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10 suggestions for managing time.

Make the best use of your time.

By Harold Taylor

Here are a few of my favorite suggestions for managing time.

  1. Put your goals in writing. Determine where you would like to be in 10 years and 5 years and one year and put those goals in writing. Then each week schedule time to work on those tasks and activities that will lead to those annual and long-term goals. Where you will be in 10 years or 5 years or one year is determined by what you do today, tomorrow and next week.       
  2. Organize your work area.  An organized desk is not the sign of a sick mind; it is the sign of an organized mind.  People do better on exams when neatly dressed, excel in sales when well prepared, and are more productive at work when their materials are arranged in an orderly way. Have frequently used materials within reach, an orderly system of filing, and a work environment that discourages distractions.
  3. Plan your day.  If you have no objectives for the day you will likely have a matching set of results.  Plans are the handrails that guide you through the day’s distractions and keep you on course.  Plan what you will do at the start, evaluate progress during the day, and measure results at the finish.
  4. Schedule your tasks.  Listing jobs on a “to do” list shows your intention to work on them; but scheduling important tasks in your planner reveals a commitment to get them done.  Make appointments with yourself at specific times to work on your priority tasks, complete with start and finish times.  And keep those appointments.
  5. Handle paper only once.  When possible, that is.  Don’t even look at your mail until you have 30 to 60 minutes available to review and dispense with it.  As you pick up each piece of paper, scrap it, delegate it, do it, file it, or schedule a time to do it later. The same thing applies to e-mail.
  6. Don’t procrastinate.  Procrastination is putting off until later what is best done now. If it’s too large a task to complete at one sitting, break it into chunks and do a little at a time.  If it’s distasteful, do it now and get it over with.  Putting things off wastes time, causes stress and frustration, and make life more difficult for others as well as you.
  7. Write it down.  Writing things down does not mean you are circumventing your memory; you are simply helping it to do its job.  We all need reminders to prevent a myriad of essential tasks from dying of neglect.  The pen is mightier than the sword, and it writes better. Never rely on memory alone.
  8. Say “No’ more often.  Some people say, “Yes” to others simply because they’re available or don’t want to offend.  Make sure the request is compatible with your goals before you agree.  Have as much respect for your time as you have for other peoples’ time. Remember, every time you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something a lot more important that could be done instead.
  9. Delegate more. This is one of the greatest time-savers of all because it frees up time for more important tasks. If you have no one to delegate to, ask your suppliers to help or outsource if possible. Be on the lookout for timesaving technology that will help free up your time. And don’t delegate or outsource anything that can be eliminated.
  10. Practice the Pareto Principle. This 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of your results are achieved by 20% of the things you do. Focus on the priorities, and if some tasks don’t get done, let it be those of less importance.

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Bad news – We can’t manage time.

Good news – We don’t have to manage time, only ourselves.

By Harold L Taylor

Effective time management is a difficult process since it involves resisting four of the following five natural tendencies of people. Effective time management involves managing ourselves, not time. We must build self-discipline if we want to increase our personal productivity.

1. We tend to spend more time on the things we enjoy doing at the expense of those tasks we find distasteful. Writing call reports may be instrumental in expanding sales and planning future calls, for example. But if we hate writing reports, we tend to do other things less productive and delay or skip the report writing. If the enjoyable task is also the most important task, all is well. Frequently, this is not the case.

2. We tend to work on the easy tasks before we start the difficult ones. It’s only natural to take the path of least resistance. If something is complex or will take a lot of time to complete, it is likely to be delayed. So if we have to write a book as well as an article, guess which one gets tackled first? If the article can be polished off in a few hours, it gets the priority treatment, even though it may not be the priority, nor lead to the largest gain.

3. We tend to work on other peoples’ priorities before we spend time on our own. This is the “nice guy” attitude, which really reflects a lack of respect for our own time. For example, if someone asks to meet us at a time when we were planning to work on a task of our own, we frequently agree, delaying our own priorities rather than disappoint the other person. Since our personal priorities encompass our families, this could result in missing family activities as well.

4. We tend to work on projects that bring an immediate reward — whether it is money or recognition — before we work on those that offer an even larger reward sometime in the future. We are living in an “instant” generation, putting off things we want most for things we want at the moment. Although ineffective, it’s a natural tendency. After all, we like to feel good, so it’s tempting to work on something that will provide that reward quickly. Similarly, urgent items tend to take priority over important items.

