Friday, August 26, 2011

The book I use the most

The book that most influenced the way I organize my time (and, to be honest, all the rest of my life) doesn't actually exist. It was a series of cassette tapes with the long and forget-able title,
Time Quest: Increasing Productivity Through Value-based Time Management, - How to Use the Franklin Day Planner System (4 Audio Cassette Tape Set in Case) by Franklin Quest Co. 
My sister bought me a Franklin planner back in 1992, just as I was starting my job.  The planner came with these cassette tapes on how to set up the pages in the book.  "Who needs to learn how to make a calendar and a bunch of to-do lists?" was my first reaction.  But about halfway through the tapes, I became a convert.  Now I carry my planner with me almost everywhere I go.  The exceptions are easy to list:  running, church, and yard sales.  Otherwise, I'm never more than one room away from it.  My planner is definitely the book I use the most.  
Franklin Quest bought out the Steven Covey empire; now the company is Franklin-Covey.  They've published a bunch of books, including about a gazillion versions of "Highly Effective Habits".  That people like these Highly Effective books so much have made them into the Highly Lucrative Publications section of the company.  But for me, I honestly miss Hyrum Smith's initial approach:  he focused on tiny details of time management, and he put those in the context of the most important parts of a person's life.  I don't know why he never published that.

I can't distill four hours into one blog post; I'm sure I'll come back to writing about time management again.  But here are four big lessons that I learned, boiled down so greatly they're probably beyond usefulness.
  • Know what your deepest values are.  Then, when you look at a long list of to-do items, choose to do the things that matter most first, even if they're not the easiest to do.
  • There is a difference between "vital" and "urgent".  "Vital" is getting exercise, or hugging your children, or calling a friend who's down.  "Urgent" is the memo due soon and the ringing telephone.  Whenever possible, ditch the non-vital, urgent things in favor of doing the vital non-urgent things.
  • Keep all your information in one place.  My planner has my address book, a list of my appliances' serial and model numbers, my utility and financial account numbers, my calendar, my to-do lists, my brainstorm space, my pencils and pens, and more.  I don't keep two calendars.  This is an incredibly useful component of organizing time and effort.
  • It's a good idea to have "to-do" items for specific dates in the future.  (Some people call these "tickler items", because they "tickle" your memory).  When I'm planning an on-going project, I parcel out what I'm doing and write those tasks on days well into the days or even months ahead.  For example, I know that on Thursday a week from now when we're back from some travels and the hectic start of school is behind us, I'll call a dairy about buying bulk butter.  Between now and then, I don't have to worry about it.
For many years, I bought new pages from the company each year at the hefty price of about $60.  That's expensive for a calendar, but for me the price was more than worth it.  This past year, I figured out how to design my own planner pages on the computer, and I can print out a year's pages for about $14.


  1. Hyrum Smith did publish his system before Covey came along. The book is entitled "The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management." The first five Laws are the heart and soul of the Franklin Planner system.

    1. Thanks for this update! After I wrote this post, my husband searched around and found the book you mentioned. He's completely marked up his copy. Is that like desecrating a bible?? The book is not exactly the same as the cassette tapes; I have enjoyed listening to one and reading the other! -- MM

  2. I too used to have the cassette tapes, but they've been lost during one of my many moves.

  3. Hello Fellow Mom! I came across your post because my fiance has lost his set of these tapes and as much as we search we cannot find them. Long story short, we cannot find them for sale anywhere and they are no longer for sale by the Franklin Covey company. Would you be interested in selling your tapes or have a copy made onto CDs? I'd buy them from you...thanks!

    1. In fact, this past week I just finished converting the tapes to MP3's. If you are willing to give me your email address, I can email those to you. If you reply here, I'll delete your email within 24 hours so it doesn't remain public. Otherwise, feel free to suggest another way for me to get in touch with you. - MM

    2. Dear Miser Mom,

      I'm interested in receiving your MP3 file copies of My Smith's tapes too. If you are still willing, here is my e-mail address:

      Thanks very much !

    3. After about a gazillion requests -- see below -- I decided to put these tapes on line. They'll stay available until someone complains and tells me to take them down. (The MP3 files are large enough that it's hard to send them via email). So, go to

      If this doesn't work well for you, let me know and I can do the big, slow send of the 8 mp3 files one at a time.

  4. Hi Miser Mom. Can you send me those files, too? Send them to

    (No need to delete this message; that's a temporary email account, so I'm not worried about spam.)

    Years ago I lent my cassettes to my nephew, who then (without my permission) lent them to someone else, and that person lost them. I've missed them ever since!

    Miser Dad (9-year-old son, triplet 5-year-old girls)

  5. Hi Miser Mom,
    Would you send the converted tapes to me at
    Thanks, Ken

  6. I nearly don't dare to ask.
    However, if you still have them, would you be willing to mail them to
    That would be sweet!!!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Would you be willing to send the mp3 files to me at

  9. Hi Miser Mom - I's love those MP3's too. - Thanks!

  10. I am interested in a the mp3s.

  11. If you're still checking comments on this blog, I too would be interested in the audio files. My email address is Thanks!

  12. Miser Mom,
    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I've been using a Franklin Planner since 1987. I used the tapes to get set-up and by the time I was finished listening I was one of the most organized people you'd ever meet. Now I want to pass the legacy on to my teenage son, but couldn't find the tapes. You are soooo kind to have taken the time to convert them and put them out for people to listen! I know he will want to find a way to organize electronically but the 'laws' and methods used are timeless and with al little though and work can be applied to most any tool used for daily organization. Thanks again and I hope that you are granted much generosity for your good deed.

  13. Hi, I don't know if anyone is monitoring this thread anymore but I have also been looking for these cassettes for years. I had the original ones some 30years ago.

    Could any of you please help me get them? My email address is