Business leaders like to say time is money. Based on that valuation, time management has become a booming industry.
Global sales of workflow software and time-tracking apps will eclipse $22 billion by 2025. Consultants charge premium retainers to streamline operations across industries. Leadership speakers provide their insights in keynotes and webinars. Articles about time-saving techniques (including this one!) populate business websites. Everyone has something to say, it seems.
Along with lots of sensible advice, a number of durable myths have crept up around. They’re intuitively plausible. They play into current workplace philosophies and practices. They promise significant return on investment. Yet they don’t actually deliver on what they claim.
Have you been buying into time management myths? With that, check out this inventory; See for yourself whether you’re subscribing to principles that will help you make the most of your schedule or to attractive half-truths.
1. There’s a perfect solution to time management.
It’s the implicit promise of every workflow system and consulting solution: one simple strategy will remedy all the time management struggles in your workplace.
Truth is, mastering schedules isn’t a one-size-fits all, magic-bullet proposition. No matter what marketing claims are advanced, a single app won’t magically solve all your scheduling snafus. Every tool carries advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, every industry is different. Besides those factors, every workspace operates according to its own culture. Even with the latest technology and tactics, results will vary.
Furthermore, when it comes to time management solutions, the perfect can be the enemy of the good. Start with an honest assessment of where your business wastes time. Find products and develop processes that address those time sinks. You won’t find perfection, but you should see improvements.
2. Scheduling everything will make you more efficient.
The premise governing time tracking software — dutifully schedule every task, and you’ll create a path to greater efficiency — is flawed, to say the least.
That’s not to say calendaring everything is a bad thing. It increases visibility, transparency, and accountability. Run the data through analytics software, and you’ll gain valuable information on how your organization works. Indeed, that raw data can furnish a strong foundation for making evidence-based changes that benefit your workplace.
However, the act of inputting a task into scheduling software itself won’t make your business run better. In fact, the extra work it takes to maintain that system might actually waste time if you’re not smart about implementing the right changes.
By all means, use calendaring, workflow management platforms, or even email tracking to guide time management in your business. Pay attention to what that data is telling you. However, remember this: the key to efficiency is what you do with what you learn from the software.
3. Making sweeping changes is the only way to make a difference.
Underneath the quest for the grail of the workflow management solution lies an even more fundamental assumption. This assumption states that only bold, revolutionary new approaches will yield fruit.
Though saving time sometimes requires big changes, more often, achieving real progress depends on an accumulation of subtle reforms. For instance, eliminating meetings without clear agendas or adopting a strategy to eliminate redundant emails may seem modest devices, but end up saving loads of time.
Start small by looking for where you are duplicating efforts, overlapping, or just plain wasting time. Get others in on the analysis, so there’s buy-in to any team solutions you adopt. Above all, streamlining workflows is an iterative process, where slight, continuous shifts often yield significant results in the aggregate.
4. The goal of time management is to do as much as possible.
Read most articles on creating time efficiencies in the workplace, and you can easily come away with the impression that the point is to check as many items off lists as possible.
That approach makes the mistake of privileging quantity over quality. Sometimes, we do need to deliver lots of things in a telescoped timeframe to make deadlines. However, there are other times it’s important to give space for ideas to percolate. The drive to produce at inhuman rates is, well, inhuman.
To everything there is a season, as one ancient sage put it. Time management is as much about balancing breakneck production with reflective decision-making as it is about cramming as many duties into a day as we can.
5. Individual workers managing their time effectively will make the organization run more smoothly.
Some managerial techniques assume that making employees work faster will mean the company will get more efficient. Schedule them down to the minute, track them on workflow software, analyze the data, and adopt evidence-based time management strategies. A business with more productive workers will do more with less.
Sound familiar? It’s everywhere.
Sound problematic? It’s the classic fallacy of composition — the assumption that what’s true of the parts must be true of the whole.
However, that’s not how firms really work. In many cases, the problem doesn’t lie with employees using inefficient processes. It’s the fault of the businesses using inefficient processes. Think about it: in many cases the company sets the tasks for its employees, who have little control over how they navigate that workflow.
Making workplaces more efficient takes more than changing the habits of employees. In many cases, it involves managers reviewing how they administer work, too.
Managing time, like managing money, doesn’t admit easy answers. There’s no universal set of solutions, no fail-safe process, and no new technology that will cut out all waste. What’s really needed is wisdom of how to leverage the best strategies and solutions out there to fit your needs. Leverage those strategies and solutions and you might save time and money while making your workplace the best it can be.