5. We tend to work on those things that are scheduled in our planners before we start the things on our “to do” lists. Lists of things to do are intentions; but scheduled blocks of time in our planning calendars are commitments. Rarely do we forget or delay appointments or meetings that are scheduled for specific times. But things included on a To Do list are often overlooked. Frequently, those missed activities are far more important than the scheduled appointments. We can take advantage of this last tendency by scheduling the important tasks in our planner rather than relegating them to a To Do list.

Use your willpower the next time you have the urge to act out a natural tendencies, and instead, act out a new behavior that is more reasonable and more productive. You can break bad habits and replace them with more productive ones – those 20% that yield 80% of your results – by strengthening your willpower. Neurologists seem to agree that every time you make a conscious effort to practice willpower, your willpower becomes stronger.

The key is to focus on the new behavior. The more you focus and follow through with the new behavior, the sooner this new behavior becomes the new habit. The old habit will fade from disuse. The reason this works is that by acting out a new behavior again and again, you are re-wiring your current neurons to form new circuits.

Of course it still takes willpower to start the process in the first place. And since willpower consumes energy, you must get plenty of sleep, eat well, avoid stress as much is possible and avoid marathon work sessions without taking regular breaks.

You could further assist your brain by scheduling the tough tasks in the mornings – those tasks that require deep thinking, problem-solving and creativity. Your energy is generally higher in the morning. That’s probably why people seldom break from their healthy diets early in the day; but grab snacks and cheat on their diets before bedtime.

Time-management involves self-management. The good news is that, unlike time, self-management is completely within your control.

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Interruptions are on the increase

When you leave the office, the interruptions follow

We are ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught of interruptions introduced by technology. Our brain’s natural inclination is to react to them. We coped with this in the old days by isolating ourselves from interruptions by closing our office door, having our calls screened or intercepted or by going to a coffee shop where no one could contact us.

With the advent of the cell phone, e-mail, texting and portable devices, interruptions now follow us wherever we go. We are at the mercy of our own ability or inability to resist the urge to answer our smart phones, check incoming e-mail or respond to text messages. To read articles concerning the use of technology, click here.

The battlefield, where it is determined whether we will lose the quest for personal productivity, has shifted from our office to our brain.

Although technology is evolving exponentially, our brains are not. The allure of e-mail, according to one techno-psychologist, is similar to that of the slot machine: You have intermittent, variable reinforcement. You don’t know when you will be next rewarded so you keep pulling the handle.

There are different theories on willpower. Originally it was thought that willpower was like a muscle that was easily depleted. And research backed this up. But newer research also suggests we have as much willpower as we expect we have. If you believe you have the willpower to resist interruptions, you will have it. Sort of like the placebo effect.

This latter theory also seems to be backed up by research conducted at the University of Rochester as a follow-up to the marshmallow experiments of the 1960s. In the experiments of the 1960s, children were given a marshmallow and told that if they could resist eating it for a few minutes they would get two marshmallows. Those who resisted the longest, showing the greatest self-control, were more successful later in life.

The Rochester experiments involved giving one group of children old used crayons and telling them if they resisted playing with them, they would be given new ones. But they never received the new ones. Another group was told the same thing but the researchers made good on their promise of new crayons. When they all took the marshmallow test afterwards, the group with a good experience behind them resisted eating the marshmallow for 12 minutes. The other group, who obviously had lower expectations, lasted only 2 minutes.

Although our brain hasn’t evolved recently, perhaps it doesn’t have to. We already have a brain capable of resisting temptation – although it may need strengthening – and we can still do a lot to remove the source of the temptation.

Removing the source of temptation could involve turning off your handheld devices while you work on priority projects, keeping the paperwork, to do lists and other distractions out of sight while working on a specific task, and leaving your cell phone at home if you decide to work in a coffee shop. You could also do all your priority work in the same place — one devoid of distracting scenery, pictures or paraphernalia so your brain gets to associate that space with work.

Resisting temptation might involve not going online or checking e-mail before 10 AM, ignoring a ringing telephone when you’re talking with family and friends, and resisting any urge to buy electronic devices that you really don’t need. (After all, who really needs a smart watch when they already have a smart phone? It’s much more important to have a smart brain.)

