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 you need full benefits and/or a substantial salary, the question of part-time or full-time might be easy for you to answer. However, in many cases, it’s not so straightforward.
Part-Time vs Full-Time Trade-Offs
Clearly, you stand to receive more income if you work a full-time position, and the employment package generally includes at least some benefits, such as vacation and health insurance. For those of you who are the sole or primary breadwinner in your household, that’s a key factor to consider.
On the other hand, part-time employment can provide significantly more flexibility regarding your overall schedule and (often, though not always) the location you work from.
Job sharing is one form of part-time employment that’s been around a long time, but I’m not sure (based on what I read and hear) that it’s widely enough accepted to represent a viable option for many of you who might otherwise consider it.
One advantage of part-time employment that’s not always considered is that some of your expenses could be noticeably lower than for full-time employment–for example, commuting (gas, bridge tolls, etc.), wardrobe (fewer suits, etc.), child care if you have young children, and so on.
Part-Time Opportunities–Even for Executives
We used to think of part-time employment as something for the hourly rank-and-file employees; however, it appears that trend might be changing.
In an article titled “Trends in Hiring Executives with Part-Time Schedules” Sara Sutton Fell, CEO/Founder of FlexJobs, references a 2013 story by Alison Maitland called “The Part-Time Executive.” It mentions a study of 50 executives in the United Kingdom who work part-time.
How the executives (most of them women) managed their schedule varied–for example, compressed work-weeks and three-on/four-off (but available). Some of the part-time executives provide services to more than one company, much like a consultant. Typically, of course, they don’t receive benefits.
Can Anyone be a Part-Time Executive?
As Fell’s article indicates, not necessarily. “Lea Paterson of Bank of England says it perfectly: ‘To be a good boss you need to be able to delegate, to recruit good staff, and to trust them to get on and do the work without checking on them every minute.’ Paterson continues: ‘When you’re part-time, you’re forced to do this anyway.’”
You also need to have exceptionally strong skills in areas other than your primary career focus, including organization/time management and communication/relationship-building. These can be a critical factor in helping you overcome the gap caused by not being present all the time.
Who Gets to Choose?
The reality is, of course, that you might not have a choice between part-time or full-time employment. Part-time work might be the only game in town for the kinds of jobs you’re seeking or the locations where you want to work.
Conversely, your field of expertise might consist mainly, if not entirely, of full-time positions–even more than full-time, if they involve typically long hours and you don’t have the option of working fewer hours.
In the end, as with many things, you might have choices to make, based on your particular situation, and the final choice might not be entirely yours. However, it’s to your advantage to consider the pros and cons, the cans and can’ts, and make the best decision you can under the circumstances.
You might consider yourself a savvy career manager and still miss the boat if you actually aren’t using your time wisely. Before you say, “Who, me? I’m a great time manager!” take a few minutes to evaluate yourself honestly. Maybe you’re not doing quite as well as you think in that regard.
Difference Between Career Management and Time Management
In my view, here’s a concise version of both these concepts–you might have a different view:
- Career management: A well-thought-out plan for a healthy career with progressive action steps to be taken that help you get where you want to go and stay where you want to stay. (This includes planning and conducting a successful job search when that’s your goal.) Note the mention of “well-thought-out” and “action steps.” The two need to go together–and will, if you’re doing it effectively.
- Time management: A plan that relies on careful organization and execution of tasks (“to do” items) within a fairly specific time-frame. As you probably know, any number of systems and approaches have been presented by “experts” to guide people like you in achieving successful time management. If you’re not doing well at this, it must be because you’re doing something wrong, right? Perhaps, but not necessarily.
Productivity and Time/Career Management
As noted, I believe you need to combine (mesh) career management and time management in the most effective way in order to be truly productive with both of them. I don’t know about you, but I feel as if I’m constantly seeking new and better ways to be more productive in my business and personal life. Because I’m a human being, not Wonder Woman, I sometimes come up short of that goal. Maybe you have, too. If so, you might find it worthwhile to read an article I came across today by Janet Choi, titled “4 Ways You’re Lying to Yourself About Being Productive.”
Choi’s article offers 4 self-deceiving views of productivity and a possible solution to each one (listed only briefly below–read the article for more detail):
- Lie #1: My Day’s Full of Activity, So I Must Be Super Productive. Solution: Use a “Done” list rather than a “To Do” list.
- Lie #2: Please, I’m a Multitasking Master. Solution: Practice single focus; try to concentrate on just one task at a time.
- Lie #3: Schedule, Schmedule! I Go With the Flow. Solution: Get into rhythms instead of timetables–replace itemized tasks with higher-level goals.
- Lie #4: No Worries! I’ll Do it Tomorrow. Solution: Find an accountability ally to help you overcome that pesky foe of productivity: procrastination.
Will this make a positive difference in your career management and time management success? Hey, it couldn’t hurt, and it might just help. When you really make the most of your time, instead of just kidding yourself, you could also find your career management planning becoming much more effective and…well, productive.
To briefly summarize: Mesh your career management and time management activities so they move you toward ongoing achievement of your career goals, instead of spinning your wheels and deluding yourself into thinking you’re really accomplishing something worthwhile.