, now that you have an overview of the elements of good time management, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Organizing with the LEAD system

When it comes to time management, organization is everything.

A lack of organization means time is wasted, efforts are duplicated, deadlines are missed, and results suffer. So how can we get organized and stay that way?

First, establish a written overview of your tasks. Choose a suitable format and time span for your work needs – such as a weekly calendar or a daily journal. Regularly check and update this overview to stay organized.

Next, follow the LEAD system, or L-E-A-D.

“L” stands for Listing activities. Write down all the tasks you need to accomplish and sort them into your calendar based on task type and deadlines.

“E” stands for Estimating time. Realistically estimate how long each activity will take. Understanding how much time tasks will take allows for better planning and resource allocation.

“A” stands for Allowing contingency time. Plan buffer time for unexpected interruptions. This ensures productivity even in the face of unforeseen delays.

“D” stands for Deciding priorities. Assess the importance and urgency of each task, updating your priorities based on changing circumstances or new information.

The LEAD system makes for a great overview of all your work.

It will also allow you to batch tasks, making your work flow even smoother. You can categorize activities into groups – such as answering emails – and work them off in one fell swoop. This saves a surprising amount of time that’s usually spent on context-switching.

Your LEAD system can also incorporate checklists for routine tasks, ensuring consistency and accuracy. For instance, if you regularly have to write reports to your supervisor, make a checklist of what they need to include.

Finally, make sure your organization extends to your physical workspace. Keep your desk clean and tidy, and implement a clear ordering system for documents, tools, and resources.

With good organization, you’ll cut down immensely on the work it takes to do work. No more figuring out what to do next, jumping between unrelated tasks, and searching for the right documents – you’ll be able to concentrate on just doing what’s important, when it’s important.

Minimizing time-wasters

Picture this: You’re engrossed in an important task, making progress, when suddenly your phone rings. It’s your boss, so you pick up. When you do, you realize she’s only calling to get your input on where to go for lunch. Yet somehow, the call still takes ten minutes and completely derails your workflow.

This is something everyone can agree on: the only things more frustrating than interruptions are unnecessary interruptions. And whether they mean to be or not, the cause of both is almost always people.

Frankly, other people are impossible to control. But with a few key tactics, you can at least manage their impact on your work time.

First and foremost, you want to learn the power of saying no. Protect your precious time and refuse additional requests or tasks when it’s necessary. If a request can be postponed, set a later time to address it, ensuring it doesn’t disrupt your current flow.

Second, set boundaries. Use a classic “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office door, turn off notifications, or consider relocating to a quieter space to reduce disruptions. If you choose to address an interruption, allocate only a limited time, such as 10 minutes, to figure out how to deal with it – later, if necessary.

Third, lead by example. Keep your communication with others brief and to the point. For instance, craft your emails with a clear purpose, provide relevant background information, and only send them to people who really need to read them. By minimizing unnecessary recipients, you streamline communication and save valuable time. Consider that for more complex issues, face-to-face or phone conversations may actually allow you to communicate more efficiently.

Finally, let’s address some self-generated time wasters. We all have those tasks we delay because they’re difficult or simply unenjoyable. But here’s the truth: procrastination only hampers your productivity. With proper organization, you should have a good idea of which tasks should take priority. In the next section, we’ll look a little closer at the art of deciding priorities.

Deciding on priorities

Have you ever noticed that a small percentage of your efforts produces the majority of your results? That’s the essence of the 80/20 rule established by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist. Pareto asserted that roughly 20 percent of causes lead to 80 percent of effects.

Make the right 20 percent of tasks your priority at work, and your productivity should skyrocket.

But how to identify that 20 percent?

Categorize your tasks into four distinct categories.

First, there are those that are both urgent and important. These tasks require immediate attention, as they have a direct impact on your goals.

Next, we have tasks that are urgent but not necessarily important. These tasks may demand your attention, but they don’t contribute significantly to your long-term success.

Then, there are tasks that are important but not urgent. These tasks require your attention, but you have the flexibility to schedule them strategically.

Lastly, there are tasks that are neither urgent nor important, but still necessary – like alphabetizing your document archive.

Allocate some time to tackle these miscellaneous tasks to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. But structure your work schedule around what’s urgent and important – those are your 20 percent tasks.

When you schedule those tasks, do it in reverse order. For example, if you’re producing a newsletter, begin with the deadline and work backward. Estimate the time required for each stage, such as writing, designing, and formatting. Don’t forget to allow buffer time for unexpected delays. Then, schedule those subtasks into your calendar.

Regularly reviewing your methodology can help perfect your 20 percent tasks as well as deal with the less important ones. Ask yourself: Can you change your approach to get things done faster? Are there ways to systematize random tasks? Can you collaborate with someone to ease the workload?

