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VINE VOICEon June 7, 2006
This book is best used after working through one or two more generic workflow systems like David Allen's Getting Things Done and Sally McGhee's Take Back Your Life! The reason is that Linenberger's approach tends to assume mastery of those core skills and then take its reader deeper into somewhat technical aspects of Outlook's impressive capabilities.

Total Workday Control teaches the reader how to exploit a powerful piece of software. You'll need to look elsewhere for the personal work and life management skills that will make Linenberger's work helpful. He mentions these repeatedly and briefly, but not in enough depth to facilitate the kinds of change that most of need to implement in our lives.

Because of the semi-technical nature of the book, the best way to provide the prospective reader with an idea of what he or she is considering buying is a chapter-by-chapter review. Linenberger leads off by making his claims for how Total Workday Control will make you better (`Gaining Workday Control', pp. 9-22). Like Allen and McGhee, he chooses a bottom-up rather than top-down approach to gaining control of the information that bombards us. This is a worthy tactical decision, though in my judgment it needlessly discards the huge value that lies in engaging in a top-down review of one's life, values, and goals at the same time. In my own experience, employing both methods with a good coach produces the deepest change, a service that I will offer to executives under the `Cantabridge' label beginning in 2007.

Chapter two introduces the best practices that lie at the core of Linenberger's approach and provide its coherence (`The Best Practices of Task and E-Mail Management', pp. 23-39). I might as well tell you now what they are: 1, Tracking all tasks in Outlook Tasks System; 2, Using a master tasks list kept separate from your daily tasks list; 3, Using a simple prioritization system that emphasizes must-do-today tasks; 4, Writing only next actions on your daily task list; 5, Doing daily and weekly planning to keep your task lists up to date, 6, Doing daily and weekly planning to keep your task lists up to date; 7, Converting e-mail to tasks; 7, Filing e-mails using Outlook Categories; 8, delegating tasks in an effective manner.

This introductory presentation of the eight best practices is exceptionally well presented. Linenberger has given attention to how people actually absorb, retain, and act on information. In consequence, he's successfully avoided the pitfall of writing a mere software manual. In stark contrast to that dire possibility, he's given us a genuine learning tool.

Chapter three (`Configuring Outlook for Task Management', pp. 41-78) explains the minimal differences between Outlook 2002 and 2003, reassuring the reader that both will get the job done. The first word of his chapter title sets his book apart from Allen's and McGhee's. It's clear almost from the outset that you have to really want to benefit from Linenberger's approach in order to mine the gold that's available. He'll have you spend considerable time understanding and configuring Outlook, always with the promise--a reasonable one in my estimation that your time will be well invested in view of its results.

Look at it this way. David Allen's Getting Things Done is a Copernican Revolution that will shake your world. Sally McGhee traces the orbits of the planets in this new world. Linenberger wants you to understand how molecules work.

By the time you're a pair of pages into his fourth chapter (`Applying Task Management Best Practices in Outlook', pp. 79-206), Linenberger also has you well into the meat of his system. He's helping you build an infrastructure that will keep you handling email and managing tasks in a systematic way in order to free up your mind for its more important work. Linenberger is less concerned than some with keeping things simple, which is simply to underscore that he's writing for people who really want what he's got on offer. You'll find yourself working hard at installing the wiring of the author's system into your life, cheered on by occasional glimpses of how good things are going to get if you persevere.

Linenberger's chapter titles are neither accidental nor haphazard. In chapter five (Planning and Working Your Tasks in Outlook', pp. 107-126), he lays out the essential interplay between planning and working your tasks. David Allen's emphasis upon a weighty session of weekly planning is here slightly modified by complementing of it with a daily planning time that in Linenberger's system must come before you actually roll up sleeves and begin working your task list and its contents.

Chapter six (`Converting E-Mail to Tasks and Using Workflows', pp. 127-146) tackles what the author considers his most important best practice, with adequate justification for leaving it until now. He is a little more intense about leak-proofing the flow of tasks than Peter Allen, whose work has become a necessary reference for any current writing on time and workflow management.

Chapter seven (`Filing Your E-Mail Using Outlook Categories', pp. 147-188) presents a breakthrough method that by itself justifies the purchase of this book. Although Linenberger considers email filing to be fairly low on his list of best practices, his system delves into an area of weakness in most information management systems. Linenberger is candid about the up-front work that needs to occur in order effectively to file emails in the way he suggests. Not everyone will want to invest that time. However, project managers and executives who find themselves to be constant decision makers based on fluid information, Linenberger offers what I consider to be a long-awaited solution to effective and accessible storage of information, some of which is likely to prove valuable upon retrieval but with little predictability about which bits are destined for the ash heap and which will leverage a guy out of a precarious pickle.

