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Time Management Training: A Waste of Time
Even the best efforts to teach employees how to manage their time are likely to be swallowed up by that formidable foe of productivity: the e-mail inbox.
Time management classes, books, websites and tools are multiplying like rabbits in a meadow: There’s Getting Things Done, The 4-Hour Workweek, the Pomodoro Technique, the Autofocus System and more. People devote more and more time to training and adoption of new techniques, and in the end, they still don’t get their work done. The fact is, time management training is ineffective. If it weren’t, everyone engaging in it would be a paragon of efficiency by now. So what’s the problem?
Here’s what happens: After learning the fundamental principles of time management, participants go back to their natural habitat with new tools, high hopes and grand intentions…and promptly get steamrolled by their e-mail. Within days, they’re back to reading and responding to e-mail as it arrives, being reactive instead of proactive, and fighting fires instead of making time to think, plan and solve problems. The ship of time management ideas runs aground on the rocks of their reality. Ask any graduate of a time management course what keeps them from implementing the concepts they learned, and they’ll likely say it’s their e-mail.
Stop Focusing on the Symptom
One might think that the solution is better e-mail software. But if software were the solution, between Xobni, Gmail’s Priority Inbox, the latest incarnation of Outlook and all the other e-mail tools on the market, no one would complain about the deluge of e-mail, and everyone would be able to manage their time well.
When it comes to e-mail, we focus on the symptom, not the disease. You can organize, sort, file, color-code and prioritize your e-mail to within an inch of your life, but if you’re buried under an avalanche of incoming messages, that’s not going to help. If there’s any hope for rescue from the tyranny of the inbox, the solution will have to address the root causes.
There are three organizational root causes for the current unsustainable e-mail situation:
1. A lack of differentiation between levels of urgency.
2. Rewarding face time over real production.
3. A lack of (or simply unrealistic) e-mail response time agreements.
The Next Generation of HR: What’s Wrong? What’s Right?
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