Finally, be confident in your priorities once you’ve identified them. Don’t hesitate to let go of tasks that don’t align with them. Identify tasks you do out of habit, insurance, avoidance, or simply to meet expectations. If they don’t serve your goals, cut them out.

By leveraging the power of the 80/20 rule and streamlining your task management, you’ll achieve more in less time.

Working well with others

Let’s return to the topic of people – your greatest asset and your biggest time drain.

From friendly chit-chat to lengthy business lunches, social interactions can either enhance productivity in the workplace or derail everyone’s focus.

But with the right tools, it’s possible to strike the proper balance between chumminess and productivity.

First, take a critical look at your social interactions at work. Fors instance, consider the many never-ending business lunches and outings. What kind of value do they really contribute? Assess whether these engagements add to meaningful relationships, or alternative approaches might achieve the same results in less time. Maybe you could even send a colleague or assistant to some of them.

Conflict resolution can be another major time sink. Proactively minimizing conflicts may mean taking the high road more often than you would like, but it can save valuable time. If you’re in a management position, you have additional options for fostering a harmonious work environment. For instance, make sure you recruit the right people for the job, provide clear instructions on tasks, and seek feedback on assignments.

Management positions also offer more opportunity for delegation – your secret weapon in the battle against time constraints. Consider which of your tasks could be outsourced with minimal risk. Then make sure to select the right person, maintain clear communication, and monitor progress. This doesn’t just free up your time – it also motivates and develops your team.

When people come to you for help, embrace the powerful question, “What do you think you should do?” By encouraging independent problem-solving, you also foster a culture of growth.

Lastly, let’s tackle the notorious meeting conundrum. Before scheduling any meeting, make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Set a starting and an end time, come with a well-prepared agenda, and require everyone else to do the same. Streamlining these gatherings can make them truly worthwhile.


In the modern workplace, good time management is a key component of success. It has four base components: proper planning, smart implementation, regular monitoring, and effective communication.

With the LEAD system, you’ll be able to prioritize your activities and allocate time efficiently. LEAD stands for Listing activities, Estimating time, Allowing for contingency, and Deciding priorities.

Effective communication with your colleagues ensures coordination and productivity. By following these techniques and embracing organization, you can take control of your time and achieve your goals.


“Successful Time Management” by Patrick Forsyth is a practical guide that offers strategies and techniques to help individuals effectively manage their time, become more organized, and boost productivity. The book provides actionable advice on setting priorities, avoiding common time-wasting habits, and optimizing daily routines to accomplish tasks efficiently.

Forsyth begins by highlighting the importance of recognizing the value of time as a finite and irreplaceable resource. He discusses the concept of time thieves, which are activities and behaviors that sap productivity, and offers tips on identifying and combatting them. The book covers various aspects of time management, from setting clear goals and priorities to delegating tasks, handling interruptions, and using technology effectively.

Key Takeaways:

  • Time Awareness: The book emphasizes the importance of understanding the value of time and the need to make conscious choices about how to use it effectively.
  • Prioritization: Forsyth provides guidance on setting clear priorities and using techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks based on importance and urgency.
  • Time-Wasting Behaviors: The book identifies common time-wasting habits and distractions and offers strategies to minimize or eliminate them.
  • Goal Setting: Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals is discussed as a fundamental aspect of effective time management.
  • Delegation and Technology: Forsyth addresses the value of delegation and offers insights into using technology tools and apps to enhance productivity.

“Successful Time Management” by Patrick Forsyth is a concise and practical resource for individuals seeking to improve their time management skills and become more organized and productive. The book’s straightforward and actionable advice makes it accessible to a wide range of readers.

One of the book’s strengths is its focus on practicality. Forsyth provides readers with a toolkit of strategies, techniques, and tips that can be immediately applied in both personal and professional life. The inclusion of real-life examples and case studies adds depth to the concepts presented.

Forsyth’s emphasis on the value of time and the need to prioritize tasks aligns with widely accepted time management principles. His discussion of common time thieves and strategies for overcoming them is particularly valuable for readers looking to identify and eliminate productivity-draining habits.

However, some readers may find that the book lacks in-depth exploration of certain topics, and the information presented is relatively basic. Additionally, while the book provides a solid foundation for time management, readers seeking advanced or specialized strategies may need to supplement their knowledge with more specialized resources.

In conclusion, “Successful Time Management” is a practical and accessible guide to improving time management skills and productivity. Patrick Forsyth’s straightforward approach and actionable advice make it a valuable resource for individuals looking to become more organized and efficient in their daily lives.

Summary: Successful Time Management: How to be Organized, Productive and Get Things Done by Patrick Forsyth

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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