Just before midnight December 16, 2002, Amazon sent its business customers an announcement: “A Harvard module on Time Management is available…come and get it.” By the next morning, it was Amazon’s Number Two seller! Important problem, eh?
The HBR module listed the three phases of effective time management: 1) Analysis, 2) Planning, 3) Follow-up and Evaluation. And then provided a handbook for following this rigorous and disciplined approach. In other words, they wanted you to do the stuff you’d be doing if you had the time to manage your time in the first place!
There is a much easier way to gain control over how each day’s 1440 minutes are used. More direct, too. The best time management practice is Just Saying No.
Can You Name Your Five Biggest Time-Wasters?
I can. Since 1992, I’ve been studying work from the worker’s perspective. Countless interviews and surveys later, I can say with confidence that the biggest blackholes in your workday are:
2. Dealing with communication from others (Used to be mainly via email…Now there are countless channels, media and ways to reach you 24×7)
3. Communicating to others (Ditto on countless ways)
4. Corporate-centered rules, tools and procedures that are designed around the company’s needs, but not yours
5. Your boss micromanaging or undervaluing you
Your circumstances may change the order, but these are probably your biggest time bandits. And they are a lot more than petty annoyances. Consistently, I have found that Blackholes One, Two, and Three cost people like you at least two wasted hours per day! Non-replaceable hours, gone.
Let’s Simplify Time Management: Hey, you! If you don’t walk out of meetings that waste your time…If you don’t hit Delete on at least 75% of the communication coming at you…If you keep going to All-Hands Town Meetings because you’re ‘supposed to’…If you keep checking emails from home and jumping through communication hoops for others because it’s the politically correct thing to do…Then don’t whine about having so little time! Got it?
With three of the top five time-wasters, you are in control of those lost hours. Not your boss. Not your company. Not technology. You.
No matter how crazed you feel, you don’t need new time management tools or more analysis, planning, and evaluating than you’re already doing. You just need to give yourself permission to say ‘No’ more often, and take back control of who you let use your time, and how it is used. That’s it: the big time management secret of this economy.
Basically, there are three kinds of people who are gaining control over how their time is spent:
Either they were pushed to the point of almost breaking (forcing a career or lifestyle change), or a major health or family situation forced a wake-up call. They are now habitual in pushing back, and continually asking, “Why does this deserve my time and attention?”
You know the kind. They have gatekeepers to say no for them, filter their incoming communication, and shape their outgoing communication. Obviously, this approach has major downsides!
The Famous and Powerful
They have other kinds of problems to be sure, but often others must organize their schedules around these people.
If I could influence just one of your decisions this year, it would be this: Become a PushBack Zealot. Become a claim-back-at-least-two-hours-per-day zealot.
That’s time management simplified.