Getting It All Done [Book Review]

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Book cover image of Getting it All Done

Getting It All Done is a book in the Working Parents series from HBR Press. It turned out to be the kind of book I would have read in one sitting, if I hadn’t known I’d be up around 5.30 am with my own kids… and I’ve got a lot better at getting enough sleep these days, however good a book is.

It’s basically an edited collection of essays on the subject of balancing work and home but what I really loved about it was the authors throughout the book urging readers to bring their business skills to home life.

I think of our house as quite a project-managed place. We have a family calendar. We have a meal plan on the fridge and a checklist by the front door that sets out what the children have to pack before they are considered ready to leave for school.

There are filing drawers in the kitchen for notes sent home from school and our ‘go to’ place to leave each other notes of stuff to do is by the kettle.

Because… we also drink a lot of tea in this house, so we can guarantee the adults (and sometimes the kids) will gravitate to the kettle at some point soon.

Initial thoughts

I took a lot away from this book and honestly, I wasn’t expecting to. I assumed that as a professional organizer by trade, I would already be performing most of what was detailed. I don’t really like essay-led books anyway and I thought this would feel disjointed.

Getting It All Done does not feel disjointed. The editor has done an amazing job at bringing the themes together. The short sections and essays are actually exactly what busy working parents need – who has time to read a 500-page diatribe on being more efficient and effective at home? The tips, stories and strategies “for the job that never ends” are laid out in a digestible and relatable format.

A family huddle

One of the most enlightening chapters was the example of an Agile practitioner who basically brought Scrum and huddles into his family. I’d love to replicate this. The adults in our house do a weekly review, normally on a Sunday, but getting the kids involved would be great.

We don’t currently focus on the retrospective aspect of what the book suggests either: one author talks about asking each family member what is working in the family and what isn’t working, in order for the work of being a family to constantly evolve.

I love that idea, and I’m looking for ways to implement it in a way that fits our family too.

Value-driven schedules

Another top takeaway for me was the idea of a value-driven schedule. I’ve read that before in terms of planning a working week: prioritize the work that fits your big goals first.

But in the context of the family, it’s choosing what’s important to you and curating your life around that. Is it truly work, or is it being there for the kids? Whatever that looks like for you.

And what activities do the kids value you doing with them? Another enlightening segment was the anecdote of a mother who stressed herself out attending sports practice, but it turned out that her daughter didn’t much mind if she was there during the event or not – as she’d grown up her expectations and needs had changed, and she explained she would much rather her mother spend time with her in a different way – which suited them both much better.

Another top takeaway for me was the idea of a value-driven schedule. I’ve read that before in terms of planning a working week: prioritize the work that fits your big goals first.

Top takeaways

There was a lot to digest from this book, but let me sum up my two biggest takeaways.

Ditch the guilt

Helping other people is productive work. Switch out thinking: “What did I accomplish today?” and instead reframe that question to yourself as, “How did I contribute today?”

And feel the weight lift off your shoulders.

Parenting is leadership

The epilogue in this book is spine-tinglingly brilliant.

“If you are a parent, you are already a leader,” writes Peter Bregman. “And the skills you develop by necessity to be a good parent are precisely the skills you will draw from to be an exceptional leader. It’s the same job.”

The end of this book is exactly what you need to read if you’re wondering whether you’re doing a good job at either of your jobs (spoiler alert: you are). Highly recommended.

I received a complementary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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03/09/2024 01:08 pm GMT

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Getting It All Done book review