Self-discipline or self-control, focus, attention, prioritizing and planning are essential if we are to remain effective in this digital age of speed. These are functions of our executive centre in the prefrontal cortex area of our brain. That’s why I say that the battlefield has shifted from the office to the brain.

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Be proactive, not reactive.

7 examples of a proactive person

Proactive people are always looking ahead at future activities, projects and events and anticipating needs, problems and possible outcomes. For example, if they are attending a conference in a different city, they go beyond actually booking air travel, arranging ground transportation and booking a hotel room. They mentally walk through the three-day event, deciding in advance what they will wear at the various functions, which presentations they will attend, and who they will seek out in order to maximize their networking opportunities. In the process, they might decide that they will need business cards, writing materials, an empty carry-on bag to house the information that they will be collecting at the exhibits and casual clothes for the Saturday night barbecue.

It’s no accident that a few people always seem to have a spare pen to loan, a safety pin to offer, a Band-Aid or pain killer when someone’s in distress and shampoo when there’s none in the hotel room. These are the people you turn to when you need a hair dryer or a list of meeting rooms or change for the hotel vending machine. They are also the people who are frequently selected as project managers, management trainees and group leaders. They are organized, punctual and productive – and respected by their managers and peers alike.

What is their secret? How are they able to be prepared for almost any situation? Here are a few of the tools, strategies and mindset that form an example of a proactive person.

  1. Set goals. Proactive people hold planning sessions with themselves as well as with others, and set specific goals for the future. They not only put them in writing, along with deadline dates, they schedule time in their planners to actually work on them. By doing this, they are helping to create their own future as opposed to reacting to unplanned events.
  2. Block off time for important tasks and activities. Proactive people use planning calendars as they are supposed to use them – to reserve time in the future for priority tasks and activities. By being able to visualize the future, they are able to anticipate possible problems and act before they can occur. Just looking at an event such as a scheduled meeting in writing, sets your mind thinking about things you will need for that meeting. Proactive people normally schedule their priority activities about a week ahead, leaving unscheduled time each day for those important and urgent tasks and activities that inevitably pop up throughout the week. They may have to do some juggling in order to fit them all in; but they never allow a priority task or activity be replaced without first rescheduling it to another time slot. And they never replace a scheduled activity with a less important one. They realize that the good is the enemy of the best.
  3. Use checklists. Proactive people make up checklists for all repetitive events or activities, such as meetings, travel, conferences, sales calls, workshops and interviews. These checklists are updated if necessary after each event. If anything was missed, it is added to the list so that it won’t be forgotten the next time. Checklists save time and money and prevent errors.
  4. Review results. Proactive people don’t just follow through with planned tasks and events, they follow up as well, and make sure the value received was worth the time and effort expended. This ensures that they are indeed completing the 20% of the tasks that yield 80% of the results. They always question whether they are making the best possible use of their time. 
  5. Plan long range. Proactive people recognize that it’s never too early to plan, and that planning too late causes crises and time problems. If the Titanic had started turning sooner, it never would have hit the iceberg. Small adjustments made earlier avoid large adjustments having to be made at the last minute.
  6. Set deadlines. Proactive people set deadlines on every planned activity. They are aware of Parkinson’s Law, which indicates activities will consume as much time as you have available for them. Setting deadlines both increases efficiency and prevents procrastination. Proactive people realize that deadlines don’t cause stress; only unrealistic deadlines cause stress. So they always allow more time than they think the task or activity will actually take. This allows for those unpredictable interruptions.
  7. Maintain the right attitudeAlthough there are certain tools and techniques that proactive people use, a big part of it is their attitude or state of mind. In fact, it could be called a way of life. Proactive people wouldn’t think of making a telephone call without first jotting down the items for discussion or going to the supermarket without first making a list of the items they need. They don’t resent looking at a map before taking a trip or googling a prospect’s website before meeting making a cold sales call or reading the instructions before assembling a swing set.

These practices can be developed and nurtured until they become habits. Practice with little things, such as deciding before going to bed what clothes you will be wearing the next morning. You may discover that something needs pressing. In the morning, mentally walk through the day. What time will you leave the house, where will you park, what jobs will you do first etc. The more times you think ahead, the more comfortable you will become with planning. As you see your days running smoother, with fewer crises and problems, the more you will be encouraged to become proactive in everything you do.

