Six Myths of Time Management

Article excerpt

One hundred years ago, Frederick Taylor and Frank Gilbreth astounded the industrial world by establishing time and motion procedures which enable employers to get higher productivity from workers. In doing so, Taylor and Gilbreth established the basis of time management techniques, which were widely adopted by executives.

Time management, however, can no longer solve anyone's problems. The number of variables affecting one's schedules, workload, and responsibilities simply cannot be governed by such antiquated notions.

Roasting sacred cows

The six points below represent conventional time management wisdom. Following each bit of "wisdom" is what I call the Breathing Space approach that serves as the guiding principle. While time management was a set of rules that worked well in a relatively finite setting, these principles will prove to be far more effective for the ever-changing multi-variable situations that executives and managers face today.

1. Handling paper--Conventional wisdom: "Handle each piece of paper once."

Perspective: It always depends on what a piece of paper says; you may have to handle some papers 25 times! Never handle most pieces of paper: don't let them cross your desk.

2. Reducing clutter--Conventional wisdom: "When in doubt, throw it out"

Perspective: Not bad advice, but hang onto things when you sense downstream consequences of not doing so. Pack-up and store current non-essentials and check them again later.

3. Being more efficient--Conventional wisdom: Speed reading, listening, learning.

Perspective: We walk, talk, eat, read, listen, and learn at certain speeds for a reason. Notice most successful people in your profession are not in a hurry. It can be harmful to accelerate basic your personal functioning. Operate at a pace that is comfortable for you.

4. Beating the competition--Conventional wisdom: "Work smarter, not harder"

Perspective: Was Edison smart after 8,000 attempts to invent the light bulb? When it finally worked, did his IQ rise? Sometimes the smartest way you can work is harder.

5. Managing your schedule--Conventional wisdom: Use sophisticated scheduling tools.

Perspective: Electronic calendars, time management software, etc., will fail when you don't keep them current. Tackle the few key projects that count; have the guts to leave the rest.

6. Staying informed--Conventional wisdom: Read key executive publications. …