“Doest thou love life? Then do not squander time. Time is the stuff life is made of.” – Benjamin Franklin
According to Peter F. Drucker, in his book The Effective Executive he goes as far as to use the language of economists when talking about time. “The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is therefore, always in exceedingly short supply.” How short a supply? There is none shorter – it is totally irreplaceable.
That being said, we all know people who are very good at making the most of their time and get a lot done, and we all know people who are constantly pressured by time and seem to get very little of importance done. What is the difference? Is there a secret to it? Yes, there is a difference, however subtle. The difference is in how well we understand and use the precious resource that we call time. So precious in fact it has been called irreplaceable. The thing we call time management is a skill that each one of us has to learn and apply in order to take advantage of that resource.
Again, according to Drucker, time is in short supply – 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and once those hours are gone they are gone forever. One definition of time is this: time is merely the order of events, not an entity itself. To take this a step further we have to know what an event is. One definition is simply a happening or occurrence of something. It can be virtually anything. Simple or complex.
Knowing this information, the thing we call time management could be simply called “Event Control”. Drucker also teaches us that the task of the time manager is to control time where he can. Control is the key to personal productively or time management.
What does this all mean?
At the most basic level, we must all realize that we must be proactive in order to achieve control over our lives as it relates to the events that make up our lives. Our other option? Be reactive - to let others act upon us and determine what we will accomplish, to be controlled, instead of in control.
In other words, we need to learn how to do something that Drucker called “Pruning the Time Wasters”. This consists of four simple diagnostic questions that deal primarily with unproductive and time-consuming activities over which every executive (to use Drucker’s term but refers to any knowledge worker for the purpose of this conversation) should ask. Managers, however, need to be equally concerned with time-loss that results from poor management and bad organization. Poor management wastes everyone’s time- but above all it wastes the time of the manager.
- Identify time wasters which follow from lack of system or foresight. Symptom: Crisis
- Time-wastes often result from overstaffing.
- Another common time-waster is malorganization. Its symptom is an excess of meetings.
- The last major time-waster is malfunction in information.
Answer these questions and you will make great inroads to becoming the person who we talked about – the one that is good at making the most of his/her time.
In my next post, I will talk more in detail about these four questions.