I’m not happy with the term time-management. We don’t manage time, time is fixed, we manage what we do in a given time period. It’s more accurate, and I think productive, to talk of task management. We’re rather stuck with the term time-management, so sometimes I compromise and use time and task management (and in a moment I’m going to tell you the phrase I really think we should use).
There are three factors that affect time and task management.
The first I call ‘operational factors’. Broadly it means that in order for someone to undertake their tasks (in the right order at the right time etc.) they need to be provided with the right equipment, peace and quiet, the right information etc. These are factors that come from the broader operations of the organisation.
Let’s just focus on ‘the right information’ for a moment. In any organisation the flow of information (instructions, commands, news, specifications etc.) needs to reach the appropriate people at the appropriate time. Organisations don’t have to be very big before the issue of information flow becomes quite a complex one. Getting it right is often difficult, and there’s a tendency either to over compensate (everyone gets everything and gets invited to all the meetings) or under-compensate (people are left in the dark).
The second of the factors affecting time and task management is what I call the organisation’s culture. I once did some work in a company where (everyone admitted) there was a culture of demanding attention, of shouting across the room, of interrupting people without thought for what they were doing etc. Can you imagine how difficult and inefficient, it must have been to work in that place.
A good organisational culture is respectful, in the sense that people consider when they communicate with others (is it a good time for the person you’re communicating with, as well a good time for you?).
The third factor effecting time and task management is the individual’s skill. This, of course, is the area where the individual has most control. And it’s the part of time and task management that is most written about. Simply stated, most books on the subject advise you to work out what you need to do (divide projects/jobs etc. into tasks), create a list or allocate tasks to slots of time in a diary or calendar.
Let me finish with two points. One – if you’re trying to be more efficient at work and are attempting to improve your productivity, bear in mind all three factors. Focusing on the last one is fine, but if the other two are acting as negative forces, you won’t make much progress. Two – it’s my belief that to be efficient and productive at work you also need to take a deeper look at yourself. In particular, you need to understand your personal work goals and the motivation that flows from having them. It’s simple, if there isn’t much of a personal reason for doing your work (perhaps because it doesn’t pay enough, or it’s not what you really want to do) then you’re never going to be very efficient.
I’ll come back to personal goals at work in a future post.
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