Why a Big Gap Exists in Time Management Knowledge

industrial engineersOne of the challenges involved in gaining a deeper understanding of time management mechanics is that it’s all about using physical actions to manipulate invisible objects.

Industrial engineering, which is the study of the optimization of scarce resources in a production environment is typically concerned with the events taking place on a factory floor where physical objects are manufactured. These objects can be touched, observed, measured and tracked by anyone with the right measuring device and an ability to count.

The traditional production environment, such as the one used to manufacture cars, is marked by a high volume of “widgets” and a number of processes that act on them. In the process, a transformation occurs from a starting state (raw materials) to a preferred end-state. In the example of automobile factories, steel, rubber, glass, plastic and other stuff is heated, pressed, pulled, cooled, sliced and diced and all stuck together in some way until a car comes out at the end. (One of the first factories I ever stepped into was a General Motors axle assembly plant, which was an amazing spectacle to observe.)

In the world of time management something similar takes place that’s also quite different.

A time demand is created by the individual’s mind, perhaps triggered by the external world. There it remains until it’s either captured in some way on paper or digital media, before being acted upon by the 7 Essential Fundamentals. At the end of the process, after the Fundamentals have been used and the action is completed, the time demand disappears and no longer has any effect.

This movement of time demands is fairly easy to simulate or model using queuing theory and discrete simulation, which are two of the tools we leaned on heavily in my training as an Operations Research /Industrial Engineer. However, I can’t find any place where either tools has been applied to time demands. I have dabbled a bit, but there remains a great deal of empirical work to be done to even begin to understand the nature of time demand management.

Unfortunately, it would be pretty difficult to do a PhD that crosses both engineering and psychological disciplines. This might be part of the reason why so little research is done in this area, even though the work done in either discipline related to time management appears to my untrained eye to be limited in scope. It takes an appreciation of both disciplines, plus an understanding of the term “time demand” to bring the two together.