Chapter eight (`Outlook-Based Delegation', pp. 189-198) moves into group dynamics and would do well as shared reading for work groups, leadership teams, and the like. Linenberger plies a careful course between the imposition of an information-management approach upon all members of a team--here he is more reticent than I am--and the relatively more passive `waiting for' approach popularized by David Allen.

Don't let chapter nine (`Advanced Topics', pp. 199-232) scare you away with its title. It's not all that complex and provides valuable follow-up to the basic skills Linenberger teaches prior to this final chapter. Like much of this book but perhaps more than the previous eight chapters, you'll want to return to this one for its reference-and-reminder character. A trio of appendices provides more of the same.

Though I think there are better options for novice time-managers than Linenberger's fine book, it is a logical next step for individuals--and even work groups--who have mastered the basics and want to squeeze Outlook for all its potential as their workflow tool of choice.
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on December 29, 2005
In "Total Workday Control," Linenberger provides a very readable, very practical guide for getting and maintaining control over the daily deluge of emails and tasks many of us contend with. He does this by sharing eight best practices of task and e-mail management and then showing how to reconfigure Outlook so you can implement these best practices (you'll have to read the book to find out what they are!). Gratefully, he has avoided abstract philosophical jargon and discussion about personal productivity--he just jumps in there with solid, usable principles and advice. My kind of writer.

Linenberger draws on his own extensive management and technology experience as well as the wisdom of other productivity thinkers as the basis for his eight best practices. If you're familiar with David Allen's "Getting Things Done" (GTD)approach or with the FranklinCovey productivity model, then you'll recognize their influence here (and appropriately credited). Linenberger's explanation of these eight best practices leaves the reader encouraged to believe that he/she can actually implement these practices in the real work world.

The bulk of the book focuses on implementation. His assumption is that the reader has a basic familiarity with Outlook but does not know how to best configure Outlook for real effectiveness. Linenberger's "nuts-and-bolts" instructions are very clear and helpful; his guidelines for handling e-mail and his discussion about delegating are alone worth the price of the book.

I think of equal value to me is the extremely practical discussions about how his approaches really play out in the daily routine of work. Linenberger doesn't just say, "here's how to set up Outlook for maximum efficiency;" he goes on to offer concrete ways to actually implement these best practices. This is as close as you can get to having a productivity coach without actually hiring one!

In summary, Linenberger has done a fine job of pulling together some productivity best practices and then illustrating how to implement them "where the rubber hits the road." This is no abstract, theoretical approach. Well worth the read for any busy person.
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on January 25, 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed Total Workday Control, along with the hints and insights contained in it. The book describes in detail and implementation method for recent versions of Outlook which is highly compatible with David Allen's Getting Things Done.

Linenberger has a well thought through set up for Outlook which he explains in detail. I had no problems implementing the task frames set up. At a more philosophical level, he captures exactly what it is that makes days so harrowing. I particularly enjoyed his observations about what he calls "miniprojects" -- it became clear to me that so much of what tangles me up is one of my many miniprojects.

Moreover, the Linenberger's system that he sets up is quite robust -- that is it is easy to "get back on the wagon" after having fallen off. Ever the philosopher, Linenberger muses insightfully about how to look at the tasks that were entered to figure out where and how you had taken the wrong tact.
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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2006
I always assumed that I should be using Outlook in a more efficient manner, and this book really showed me how to do it. Linenberger shows you how to change some of the pre-set settings of Outlook to make it a more powerful tool. I fell in love with the program immediately.

I've eliminated so many paper to do lists and notebooks that hold data that I never seemed to get to.

If you have a problem staying organized, or just need a jump start to get back on track, this book is highly recommended.
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on March 8, 2006
I found this book much easier to read and faster to implement than some other books. Linenberger has reviewed and condensed the ideas from literature like Frankin Covey system and David Allen's "Getting Things Done." He digested these ideas into a system of 8 best practices that are simple and straightforward to implement. I am sure he has saved me many years of experimentation finding the best processes. The book will probably be useful both for someone transferring from a paper based system or new to time management systems.
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on September 5, 2006
This is a terrific book. The bottom line is that Total Workday Control shows you how to create a few custom Outlook views that, when combined with Linenberger's approach, allow you to manage tasks and e-mail in extremely effective ways. No system that I have tried made it easier to enter tasks, projects, and even goals, and then have them show up where I want to see them. The list of today's tasks, for example, is not cluttered with future tasks, and is easily re-prioritzed based on changing situations. If tasks need to be postponed because something more urgent has come up, it is easy to either move them down the list or have them disappear until tomorrow or later.

