The 5 choices (affiliate link) is a book designed help us deal with the huge number of inputs we have on a daily basis. We live in an ever connected world of telephone calls, emails, texts, tweets, Facebook notifications, meetings and much more that take our attention away from our “big tasks” each minute of each day.
The 5 choices are quite simple – deceptively so I think. They are:
- Act on the important, don’t react to the urgent
- Go for extraordinary, don’t settle for ordinary
- Schedule the big rocks, don’t sort gravel
- Rule your technology, don’t let it rule you
- Fuel your fire, don’t burn out
I have to admit, at this point of reading I wasn’t impressed. I’ve spent the past month revisiting Steven Covey’s “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” and all I thought was “This is a complete re-hash of Covey’s Habit 3 (Put First Things First)” but when I continued reading I realised that the book expanded on Covey’s core principles and really started to gel with me.
You don’t have to be well-versed in Covey’s “7 Habits”* before reading this book but I feel that it really helped me to understand where the authors were coming from and what they were trying to achieve with their very simple and understandable approach to time management and prioritising tasks.
Why do we need this book?
Thanks to modern technology we’re essentially connected 24–7 to email, social media, and even TV on-the-go and on occasion we don’t know in which direction our attention should be pulled or what is the most important to-do at that point in time.
The Basics behind the “5 Choices”
The authors point out that just because we can do more faster thanks to technology, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re doing the right tasks at the right time. Thanks to our “Reactive” and “Thinking” brains, we act on situations in a certain way and they are either a good way of handling something or it can all go to pot.
Our “Reactive” brain is our caveman centre, the fight or flight response and the angry voice in our head when we feel the need to snap at someone, run away or just clench our fists and “grrrr”.
Our “Thinking” brain is our more advanced brain that makes us think about outcomes, how others will feel, next steps and much more.
Once you realise whether you’re using Reactive or Thinking brain, you can then start to figure out where your time is being spent and in what quadrant.
As with Covey, the authors of 5 Choices pick 4 quadrants that we operate in:
- Q1 – Urgent and Important
- Q2 – Not urgent but IMPORTANT
- Q3 – Not Important but urgent
- Q4 – Not important or urgent
The book however is focussed entirely in Q2 with only small reference to the other Quadrants.
We need to be firmly based in Quadrant 2 (Q2). Quadrant 2 covers all items that are important (but not necessarily urgent).
Each of the choices are broken down within the book (with examples) to show how they fit into Q2 behaviours (or don’t), and if you’re a leader (read: politically correct jargon for manager) how you can apply the principles to your workforce.
“5 choices” looks at a variety of methods for prioritising and managing your time from time blocking and filtering emails learning to say “No”.
Each of the “Choices” are well described and there is plenty of food for thought. I do think however that is was really advantageous that I read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of highly effective people” just before reading the “5 Choices”.
There are a lot of shared principles between the “7 Habits” and the “5 Choices” – the book is published by Franklin Covey after all! Perhaps the parallels are more apparent to me as I spent February re-reading the 7 Habits?
Irrespective of this I was really pleasantly surprised with the “5 Choices”. Normally “self-helpy” books like this tend to wallow in jargon and self-importance. This book is nothing like this; it’s well written, easy to understand and very relatable.
I’d like to think that I’m reasonably savvy when it comes to time-managment and self-management techniques so I couldn’t possibly learn anything from this book, right? Wrong! I learnt that I can say “No”, schedule time for certain tasks at certain times and know that taking a break every now and again isn’t a bad thing.
Who Is This Book For?
- If you’re what’s called a “Knowledge Worker” and want to know how you can become more efficient
- If you are a fan of Stephen Covey and would like to explore his Q2 theory more
- You’re fed up of dealing with so-called “urgent” items all the time and want to get on with your important things
- You need to learn how to fit everything in to your busy work day
This book is a very quick-and-easy read and it may come across intially as a typical management handbook but, if you’re familiar with Covey’s 7 Habits, it makes a lot of sense.
This book is a great addition to Covey’s “7 Habits of highly effective people” and is a must-read for anyone who is contemplating introducing the habits into their lives.