Proactive means “acting beforehand.” Taking action in the present will influence things in the future – perhaps even the future itself. So practice those habits exhibited by proactive people. Set goals. Schedule time for priority tasks and activities. Use checklists. Review results. Plan long range. Set deadlines. And continually make adjustments to improve future outcomes.

There is power in being proactive.

Note: Being proactive is one of the keys to increasing personal productivity. For other ways to do so, attend Harold’s three hour workshop on “Increase your Personal Productivity” in Sussex, New Brunswick, on Saturday, June 15, 2019. Click here for details or select workshops from the “Shop” drop-down menu on the Home page.

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How to handle rush jobs.

Tyranny of the urgent

Defeating the tyranny of the urgent.

Based on hundreds of surveys of time management seminar participants over a thirty year period, “rush jobs” are among the top ten time problems faced by managers and staff alike. It seems that they are on the receiving end of tasks and projects that have to be done “right away” or “ASAP.” A bevy of urgent tasks requiring immediate attention on a daily basis produces a breeding ground for stress. And stress is the enemy of both physical and mental health as personal productivity.

Here are a few suggestions for handling the rush jobs that you must face during the course of your day.

1. Question the importance of all rush jobs. They may be urgent but not important. Important jobs have intrinsic value. They can impact your personal goals or your company’s bottom line. Urgent jobs simply have a short time frame. If you don’t do them right away it’s too late. But too late for what? The consequence of not doing them may be negligible. Some of them may be best left undone.

2. As soon as you receive a rush job to do, whether from your boss or someone else, question the deadline. It may have been chosen arbitrarily. The time to negotiate a different deadline is at the time you receive the assignment, not when you find that you are unable to meet it.

3. For each rush job, ask yourself the question, “What’s the impact on my job, my career or this company if this task is not completed on time?”

Recognize that you can’t do two things in the same time frame. Do one thing at a time, starting with those that are the most important. Stress only aggravates the situation.

4. Get into the habit of scheduling time to work on the priority tasks in your planning calendar right away to avoid procrastination. Many jobs become urgent simply because of a delay in starting them. Immediately upon receiving a priority assignment, break it into smaller segments if necessary and schedule times in your planner to work on them. This also creates both a commitment to do them, and a visual display of your workload and the time still available for other tasks.

These tasks can only be displaced by more important tasks, regardless of their urgency. Any less important tasks can be added to a “To Do” list and worked on when and if there is time left over or delegated to others.

Remember that it’s not how many things you do but what you accomplish that counts. Don’t lose sight of your goals. Concentrate on the 20% of the activities that produce 80% of the results.

5. Say “no” more often. Be assertive. Realize that by saying yes to a rush job, you may be saying no to something more important. If you have entered previous tasks in your planner, you will know when you have to say no. If you struggle with how to actually say no, refer to my e-Book, “How to say no when you want to say yes,” published by Bookboon.com.

6. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. You can’t be all things to all people nor do two things in the same time frame. If you’re in a position to delegate, do so. But don’t waste time on trivial tasks that would produce little reward for the company.

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Memory is declining as we age

Is memory declining faster than ever?

There are many causes of dementia and memory loss declining faster as we grow older; but I believe the two main ones, both involving brain activity, are outlined below.

In the past when we needed to know something or solve some problem or get information of any kind, we would ask other people, join trade associations, visit the library, check a dictionary or encyclopedia, or read books and magazines. Most of these things involve both physical and mental exercise and stimulation as well as interaction with others.

But now, all we have to do is Google whatever we want to know. There is very little brain and body stimulation involved and little interaction with others. We have all the information we need at our fingertips. Unfortunately, exercising our fingertips is not enough.

The second reason is that in the past we had full-time employment – a job or career that kept us in contact with other people and continually stimulated our brain almost every day of the week.

But upon retirement, the normal practice is to take it easy, have fewer contacts, use our brain less frequently, have less physical exercise, and more passive activities – such as watching TV. Life for many has become a spectator sport.

This is not always the case, however, and some people continue to lead an active lifestyle, and if not working, spend much time volunteering. In general, people who volunteer are healthier, happier and live longer.

There are many things you can do in addition to exercising your body and brain in order to help prevent mental decline and aid your memory,

Write things down.