Linenberger's approach to managing e-mail is great. He advises converting e-mails to tasks as soon as you realize that the e-mail requires some action (unless you can answer the e-mail in one minute). He shows how to easily convert the e-mail to a task, and, because he has already shown you how to create a master task list, you can create the task knowing that it will show up on that list even if all you write is a subject line.

Then he shows an effective way of filing email by categories which allows you to move email into a processed email folder which then sorts it by means of one or more categories. If you move an email into that folder without a category, it shows up in the category "none" section (you can either leave it there or move it later). If you give it two categories (for example, "Financial" and "Investments", it shows up in both automatically.

Like any organization system that urges you to get everything out of your head and down in writing, you have to maintain the system. Once a week or so you need to review your master list to make sure that you are not neglecting something. And a couple of minutes reviewing your daily list and possibly re-prioritzing it can be useful. But Total Workday Control makes both of these tasks easier to do than any other system I have tried (including sofware other than Outlook).

And e-mail? I now have four items in my Inbox. All the rest have either been turned into tasks, deleted, or filed. This has become pretty much my daily norm after going through my Inbox using Linenberger's advice and processes.
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on December 20, 2008
If you've bought into the GTD way of task management, you may reach for this book to help you tame your email and to do lists with Outlook. The book definitely has lots of information in it and is a nice companion to the system. But overall, this is a very basic book on some Outlook features slightly tailored to GTD. If you know GTD and you're good at Outlook, then this book is very basic and almost useless. I was hoping for more of an advanced book which used the deep Outlook features in a very unique and productive way. Ultimately this shows how to set up tasks and define rules and perhaps a bit of color coding. If you just use Outlook to read email, this book will be an eye-opener. But for those of us who already use tasks, categories, etc. this book will disappoint.
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on May 29, 2008
It took me about 3 hours of reading the philosphy behind the system (this is important - don't skip it) and another 2 hours of setting up and tweaking Outlook. The first day or two afterwards were strange as I tried to get accustomed to the system, but now, after a few weeks, I couldn't live without it. It's not all about email management (that's a minor concern for me, although having a perfectly empty inbox is wonderful for your stress level) - it's really a great tool for managing the dozens of tasks that pop in and out of your head all day long along with the medium and long-term projects that have been staring at you from your task list for the last year or so.

Before this book, I really, really, really tried to like and use GTD, but I could never internalize the methodolgy and use it effectively. In contrast, TWC/Manage-your-NOW just makes sense to me.

Bottom line - it's a good book with a good system - definitely worth your time to try it.
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on August 2, 2006
I read David Allen's GTD first and liked it. Six months later I still couldn't get it implemented.

Found Total Workday, studied it and 8 days after getting the book, my email box is empty and I have all of my tasks at my finger tips and my projects to study and review with a simple click.

I enjoyed GTD and will continue to apply some of Allen's tips as Michael suggests but the biggest difference for me was getting it started. Total Workday gets it done! Hey Michael , how about using "GID" get it done! Seriously though, this books not only has the workflow it helps with getting started and that was a big key for me.

Michael's book is a must and a first read before Allen's GTD, but go ahead and get both you won't be sorry! If you can't get both then only get Total Workday Control. Hope to see a users group soon.

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on August 27, 2006
The author of this book has done a great job in collecting the best task and e-mail management fundamentals and putting them all together in one simple presentation. Some of these I have seen elsewhere (David Allen, Franklin Covey; the author quotes his sources), but the difference is that this book transfers theory into a real life implementation, in Microsoft Outlook. Most of the teachings are original. As a result of all this, I now really feel like I know how to manage my tasks, and how to react and manage correctly the tons of e-mail I get. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is by far the best time management book I have found.

For instance I, like many others, have tried to use the task system in Outlook to keep track of and prioritize tasks, but it just never worked for me and I gave up on it. But after this book, the task system in Outlook is my constant friend, keeping me pointed at doing just the right things at just the right time. The difference between then and now is that the book taught me step by step a few simple Outlook configuration tweaks, and underlying best task approaches, that for the first time made the Outlook task system really powerful for me. I use it constantly now and it really works.

Another example is e-mail filing. I kept starting and stopping e-mail filing, and never could keep up with the standard "drag to various folders" approach. But the system of using Outlook Categories taught in this book finally showed me a way to consistently file my mail. My Inbox is almost always empty now at the end of each day.

Outlook has so many features that I never knew which ones were important. This book showed me just the right ones to get my work day organized, and showed me which ones not to bother with. With relatively little effort I finally feel like I am using just the right amount of Outlook. In general this book leads to a huge positive difference in the usability of Outlook.
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