Whether on the job or in your personal life, you more than likely run up against the “tyranny of the clock” at some point. Time management experts tell us we need to focus on the most critical factors to get the most out of each day and accomplish the most we possibly can. You might feel on occasion–such as around the year-end holidays–that no matter how good you are at time management, you’ll never dig yourself out of the pit you’ve fallen into (or been dragged into by others).
Don’t lose all hope, though. I recently read an article in Reader’s Digest that suggests you and I are worrying ourselves needlessly in our efforts to somehow get ahead of the game.
A Case Against the Clock
The article, titled “A Case Against the Clock,” was published in the December 2015-January 2016 issue of Reader’s Digest (originally published in Quartz, 2015). It mentions that “we haven’t always been this obsessed with time. In fact, before the Industrial Revolution, clocks were largely irrelevant.” However, the Industrial Revolution changed society in massive ways. Now we over-schedule our days, trying to make them as efficient as possible. We think we would be more effective and happier if we just organized our time better, but this belief is “damaging our careers and the rest of our lives.”
Here’s a quote from the article that makes a telling point about our misconceptions regarding time management and its potential benefits for us:
“Research shows that if you increase people’s awareness of time–by placing a big clock in front of them–they do more stuff….it’s one of the great fantasies of time management: If you get more organized, you will get on top. However, that works only in a finite world. We haven’t lived in that world for quite a while.”
3 Results of Time Management “Miss-thinking”
The article mentions 3 outcomes of the misdirected notion that better time management will somehow bring you out on top:
- You Just Get Busier
- Your Attention Suffers
- You’re Less Effective
So getting better and better at time management, as applied by conventional wisdom, appears to be an empty promise in terms of beneficial outcomes for us. According to the article, what’s needed isn’t more “repetitive, synchronized activity…[but more] thinking, creativity, and problem solving.” How are your thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills shaping up these days?
And a final message from the article: “…it’s time for us to develop a different strategy–one that starts from the recognition that, in our overloaded world, the greatest shortage is not of time but of attention.”
With less than 3 weeks left in 2015, maybe now you should seriously consider re-thinking time management and enable yourself to master time–don’t let it master you. Look at your days, weeks, months from a new perspective. What you DO with your time matters–in terms of quality even more than in terms of quantity. Ultimately, the quality of both your professional life and your personal life will reflect the choices you make.
If things aren’t going well with your professional life–maybe you’re engaged in a frustrating job search–you might feel as if you don’t have much to be grateful for right now. You could be viewing Thanksgiving Day as “Turkey Day” at best and as a waste of time at worst.
I’m not going to deliver a Pollyanna sermon to you. At the same time, focusing the lion’s share of your attention and energy on the highly unsatisfying situation you seem to be stuck in will not help you get out of it. I can almost guarantee that.
Refocus Your Job Search Outlook
Whether you’re into visualization or not (many people aren’t and that’s fine), you can consider your situation pragmatically and begin identifying any potential positives about it or any that you can realistically see a way to make happen somewhere down the road. For those of you who do use some form of visualization, you might decide what kind of different attitude or approach you want and how that might look.
It could involve becoming aware of things you’ve been ignoring or were previously unaware of. For instance, maybe there are people who have expressed interest in your career success and/or willingness to be a resource for you, but for some reason you haven’t taken them up on it. In that case, what’s been holding you back? Taking a few minutes to refocus your job search outlook can open up possibilities you weren’t able to see before.
Gratitude for Major Changes Completed Successfully
Often, achieving a successful job search or career success goal can be less about moving from Point A to Point Z and more about going from A to D to M to C to K…. In other words, you don’t take a straight-line path. If you find it discouraging, particularly when you’re engaged in a really major change, gratitude might seem out of place. However, I encourage you to suspend disbelief for a while and give gratitude a try. It can’t hurt, and it could make a big difference in your overall results.
I might add that I’m speaking from experience here. In my former life (before starting A Successful Career), I went through many job search challenges and sometimes (though thankfully not often) through unsatisfactory job situations. I know I learned something useful from each one, though, and that helped offset the negative feelings I might have been experiencing at the time.
As some of you know, I relocated my family/household and my business from California to Massachusetts last June, which was a project of epic proportions! The disruption of my routine and necessarily of my ability to maintain full business operations was substantial. However, now that the dust has settled more or less, I am decidedly grateful for our new home and for being much nearer to a close relative whom I value. That makes the path ahead look challenging but do-able, and I’m “up” for it.
I find it helps to pair gratitude with a hopeful attitude. I can still look forward to helping clients achieve their goals–just in a new setting. That makes the struggle to get here very worthwhile.
The following scene isn’t exactly what I can see out my office window (we’re not quite that close to a lake), but it’s typical of this area in the fall. It refreshes me to look at it–and hopefully it will help me to get through the coming winter with acceptance if not enjoyment. I hope you will have–or find–your own motivating key or outlook in the weeks and months ahead.