When time-management consultant Jeffrey J. Mayer's latest book hit the market, it joined the growing group of some 17 million Dummies.
"Time Management for Dummies" was sold out before the first printing of 35,000 was shipped. Now in its second printing of 30,000, the book and its author can hold their spines straight next to IDG Books' popular series that includes "DOS for Dummies" and "Windows for Dummies."
Mr. Mayer is no stranger to success. Through Mayer Enterprises in Chicago, he has taught some of the country's top business leaders how to be efficient. In addition, he wrote "If You Haven't Got the Time to Do It Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do It Over?" which has sold almost 500,000 copies worldwide, according to Mr. Mayer. He's written two other books on getting organized and has been dubbed the "dean of the desk cleaners" by People magazine. His neatnik ways have earned the admiration of several Fortune 500 executives, who pay him $1,000 to clear the clutter from their desk.
Now Mr. Mayer confidently claims his new book will become "the definitive book on time management."
His publisher is upbeat, but a bit more circumspect when describing why "Time Management for Dummies" has a chance to be noticed among the hundreds of other time-management titles. "It's about getting yourself organized, but it has another layer of information," says Kathy Welton, vice president and publisher of IDG Books Worldwide Inc. "It deals with e-mail, voice-mail, computers, hardware and software.
"Also, the Dummies format makes it unique. You don't have to read it from cover to cover. You can just look up what you need to know."
Or you can just call up Mr. Mayer, who gladly answered questions about his book earlier this week. (He does provide his contact information throughout the book and invites questions from readers.)
Q: If you had time to suggest only three things to readers that would save them time and increase their productivity, what would they be?
A: "The most important tool for everything in the '90s is your follow-up system. . . . With it, you can be proactive. Take control of things. Always be asking yourself, 'What do I need to do, who do I need to do it for and when does it have to be done?'
"Have a master to-do list or use Act [a personal organizer program that costs about $200 at software retailers and that is the subject of Mr. Mayer's next Dummies book] and use it religiously throughout the day. Look at your master list and pick something off it to do that's going to have a payoff, something that will put money in your pocket." Mr. Mayer says that is what a "priority" is in business.
"Last, make an appointment with yourself. Block off time for yourself when you have the most energy and enthusiasm. Give yourself the first two hours of your workday so you tackle your work when you'll do your best."
Q: What is the single most debilitating time-management snafu for most people?
A: "Interruptions. Close the door and turn off the telephone if you're lucky enough to have a door. And if you don't, tell people you're in the midst of something and ask them to come back later. Well, you wouldn't say it that bluntly, but tell people you want to talk about 'Batman Forever,' but that you have this
project and ask if you can talk about it after lunch."
Q: Do you think Americans are getting just a bit neurotic about time management and getting things done?
A: "People, time-management people, who say that are hypocrites. This touchy-feely time-management stuff is not for me. . . . As the saying goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. And there's another one I've heard: If you continue to do what you've always done, you'll continue to get what you've always gotten."
Have you developed a time-saving technique you think could help others? We'd like to hear about it. Next month, we'll begin a series of periodic Time Saver columns that will share reader tips. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.