Over 50 years ago, time management consultant, Alan Lakein, wrote a book called How to Get Control of Your Time and your Life. It was an immediate success – a bestseller that is still available on Amazon and receiving some excellent reviews. At the time, I was owner of an association management company called Harold L Taylor Enterprises Ltd., and I booked Alan Lakein to present a workshop on time management for one of our association clients, the Canadian industrial Management Association, later to be renamed the Canadian Institute of Management.
Lakein was time management in motion, and I had no trouble identifying him as he emerged from the baggage claim area with his hand luggage. Realizing he would not recognize me, he announced without slowing his stride, “Alan Lakein. Alan Lakein. Anyone for Alan Lakein?” He shook my raised hand without missing a step as we made our way to the Toronto airport parking. I don’t recall our conversation on the way to the hotel or the details of his workshop, which basically summarized what he said in his book. But I do recall he skipped lunch and asked me to drive him to the airport so he could review the timing and check the gate number etc. so he would know when he must leave following the workshop. He obviously practiced what he preached.
A photo of my original copy of the pocketbook edition of his book accompanies this article. Note that the price of the book was $1.50. That has changed considerably during the last fifty years. And so has our working environment. As well as the technology, resources, research information available, knowledge of how our mind works, the pace of life, and so on.
His workshop sparked my interest in time management to such a degree it changed my career, and about a decade later I wrote my own book on time management and became a time management consultant as well. And I have been keeping up to date with the research, the latest ideas, and trying to determine what still works and what doesn’t.
Most people are still using Lakein’s suggestions – such as “Work smarter, not harder,” and “Control starts with planning,” and answering his famous question, “What is the best use of my time right now?” But what actions you should take, and what answer you give to his question might be different today than it would have been over 50 years ago. Many of the strategies recommended by others would be different as well.
Lakein listed some common mistakes that keep you from doing the most important A-1 tasks. But some of those “mistakes” he listed includes socializing, catching up on reading, getting organized, sleeping, and others. I would now consider these to be A-1s themselves.
Times change, and we must adapt to that change. When I started presenting time management workshops a decade or so later, I sometimes recommended the opposite to what Lakein and others were suggesting at that time. And a decade or so after that, I might be contradicting myself. I still wince when I think of some of the strategies that I recommended less than a decade ago. But we must continually adjust. I recall once having said that knowledge has no expiry date. But that only applies to some knowledge. We must be selective. And we must be careful how we apply that knowledge.
Yes, Lakein’s book is great – with many suggestions still applicable today. But Lakein didn’t have a laptop, smartphone, e-mail, digital filing, or access to the Internet. And many recommendations that I suggested in my workshops decades ago are completely useless as well in today’s environment.
New time management strategies are always needed. Ones that allow for today’s technology, the current pace off life, the knowledge we now have of our brain, the increase in stress, and our behavior in an increasingly digital world.
In this new year, 2024, my blog articles will focus on what still works and what is no longer effective. And I’ll start by admitting that some knowledge does have an expiry date. But the learning and the application of new discoveries never stop.
My next article will start with a look at time itself. We must know what it is if we intend to manage it. Or is it is something that is impossible to manage?