We seem to be living in a whole new world. People are learning to act and react in different ways, there are new ways of doing business and constantly we hear of new approaches to old problems, including the way we manage our time and live our lives. So why have we failed to learn time management that suits our modern lives?
But I believe that we’re just re-discovering the best of the old ways – the people-based, principle-based time management behaviours that have always been the cornerstone of effective societies.
Today’s top speakers, motivators and educators in business management, for example, talk about flexible work practices and how to improve work-life balance. They talk about the principle of going the extra mile, of caring about the people you deal with, of doing more than expected. And they also talk about dazzling with superb service and selling based on trust instead of artificial and manipulative closing techniques.
But hang on a minute here. Many people, through the centuries, have lived their lives by these basic philosophies. None of it is new nor is it rocket-science – but there is always a first time for each of us to learn these old precepts, polish our skills and to cast aside any wrong thinking that might have crept in.
Let’s look at the time-related old/new topics
- It is now recognised that we take more pride in our work and work better if we can do complete tasks. Isn’t that’s what our forebears in pre-industrial times used to do?
- There’s a far greater emphasis on work-life balance – but didn’t we have plenty of family and social time in earlier decades?
- It’s becoming accepted that open plan work layouts, whilst saving floor space and real estate costs and of value when teams need to work together on projects, are not the most efficient or effective configurations. We know about the consequences of hens cooped up in crowded conditions, don’t we? Well, many workers prefer to be free-range too! They’re happy to come together sometimes but don’t want to sit all day surrounded by a flock of noisy others, unable to concentrate on laying their own eggs (oh sorry, I meant doing their own work!)
- In pre-industrial times most people worked from their homes and in their communities. Then for the longest time those who worked at or from home were regarded as not having ‘real’ jobs. Today the number of home-based workers or tele-commuters some or part of the time is on the rise – aided by our wonderful modern technology and an increasing intolerance, especially in large cities, of wasting hours per day sitting in semi-stationary parking lots (alias jammed motorways).
- Punching time clocks, working as the union dictates and giving unquestioning obedience to the company line are workplace practices that have come under severe scrutiny in the last few years. And those Gen Y, X and Everything else’s are pushing that scrutiny even more! Thank goodness!
Despite these and many other positive changes, people often ask me, ‘Why has the pace of life got so hectic?’ And now that the internet and increasingly powerful digital devices are such an integral element of our lives, that question has escalated to a shout of anguish.
Most of us, most of the time, have no desire to go back to the old pre-digital days. We love the speed with which information and news can be sent to the furthest corner of the world in a nano-second; we love the ability to tap into the enormously powerful database in our pocket for anything from the nearest restaurant to the most obscure arcane information; we love the comfort of being able to communicate anywhere anytime with our loved ones.
But – the paradox is that the technologies that enable us to have this increased flexibility are also a major contributor to the extra pressure. In today’s world many feel as though they’re drowning in a tsunami of information, options and multitudinous communication devices screaming at us.
People pine for a simpler life, for better ways of doing things, for a sense of balance and harmony in their lives. There is an increasing hunger for quality personal time, for spiritual truth instead of institutionalised dogma, for good health and for a balanced lifestyle. We don’t have to spend our lives plugged in to our work, no matter how much we love it. We don’t have to go home day after day feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. We don’t have to collapse sick and exhausted every time we take a long holiday. There are answers, and I’m on a mission to find and share them.
What a gift my own previously poor time skills have turned out to be. Thank you, dear readers, for being part of my ever-expanding journey of learning and discovery, of constantly seeking for commonsense practical answers. Your contributions are always welcome – I learn something from every group I work with or write for.
[Excerpted and adapted from the imminent 2nd edition of my first book, best-seller ‘Getting A Grip On Time’. Get the last copies of the first edition at a special rate here.]