Writing things down not only allows you to refer to the information later, it also helps to put it into long-term memory and aids recall. Writing keeps you mindful, increases focus, and reduces distractions. I recommend that you make notes when on the telephone, use a paper planner to schedule tasks, events and activities, and start journaling.

Watch your weight.

Diet is important for overall health, including the brain. Obesity could lead to high blood pressure, which lowers cognitive function. There is a link between weight gain and memory loss.

Read deeply and avoid digital.

Deep reading involves slowing down, concentrating on the meaning of what you’re reading, highlighting key sentences, and sometimes flipping back to previous pages as necessary to ensure understanding. Deep reading improves memory and recall while reading electronic books or Internet articles are more difficult, and encourage distractions and multitasking.

Avoid stress.

Stress induces the release of cortisol, and excess cortisol impairs functioning in the prefrontal cortex – an emotional learning centre that helps regulate working memory as well as other executive skills. The overproduction of cortisol was found in seniors who were experiencing memory loss.

Get adequate sleep.

Sleep deprivation impairs functioning of the executive skills, including working memory. It is during sleep that information is transferred to long-term memory, and brain cells are replenished and repaired.

Eat the right foods.

Proper nutrition can help prevent cognitive decline. Avoid foods high in trans fats such as French fries potato chips and doughnuts. Foods are believed to keep the brain sharp include such things as blueberries, salmon kale and supplements such as EPA Omega 3 fish oil.

Drink plenty of water.

Drinking water is believed to sharpen your recall skills and it has been shown that bringing water into an exam room can raise students’ marks.

Coffee in moderation.

While too much coffee has been associated with stress, in moderation it seems to give memory a boost. Research has backed this up.

Have your hearing checked.

Research suggests that even a mild hearing loss may have a detrimental effect on your ability to learn and remember.

Spend time outdoors.

Nature can have a powerful influence on your brain – including creativity, working memory, concentration and self-control. Taking nature walks can improve mood and relieve the mental fatigue that goes with depression and mental illness.

It is imperative that you walk more, sit less, and move around as much as possible. A sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy. And the brain is like  muscle inasmuch if you don’t use it you lose it. More on memory is included in my e-Book, Boost your memory, published by Bookboon.com.

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5 simple ways to save time

Time management doesn’t need to be complicated…

There are many ways to maximize the effective utilization of time, such as set goals, plan your day, schedule your tasks, delegate and organize your work area. But there are many other simple ways that you should not overlook. Here are five of them.

  1. Don’t rush.  People who don’t have the time to do something right always seem to have the time to do it over again.  Mistakes occur more frequently when a job is done in a hurry.  Take the time to do it right in the first place.  If you can’t get everything done, at least get the most important things done right.
  2. If in doubt, ask. Inadequate communications is a sinkhole for time.  Don’t bluff, ask.  Get your pride from a job well done, not from being able to guess what’s required. Asking is faster than trying to piece together fractured communications.  You are respected for your accomplishments, not your silence.
  3. Write it down.  Writing things down does not mean you are circumventing your memory — you are simply helping it to do its job.  We all need reminders to prevent a myriad of essential tasks from dying of neglect.  The pen is mightier than the sword — and it writes better.
  4. Avoid stress. Recognize you can’t do everything or be all things to all people. Be organized, effective and efficient; but don’t go on a guilt trip just because you can’t do the impossible. It’s not the stressful environment, but your reaction to it, that does the damage. Your health should be your number one priority. Without it you’re of little use to anyone.
  5. Respect the time of others.  If everyone treated others as they themselves would like to be treated, there wouldn’t be the unnecessary personal interruptions, telephone calls, electronic messages and correspondence that most people are experiencing.  Accumulate your questions, concerns and assignments and interrupt others less frequently.
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Organization & time management: partners in productivity.

Organizing is the act of rearranging items that are in a disorganized, cluttered state so that everything can be retrieved quickly with less effort, maximizing both their utility and visual appeal.

Time management refers to increasing both the efficiency and the effectiveness of individuals and organizations through the organization of tasks and events by using tools such as planners and computers, and techniques and processes such as goal-setting, planning and scheduling.

The two activities are interrelated since disorganization normally wastes time. The major difference between organizing and time management is that, in general, organizing deals with things and time management deals with activities that have a time dimension. We organize our desk, our files, our supplies, our possessions and so on.  We manage the time at our disposal, by deciding what to do, when do it, and how to do it.

