Peter Drucker – one of the greatest management philosophers of our time said the following about time management:
“Time is the scarcest resource: and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”
We learned how to manage time better when we were hunters and gatherers; after a while, we evolved to farmers and merchants. We discovered how to grow food and stopped searching for it actively. We traded it to purchase other commodities and to acquire wealth. Wealth gave us more time and we invested it in building communities and cities, thus began the industrial era.
In the industrial era, we were able to improve our production processes to save time. Somewhere in the middle of the industrial era even introduced methods like delegation and standardization which enabled us to create products faster, we effectively managed time better.
The efforts over the past century have focused on improving and inventing new methods to increase productivity, save money, and more importantly – save time. Workers have become, as Drucker defined it, “Knowledge Workers.” The focus has shifted away from manual labor to knowledge labor.
As technology developed, we received a plethora of tools to help our “knowledge” activities, like email, laptops, mobile phones, and applications for every kind of activity. Initially, the tools increased our productivity. However, as time progresses, most of us feel overwhelmed. Instead of exponentially increasing our productivity and our advancement as had been achieved up and until the industrial era, some argue that we have reached a ceiling, and in some cases, are regressing.
The main reason for this is tied to Drucker’s critical resource, Time.
Our time is not used efficiently today because of input overload. Input overload is the constant distraction we face from social media, internet sites, work projects, home projects, school, and more. To advance our society to the next level of productivity – we need to spend time thinking about the tools that we use to help us manage our daily lives more effectively. As a byproduct, we will enjoy the other “inputs” since our main activities at work, school, and home will not be affected.
To further illustrate, each one of us at work is constantly working on projects, assignments, attending meetings and conferences, etc. Very rarely does management or anyone, for that matter, spends time on tools and methods to help us organize our daily lives more effectively. We have reverted back to the work methods of the industrial era, albeit in a different flavor. We come in and perform “thought activities,” but with ineffective methods and ineffective time management tools.
That’s why, in the past decade, we have seen a boom in methods and seminars for managers that teach them how to supervise their employees effectively. However, these methods are philosophical, and often don’t give practical solutions.
So what is the solution? A new mind set? New tools?
It starts with a mindset – whether it is bottom up or top down, we and our respective organizations need to focus time and efforts on examining the methodologies and plethora of inputs in our environment to properly filter, organize, and act as effectively as possible.
It ends with one tool that helps us to organize our interactions with emails, tasks, documents, projects, and information!
With the mindset and tool in place, we can, in essence, be efficient Knowledge Workers – focusing on how to bring the most value to ourselves and organizations by leveraging our Time resource most effectively.