Category Archives: Personal productivity

The three factors of time/task management

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.

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

When is enough enough?

Some people stop work and go home at 5.30 and don’t think about it again until the following morning. But for some of us there is always one more thing, sometimes many more things, that need to be done or that could be done.

Seth Godin uses the term ‘dance’ for this endless process of deciding when to stop. My term for it is a little less poetic – I think of it as knowing when enough is enough. It’s deciding that we’ve done all that we can, or all that we are prepared to do.

Knowing when to stop is a big decision, and for many it’s a big and difficult challenge. ‘When is enough enough?’ – it’s the topic that most often crops up when I do time management workshops.

Making the decision to stop often takes account of our bodies (we’re tired or hungry), but it should always take account of the fact that a rewarding life which is lived to the full involves a variety of activities (not just work).

Whether you call it the dance (and from now on I will), or whether you think of deciding when enough is enough, getting that decision right is a major factor in living a fulfilling life.

Knowing when to stop – or knowing how to dance – becomes clearer if you ask yourself some powerful questions:

What is the most important in thing my life?

What do I want to achieve?

What gives me most pleasure?

What is expected of me?

What am I capable of?

What do I want to do now?

.. and ..

Is it time to stop?

If you don’t know Seth Godin’s blog, check it out here

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or