My time as an independent consultant (I started in 1994) roughly coincides with the explosion in technology. Back then, many were just getting around to web sites, e-mail and aspiring to be a paperless offices. Today, of course, e-mail communication is more common than that by phone and just about everyone carries some sort of smart device.
But, have these digital tools saved us time and made work more efficient? I think not. Indeed, my observation is that we are busier today, than we were twenty years ago. For many, technology has tethered us to the office and it seems like we never get away.
Managing our time and our tasks has never been more important. If you are interested in improving personal productivity, a good place to start is freeing yourself from the Ten Time Management Myths listed below.
Myth One: The longer I work, the more I get done
My experience as a manager taught me that some of my least productive team members were the ones whose office lights were on the longest. There is a difference between activity and accomplishment. For some, it is easy to get mired into a comfortable and familiar routine of checking and answering e-mails, running computer updates and zoning out in meaningless meetings.
MythTwo: There is one right time management system
Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it is Franklin-Covey, Harold Taylor, Priority or none of the above. Further, it matters little if your system is maintained on your computer or done with paper-and-pencil.
What is important is that you have a system, that you use, to set priorities and plan your projects.
Myth Three: Multi-tasking Saves Time
We even see it in job announcements: Must be able to multi-task. While on the face of it, doing two things at once would seem to be a time saver. But, it is a myth and debunked by research reported in the New York Times (March 26, 2011) that concludes:
“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes. Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.” David Meyer, Cognitive Scientist, University of Michigan.
Myth Four: We all have the same challenges when it comes to time management
We are born with natural differences, known as personalities, which shape our challenges for managing time. For each of us, there are some things we do naturally well and some productivity pitfalls peculiar to our personalities.
Myth Five: Technology Saves Time
Really. Is there anyone who thinks we have more time now that we have more technology? The truth is that many of us have allowed technology to control us, rather than the other way around
Myth Six: The biggest time wasters are telephone calls and meetings
It would be nice if we could take calls only when they were important to us and could attend meetings only when we feel like it. However, for many of us taking calls and attending meetings are obligations that come with our positions. Communicating by phone and face-to-face in meetings may be essential to good teamwork and leadership.
Myth Seven: To be really productive we should finish a task once we start it
Simply, some tasks are too big to finish at one sitting. Realistically, what we can do is schedule blocks of time when we can focus on important projects. The length of time and time of day varies by individual.
Myth Eight: Every productive worker has a clear desk top
Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter countered this conventional wisdom with: “A clear desk is the sign of an empty mind.”
Here again, hard wired differences of personality type come into play. Judgers among us might work best with a neat and tidy work area while Perceivers might be at their best with their own filing system.
Myth Nine: Act on every matter that comes your way
An excellent manger once told me that to key good management is classifying everything that comes to you into one of these three categories and acting accordingly. Here is his system: Category 1 Urgent & Mine- Act on it Right Away; Category 2 Not Urgent but Mine – Act on it Later; Category 3 Not Mine – Ignore it.
Myth Ten: Attending a time management workshop will make me more productive.
While you may have the opportunity to learn important concepts and tools to improve productivity, nothing happens without putting them into practice. You must close the gap between learning and doing and move good time management practices into daily habits.
If you would like to know more about our approach to time management shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]). Better yet, pick up the phone (814.861.5100)