Disclaimer: This book review will contain the word ‘sh*t’ a good few times, not as many as the book itself though! I’m also not the biggest fan of non-fiction books, especially those that fall under the ‘self-help’ bracket, so I will be brutally honest.
I recently read the book Get Your Sh*t Together by self-professed anti-guru Sarah Knight. There are a few reasons that I chose this book as part of the Embryo Delivery Programme.
- I’ve heard great things about some other Sarah Knight books, such as ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k’
- The title was quite catchy
- The back of the book had my hooked straight away:
Ever find yourself snowed under at the office – or even just glued to the sofa – when you really want to get out (for once), get to the gym (at last), and get started on that big personal project you’re always putting off? Then it’s time to get your sh*t together.
I never ever read non-fiction books, particularly self-help books, so in this blog, I’m going to give my honest review whilst also summing up some key takeaways. Sparknotes with a twist, if you will.
The Three Chipmunks
Get Your Sh*t Together starts by explaining the benefits of getting your sh*t together. It’s quite self-explanatory. But, what does that actually look like for people? Knight acknowledges that people are very different and looks at three key personalities when it comes to ‘got your life together-ness’, using the chipmunks from Alvin and the Chipmunks as reference.
- Theodore: Relatively hopeless. Theodores are always making life too difficult for themselves. Losing items, forgetting things, being late. Basically, they struggle day to day on basic things.
- Alvin: Cruise along just fine, but unable to kick into high gear. Alvins plod along fine in daily life but struggle with things like sticking to a budget, sticking to a diet, planning anything in advance or actually hitting deadlines.
- Simon: Keep up appearances while dying from a thousand self-inflicted cuts. Simons are overachievers, high functioning, appear to have their whole life together, are always on time and meeting deadlines, but are so under pressure to ‘win’ all the time and can’t set any boundaries at all.
Opinion: I absolutely loved these personas. My problem with self-help books is that I find a lot of it irrelevant. I don’t need to read about meeting deadlines, working out my schedule or being confident at work, because I feel like I have that in the bag. But, when I read the Simon persona I had a lightbulb moment – wow, that’s me. I am 100% like a duck that looks all calm and collected on the surface but is paddling like mad underneath.
From here the book refers back to these three personas frequently, telling you ‘this is important for Alvins’ or ‘even a Theodore needs to hear this’. I liked this touch and made it feel a bit more of a personal approach to getting your sh*t together.
One of my favourite quotes from the book that I found the most relatable was:
Just because you are doing a ton of shit all day, every day, does NOT mean you have your shit together.
A lot of the time we, us Simons particularly, associate success with productivity. You’re working really hard at work and seeing great results, you’re cooking healthy meals every day and you’re even squeezing in some home workouts. You’re successful, right? Wrong. You can still be an absolute mess and tick off your to-do list at the end of every day.
Or, it could be the complete opposite. You could be really striving to see great results at work and really do want to start working out more, but you just can’t seem to actually do it because you keep making silly mistakes or finding excuses.
Let’s move onto how Knight actually tells you to get your sh*t together.
Achieving Your Goals
Knight breaks down achieving any goal at all by the following three-step approach:
- Strategise: Set a goal and make a plan to achieve that goal in a series of small, manageable chunks.
- Focus: Set aside time to complete each chunk.
- Commit: Do what you need to do to check off your chunks.
And that’s it! Seems simple, right?
The book uses the example of wanting to quit your job, go freelance, and move abroad, somewhere hot and sunny where you can drink mojitos all day. If that really is your goal, it is 100% achievable. You just have to break it down into chunks. Like this:
- To quit your job and go freelance you’ll need a good bank of money to tide you over before you start earning from your freelancing. Say 6 months worth, to be safe. So get out your calculator and work that out.
- To move abroad you’ll again need a decent amount of money to cover the costs and initial outlays of starting a new life. Get your calculator out again and find that figure.
- Total the two figures together and you have your goal. Now, it is most probably a big number, so work out what is achievable with your budget, whether that is saving £10 a day or £1 a week. Then work out how long it will take.
- If it will take 3 or 10 years, then create a calendar and each day tick off how close you are. Saving £100k seems unachievable in two weeks, but saving £100k over 30 years seems more manageable.
