Time Management is Illogical


Busy! Busy! Busy! We hear it out of the mouths of every worker, every boss, and every member of our modern-day society. “Busy” is for bees—we need to start talking about being productive and effective, not just busy.

Our workplaces have been battling this syndrome of busy-ness for a long time now. Here is a Time article from 2016 addressing the issue of workplace busy-ness. As we enter this new decade, busy-ness seems to be taking an even more dominant role in workplace culture. Here is a great piece analyzing why we have been taken over with this culture of busy-ness.

My own personal opinions on this topic are as follows (hopefully some HR professionals may find these opinions valuable and interesting):

  1. Busy-ness culture ramped up with the use of the fax machine in the business world.
  2. The concept of time management is illogical.

Before the fax machine in the workplace, you had time to process before you responded. With the invention of the fax machine, however, there was a new expectation that because the work request came to you fast, it had to be addressed fast.

It got worse with the invention of email, texting, and social media. Everything became instantaneous, and individuals started reacting to everything, and not responding in a strategic manner. Instead of strategic work outcomes or goals, transactional activities became the driving force behind work behaviour.

All of us need to look at Stephen Covey’s time management grid in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey stated that you should always be in control of your own productivity and be aware of where you are working at any moment in time. Click here to review Stephen Covey’s time management grid.

The time management grid has four quadrants of varying levels of productivity. According to the grid, most of your time should be in Quadrant II (QII), which is work that is non-urgent but important.

Most of us, in our working and personal life, spend most of our time in Quadrant I (QI) or Quadrant IV (QIV). To sum up these two quadrants, QI is where we respond to other’s crisis demands immediately, and QIV is where we waste our time with excessive emails and time on our smartphones. If you can move your activities to QII, you will automatically become more productive.

Additionally, the concept of time management is illogical. If you look at any HR textbook definition of “management,” you will always read these four themes of what “management” is about:

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Leading
  4. Control

We have been conditioned for decades with the idea that we can manage time with time management skills. This is not true. We cannot manage time. Try to answer these following questions:

  • Can I plan time?
  • Can I organize time?
  • Can I lead time?
  • Can I control time?

The logical answer to all of the above questions is an emphatic no. One can‘t plan, organize, lead, or control time. All one can do is plan, organize, lead, and control their activities.

Everyone has the same 168 hours in a week. Most people work, commute, and have some type of family responsibility. What makes one person productive, and the other person just “busy”?

Discussion Question:

Read the following article to help you identify ways an HR department can assist its organization to avoid and overcome a culture of busy-ness? Create a summary of your key ideas that you could present to your VP of workplace wellness.