What the Efficiency Consulting Industry Won’t Admit: Time Management is Dead
Time management has long been a mainstay of efficiency consulting. In corporate America, time management workshops are a staple in all corporate training departments.
There are copious books, articles and blogs written on time management and if you Google “time management” your search will return at least 241 million results. Based on the volume and pervasiveness of time management trainings, advice and strategies, it must be the solution to the busyness epidemic that is consuming everyone.
However, if time management was the solution, would we not all by now be productive, efficient people living balanced, purpose-filled lives? I think so. But, we are not.
Time management does not work. In spite of the popular literature and Google searches lauding the benefits of time management, which stems from the untested popular belief that poor allocation of time impairs performance, there is scant empirical research examining time management (Macan, 1994). Time management training has not been proven to have direct impact on performance (Van Erde, 2003; Claessens, 2002; Macan, 1994). Additionally, look around, how many people in your office, in your neighborhood and at your gym talk about managing their time better and then frantically pull out their smartphone, rush to the next project or meeting because they are just so busy?
The way we approach our work is often unsystematic, rather than deliberate.
Time management is built upon the premise that by teaching an individual how to more effectively manage their time, job performance will improve. Empirical research on this premise has produced mixed conclusions (Slaven and Totterdell, 1993; Macan, 1994; Orpen, 1994; Van Eerde, 2003). What about antidotal evidence? Look around your office, talk to your friends and neighbors, and you will also see that this is true.
Time management is inherently limited in its effectiveness in changing behavior in today’s multifaceted, dynamic work environment and always on culture. Time management does not consider the broader context of our work and the need for a comprehensive overall strategy that is not myopically focused on increasing one’s perception of control of time and increasing time available to pursue activities.
Time management is not what impacts productivity; rather it is our work strategies that impact our productivity and enable us to move beyond busy.
It is time to let go of our traditional approach.
The left hemisphere and the right hemisphere of our brains are specialized for different modes of thought. Cognitive style, our preferences in perceiving and processing information, can be leveraged to more accurately and effectively help us stop being busy and start being productive. It is time to let go of the traditional approach to overcoming busyness and time management, and instead embrace our brains and the functioning of our brains to guide and inform the choices we make about planning and executing on our daily work.
It is time to abandon the traditional approach that the efficiency consulting industry holds too dearly, time management, which does not work and embrace our individual cognitive style and begin to develop work and life strategies that move us beyond busy to a productive, engaged, purpose-filled life. Let’s stop fighting nature, understand how our brains actually work and then leverage the power of our productive brains. It is time to get personal about our own productivity and effectiveness.