Talk

Time Management is passé

Sandip Ghose | Updated on July 19, 2021

Make an impact: Creating time and mental space — avoiding digital distractions and physical interruptions — is the key today   -  RAVIKANTH

The new fight is about managing the mind and distractions

* The concept of ‘Time Management’ was a legacy of the factory culture — in which machine productivity was the key

* In figuring out the new way of work and maximising our creative output, we should look at the original ‘knowledge workers’ of mankind

* Over time, people will get the message that you have clear ‘DND’ (Do Not Disturb) times

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We have moved from the days of the Industrial Revolution to an age of distraction. With automation and the advent of computers many labour-intensive and time-consuming activities have become routine. This is going to further change with Artificial Intelligence and Industry 4.0. The new fight is, therefore, for mind-space and attention.

As the world moved from the industrial to the knowledge and digital era, the emphasis has shifted from efficiency to ‘effectiveness’. The knowledge worker is judged not by how much she produced but what difference she made. Managers gave way to ‘leaders’.

By extension, the concept of ‘Time Management’ was a legacy of the factory culture — in which machine productivity was the key. Efficiency is measured as a function of input versus output. Thus came the importance of checklists and in-trays. The number of items ticked off at the end of the day and number of papers transferred to the out tray determined work accomplished.

Into the Zone

The new ball game is all about contribution and value addition. It is no longer quantity or numbers but quality and impact. This calls for a change in the way we look at time. Unlike in a factory — where machines work at the same speed and produce uniform quality for 24 hours — knowledge workers’ do not work like robots. They go through ups and downs throughout the day due to a variety of physiological and psychological factors. Besides, for humans each day is different. From physical energy and fitness — mental agility and fatigue are receiving greater attention.

So, planning the day is all about identifying the periods of peak performance to get our most important work done in that time. The day is no longer looked as hours and minutes but as chunks to get the bang for the time.

Creating time and mental space — avoiding digital distractions and physical interruptions — is the key today. In figuring out the new way of work and maximising our creative output, we should look at the original ‘knowledge workers’ of mankind. They are creative artists and writers. What is common among them is discipline and concentration. They invariably set aside time when the creative energies are at the peak. This could be mornings for some. For others, it could be other times of the day — depending on habit or circadian rhythms as many believe.

The secret of creativity is to be able to cut yourself from the world and shut out all disturbances when you are in the ‘zone’ so to speak. This is all the more relevant today — when we are being targeted continuously by an array of stimuli — starting from telephone calls, text messages, emails and social media. Push notifications from apps are the most recent addition to the list. No wonder a famous author said, writing is 1 per cent creativity and 99 per cent staying away from the internet.

Through time traps

Common distractions are when colleagues pop through the door or stop by at the desk (or WhatsApp call in today’s work from home mode) to have a quick word. And, the urgent meeting the boss calls at short notice. Navigating through these time-traps and minefields in the mind is the biggest challenge of the modern workplace. This calls for the ability to say ‘No’ and, to be practical, set aside time during the day (preferably, your lean hours) for unscheduled chats and meetings. It may not offend colleagues if you said — ‘Hey, can we catch up during coffee or lunch?’ A boss would understand too if you politely suggest, I am in the midst of something important, can we keep the meeting post lunch or an hour later? Over time, people will get the message that you have clear ‘DND’ (Do Not Disturb) times and some may even start following your footsteps.

Conquering the big ticket idea of the day releases surplus energy and endorphins that helps us sail through the remaining tasks of the day.

So time management is passé. It’s all about managing the mind.

Sandip Ghose is a current affairs commentator and corporate strategy advisor

Published on July 19, 2021

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