‘Small, manageable chunks’ is the key message from this goal-setting section of the book. Once you’ve set your savings goal, you have to focus and commit to the process knowing that you will achieve your goal if you stick to the strategy.
Opinion: I actually really like this approach, but I don’t really have any grand goals that I want to achieve. I don’t want to save loads of money, I don’t want to lose loads of weight and I don’t want to quit my job and move abroad (although a mojito on the beach would be really nice right now). So I did find this a little bit irrelevant right now in my life, but I will keep hold of this for future reference.
The What/Why Method
After we’ve learnt how to achieve goals, Knight helps those people like me who don’t even know where to begin with goals. Rather than wallow in your stress/sadness/whatever is getting you down, we delve into The What/Why Method. It’s very simple.
- What’s wrong with my life?
Here’s an example of this in practice:
What’s wrong with my life? I’m behind at work.
Why? I procrastinate too much.
Goal: Limit the amount of time you spend procrastinating.
When you actually break it down, it really does make sense. If you’re ever stuck in a ‘I don’t even know where to begin’ mood, try this method.
Opinion: I really, really like this approach. Gone are the days of feeling overwhelmed and feeling like there’s nothing you can do about it. For me, this works as below:
What’s wrong with my life? I’m utterly bored during lockdown.
Why? I never do anything other than work or the odd gym session.
Goal: Find time each day for things I enjoy doing e.g. baking, reading.
From here I’ve made myself a weekly schedule so that I make time for things that I actually enjoy. You will never enjoy your life if you spend every minute of every day doing stuff that is unfulfilling or just stuff that you actually don’t enjoy.
Must-Do vs. To-Do
Ok, so as a Simon I didn’t find this section too relevant, but it is definitely useful for other people.
Knight looks at the classic to-do list. A lot of people can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tasks and ultimately not achieve any of them, or work really late to try and hit everyone, therefore making you exhausted for the next day where you have an equally big to-do list. And the cycle goes on.
A key element that people tend to overlook is – what do you actually have to do that day? If the answer is to do a load of washing because you have no clean clothes left, then that’s what you must do. The food shop can wait unless your fridge and cupboards are completely empty. The meeting that is in your schedule is a must-do, but that piece of work that you’ve put in your schedule for today arbitrarily can wait if it has to. Don’t feel like you have to tick every single item off your list to be successful and have your sh*t together. There’s a fine balance between being an absolute machine that spends every minute trying to be productive and actually being smart with your time.
Opinion: This can be really useful, within reason. When it comes to work there could be a knock-on effect of working like this. That piece of work may not actually need completing today, but if you put it off until tomorrow then tomorrow’s work will be put off until the day after, and so on. I find this more useful from a life-admin perspective than a work perspective.
You Are Important Too
There’s a large section towards the end of Get Your Sh*t Together focused on mental health. Key points are that you shouldn’t always focus on the risk of failure and that you don’t need to be perfect. There are loads more too but these are the two that, as a Simon, resonated the most.
At the beginning of the book, we are told that doing everything on your to-do list every single day doesn’t mean that you have your sh*t together. And that is because you do not exist purely to tick off boring, daily tasks. You exist to live your life. That’s quite difficult at the moment, with lockdown and everything going on, but you must still find the time for you. If you absolutely love going for walks, why on earth are you putting that at the bottom of your priority list? You are your priority. Sure, there are other tasks that you must do, but you will just end up struggling to even get out of bed if you don’t give yourself some time to actually be you.
I definitely needed to hear this section, and I won’t go too much into it because I feel like everyone needs to read this themselves and will probably take something else away that resonates more with them. But, please don’t forget yourself in your daily to-do list.
As someone who openly hates non-fiction books, I really enjoyed this read. It can be a little gimmicky and some people may hate the casual way in which it’s written, however, I found it thoroughly readable and a lot less preachy than your standard self-help book. There are some really great takeaways and I do believe that every person that reads it will take away something different that will help their lives.
What stood out the most to me, is that all those people that you assume have their sh*t together probably don’t. Don’t put yourself down or become driven by fear of failure or the need to be productive every minute of every day. Any goal can be achievable and can help you feel like you have your sh*t together, but the reality is that it is entirely up to you.
If you’re looking to try and live your best life, give this book a read!
Side note: The use of profanity throughout the book does seem a little gimmicky, but I feel it’s still effective.