Time management in any environment, electronic or otherwise, involves working both efficiently and effectively. You are working efficiently when you complete tasks in the best possible way. You are working effectively when you concentrate your efforts on the best possible tasks. What you do is considered more important than how you do it. But when you get organized and work both efficiently and effectively, you are approaching excellence.

Organization has been known to reduce stress, improve memory and recall and conserve energy, and improve focus. With the reduction of clutter, there are fewer distractions and less searching for things or shuffling papers – in addition to a more aesthetic environment.

Organization and time management go hand in hand, and both are essential for peak productivity.

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History of Time Management

The History of Time Management Dates Back to the Late 1800s

People have always searched for better and more efficient ways of doing things, whether it involved a more effective way of trapping animals for food or a more efficient way of starting a fire with friction. But it wasn’t until the later 1800s and early 1900s that anyone took a purposeful, scientific approach to getting things done faster with less effort. Frederick Winslow Taylor is normally considered to be the father of scientific management. He wrote his book, The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911, which, together with the work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, became the launching pad for today’s time management. It started as a quest to increase productivity in manufacturing, focused on the efficiency of individual workers, quickly spread to the office, and eventually encompassed the home environment as well. Taylor sought a one best way to do every job, standardizing work methods and tools in order to increase productivity.

History of time management

Taylorism, as it was called, began to change the way organizations functioned. Before this time, organizations were usually set up in homes or informal businesses where the workspaces were open. There were no barriers to communication and ideas could flow freely among employees. Instead, manufacturing areas and offices were separated, work became specialized, procedures became fixed and efficiency increased. Unfortunately communications decreased. Temporarily at least, human relations took a back seat to productivity. This was not Taylor’s intention. He was trying to make it easier for the employee as well as have them increase productivity. Although he didn’t coin the “work smarter, not harder phrase”, this was his intention.

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth also had an impact by introducing time and motion study to the manufacturing process. The Gilbreths had twelve children and the movie Cheaper by the Dozen was based on their lives. They demonstrated that the same principles being applied in business could be adapted to the home. Their work gave rise to industrial engineering, time studies, and incentive standards, and a continuous pursuit of efficiency, not only in the plants but in the offices as well.

Early time management books and pioneers

When I entered management ranks in the 50s, Lillian Gilbreth was still alive and on the speaking circuit. She spoke to our Canadian Industrial Management Association at one of our dinner meetings – so that gives you an idea of how old I must be! While I was Quality Control Supervisor at the time, I shared an office with the plant industrial engineers who organized the work stations and set standards for the pace of work.

The earlier time management books reflected the work of these pioneers, Taylor, Gilbreth, Gantt and others. I have accumulated over 900 books on time management over the years. A few date back to the 1940s. One of the earlier books consisted almost entirely of how to do common everyday things faster, illustrating how you could shave hours off your week, and thereby add two years to your life. This obsession with saving time could actually have the reverse effect, decreasing your lifespan. The best way to add two years to your life is to live two years longer. And this entails not doing things faster, but living a healthier lifestyle, free from excessive stress.

Many of today’s time management books still emphasize efficiency and increased productivity with little emphasis on effectiveness and life balance. But more and more books are now taking a more holistic approach and include stress management, life balance, simplification and a greater emphasis on working smarter. When I used to tell people I was a time management specialist they would say, “Oh, an efficiency expert”.

Efficiency experts had a bad reputation. They weren’t well-liked because whenever they came into a company it usually resulted in people being laid off as jobs were simplified, combined or eliminated. Spencer Tracy was an efficiency expert in one of the old movies. I believe it was with Katherine Hepburn.

What this quest for efficiency did in most cases was alienate the workers. Human relationships took a back seat. People were in separate areas or offices, took timed coffee breaks and lunch hours at specific times, and in many cases punched a clock every time they came and went – to keep track of hours worked. Workers were disciplined for chatting too long at the water cooler or kidding around in the factory. Policies, procedures and rules were developed. They usually stifled employee interaction, discouraged creativity and generated greater union activity.

