I came across a post entitled: An Experiment with Time Management that describes an entrepreneur’s decision to track his time each day, to see how he could improve his time management.
I have seen different software programs that help users to do the same thing, but I fear that there is not much to be gained from this approach, and certainly nothing that will lead to a fundamental shift in behaviour.
The reason is simple – entrepreneurs don’t work in a job in which each day is like any other. On any given day, they are faced with all sorts of emergencies, projects and opportunities that make it impossible to compare one day to another, in order to determine whether or not Friday was a more productive day than Monday.
The best that can came out of the exercise is some after-the-fact self-criticism, such as “I shouldn’t have taken such a long break after I checked my email last Wednesday” or “I should have focused more on the accounting I was doing in order to get it done faster on Monday.”
Most knowledge professionals are performing jobs with a high creative content in which success is not easily measured.
What a time review can help to tell this blogger, however, is what habits he is lacking in his repertoire, given that he has an interest in improving his time management skills. He can see where he checks his email before doing anything else each day, and how that habit might be destroying his productivity.
But to what end?
He’d have to come to understand that good time management is ultimately about peace of mind, which exists only when there is a match between a user’s intentions, and actual outcomes. In other words, he’s trying to have days in which there is no frustration at wanting more time in the day, no missed appointments, no skipped commitments and and no forgetten promises.
That’s very different than “getting more stuff done” which is the goal that most professionals maintain when they do a survey of their time management expenditures.
Unfortunately, there are only a few jobs left in the world in which “getting more stuff done” is the single goal, and I doubt that any of them are held by knowledge workers. Trying to narrow the game down to this simple variable might work in baseball (i.e. score more runs) but it’s not useful in real life, for real workers.
As Stephen Covey says, you might be climbing the ladder of success, only to find that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. In like manner, it makes no sense to get more done, and to sacrifice the peace of mind that’s ultimately the real goal.