Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Q I'm always doing everything on the run, leaving projects half-finished and not up to my usual standards. I feel I have no breathing space to plan ahead, but am constantly fire-fighting in the here and now. How can I manage my time better and more efficiently?

A In the Western world, one of our greatest shortages is time. Most of us spend much of our working and personal lives feeling rushed and wishing we had more time to do things properly and to get round to things that would bring us pleasure. The bad news is that this is a state of affairs that is unlikely to change; in fact, it has become enshrined in our culture, where being busy is associated with virtue and success.

Always feeling rushed and unable to complete tasks to our own satisfaction can have a debilitating effect, making it hard to gain pleasure in the present, so worried are we by the next thing on the agenda. And thinking of all the things we haven't done makes us feel depressed.

It's unlikely that your current state of over-activity will abate, unless fate delivers a period of forced inactivity - and that's not something to be devoutly wished for. There are several options in tackling this issue, as well as the one you suggest: becoming more efficient with your use of time. One is to learn to care less about not always achieving your usual high standards. However, I suspect you are hard-wired for perfectionism, so this is only theoretically an option.

Another possibility is to do fewer things better, to meet your own quality criteria. This usually involves saying no to people at work and at home, although it won't be good for your career or your personal relationships if you limit your engagement to the tasks and activities you know you can handle to your own satisfaction.

A further complication is that the world, and management textbooks in particular, continually exhort us to excellence. 'The good is the enemy of the great', we are told, in a misquotation from Voltaire, which suggests that doing our best is not good enough. Though there is much to commend Jim Collins' Good to Great and other books in the same vein, they up the ante in terms of making us dissatisfied with our own performance.

I'm not immune to these feelings myself, so it was with some relief and interest that I recently read of the work of Herbert A Simon, a Nobel prize-winning economist, who in 1957 introduced the notion of satisficing. …

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