So the backlash, if I can call it that, was the human relations movement, where it was felt that a happy worker was a productive worker. We went from isolated offices to cubicles without doors, landscaped offices with movable partitions or no partitions, office parties and Christmas bonuses. A lot of time clocks were eliminated. Communication meetings were introduced and so on. Supervision changed from an authoritative or dictator style to a consultative or participative style. But that era, and the organizational development era that followed were motivated by the same desire to maximize employee productivity.

It’s ironic that the current digital era that we’re in now is once again dehumanizing the work environment, decreasing personal interaction, reducing our creativity, and in some ways putting us back into the scientific management era. But this time we are doing it willingly rather than having it imposed on us. And it’s mainly because we’re being seduced by technology.

Although time management had its start over a hundred years ago, the need for time management is greater than ever. As the pace of life increases, the perception of time changes. A decade seems to pass in a few years. In an advanced time management program that I developed, I actually discuss the management of internal time, the perceived passage of time. I predict there will be a lot more research on internal time and how we can manage our brain and take advantage of our biological clock in order to manage our time – and our lives – more effectively.

Summary

The history of time management summed up:
In the early days of time management we became fixated on efficiency at the expense of human interaction. This eventually gave rise to more focus on human interactivity but with the same aim – efficiency and productivity. Our obsession with efficiency is somewhat misguided and as Harold points out in his teachings the real goal is effectiveness and balance.

Key points to take away:

  • Frederick Winslow Taylor is normally considered to be the father of scientific management. He wrote his book, The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911, which, together with the work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, became the launching pad for today’s time management.
  • Although he didn’t coin the “work smarter, not harder phrase”, this was his intention.
  • Frank and Lillian Gilbreth’s work gave rise to industrial engineering, time studies, and incentive standards, and a continuous pursuit of efficiency, not only in the plants but in the offices as well.
  • Many of today’s time management books still emphasize efficiency and increased productivity with little emphasis on effectiveness and life balance.
  • Although there was a “human relations movement” as a backlash to our obsession with efficiency we have since moved into a digital era where technology is the new “oppressor”.
  • Harold Taylor predicts there will be a movement towards research on internal time and how we can manage our brains and take advantage of our biological clock in order to manage our time
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Be an active listener.

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The most important thing you can do when facing a customer, or anyone for that matter, is to engage in active listening. There is no greater way of displaying respect than listening attentively to what people have to say.  Lean forward to show interest. Establish eye contact. Resist the temptation to glance at your watch. Devote full attention to the speaker.

The onus is on the listener to avoid prejudging, daydreaming, interrupting, criticizing the speaker’s delivery, reacting to emotional words and being distracted by the environment.

Focused listening can save time as well as improve communication and personal relationships.  Show interest by giving the person your full attention. Listen for the ideas and don’t be distracted by the way the ideas are expressed. Half listening can waste time, cause stress because you lose track of what has been said, strain the speaker-listener relationship and result in costly misunderstandings.

People talk at roughly 125 words a minute while we listen at speeds over four times that fast. Since our minds must be busy doing something, we go on little mental excursions. We find ourselves thinking about other things. To prevent this from happening, let your “extracurricular thinking” revolve around the speaker’s comments. Think about the conclusions that he or she will probably arrive at, the evidence that supports claims being made, how the opinions stack up against those of other people you’ve listened to. Mentally review the points covered to date. In other words, keep focusing on what is being said at the time.

Limit your own talking, except to ask questions, and don’t let your mind wander. When you do speak, gain the respect of your clients more quickly by speaking more slowly. Since most people listen at only 25 percent of their capacity, you can improve communications by actually using the word “listen” in your conversation.  This periodic reminder will stimulate their listening.  Example: “Listen John, if I were to…..” The use of the word “listen” has been shown to have a positive impact on their listening.

There’s more to effective listening than meets the ear. It’s hard work. It requires an active participation in the communication process. It takes effort, practice. And it requires that we break habits that have been forming since childhood. One such habit is interrupting the speaker. We want to finish the speaker’s sentence for him or her either aloud or to ourselves. We’re impatient. Sometimes we can’t even tolerate pauses in the conversation. We want to rush in with our own words or thoughts. Even when we are not speaking, we’re frequently not listening. We are rehearsing what we are going to say in turn.

Effective listening can be learned. It requires greater mental application because it is an active skill. But like anything else, the right kind of practice makes perfect. So slow down, be patient, and lend an ear – maybe two.