The saying "time is money" became popular for a reason. Being a limited resource, time is precious.
As a result, the belief that time management is the magic bullet to success spread like wildfire. But have you ever stopped to question whether this is really true?
Let's delve deeper to gain a more comprehensive understanding.
In the post, we will outline why we believe time management is often overrated and what techniques can be used instead to increase your efficiency and reach your goals without falling into a trap of busyness.
We will illustrate it with instances from the past and present and make suggestions on how to improve productivity without being overwhelmed by deadlines in your schedule.
Why Time Management Is Overrated
The Myth of Efficiency💯
One of the main arguments for time management is that it helps us be more efficient with our time. However, this assumes that all tasks are created equal and can be completed precisely like estimated.
Managing your time is definitely part of being efficient, but it doesn't solve everything. It can help you stay focused and reduce distractions, but it won't help you beat procrastination, stay motivated and plan better.
Plus, going overboard with time management can set you up to be overpowered and fall behind rather than keep on track.
Example: Winston Churchill is regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, but his daily routine would certainly be surprising for time management gurus.
He famously stayed in bed till 11 am, took a daily nap, and played board games with his wife in the afternoon. Despite his unconventional approach to time management, Churchill managed to lead Britain to victory in World War II and is still celebrated for his leadership today.
In the early 20th century, factory workers were expected to complete a set number of tasks in a fixed amount of time, leading to stress, injury, and low morale.
It wasn't until later that the concept of "human factors" was introduced, recognizing that workers are not machines and that their individual needs and abilities must be considered.
Bottom Line: Tasks and activities don't always have a fixed work schedule or time frame. It's important to remember that some things require more time and effort than others.
Trying to cram everything into a set list can leave you feeling burnt out and performing poorly.
The Illusion of Control🎛️
Another argument for time management is that it gives us a sense of control over our lives and our work. However, this can be an illusion, as external factors such as emergencies, interruptions, and changing priorities can disrupt even the best-laid plans.
Moreover, obsessing over filling schedules and jumping at trying numerous time management techniques before developing a strategy can create a sense of rigidity and inflexibility that hinders creativity and adaptability.
Example: In the early days of Microsoft, Bill Gates was known for his obsessive time management, scheduling his days down to the minute. However, as the company grew and faced new challenges, Gates realized that he needed to be more flexible and delegate more responsibilities to this team. As he shared in one of the interviews:
I had every minute packed, I thought it was the only way to do things...[But] it is not a proxy of your seriousness that you fill every minute of your schedule.
Albert Einstein is a prime example of someone who was not known for his time management skills but still managed to achieve incredible success.
He was known for his unorthodox approach to work, often spending hours lost in thought or taking breaks to play his violin. In fact, he once said, "I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious."
Bottom Line: The notion that time management can be a universal panacea is a fallacy, for each individual possesses distinct priorities, goals, and work styles. What may prove efficacious for one may prove futile for another.
It means that undertaking a process of trial and error would be a choice that helps ascertain which strategies are best suited to your unique circumstances.
The Fantasy of Uber Productivity 🚀
The pressure to be productive at all times by managing time can be beneficial in pushing you to reach your potential. However, this pressure can also backfire and have negative consequences, such as:
- Burnout (characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced efficacy significantly impacting mental and physical health).
- Decreased creativity (translating into a lack of new ideas that stifles innovation).
- Reduced quality of work (characterized by erroring and sacrificing quality in order to meet deadlines).
- Strained relationships (characterized by neglecting important social connections that can result in feeling isolated).
- Health problems (due to not exercising or not getting enough sleep).
Example: One example of the pressure to be productive backfiring is the phenomenon of "hustle culture", which promotes the idea of working long hours and sacrificing personal time in order to achieve success. It has been criticized for promoting burnout and neglecting self-care needs.
Another example is the academic pressure placed on students to constantly achieve high grades and engage in extracurricular activities, which can lead to stress and anxiety.
Bottom Line: The expectation to constantly be productive by effectively managing one's time can have advantages in motivating a person to achieve their goals. Despite this, this same anticipation can have a negative impact and result in bad outcomes.
What to Do Instead
Focus on Priorities🔝, Not the Clock⌚
When you prioritize properly, you'll realize that you do have time available.
Instead of trying to fit everything into a fixed schedule, focus on identifying your top priorities and allocating the necessary time and resources to them. This requires a deep understanding of:
- your goals
- your values
- your strengths
- the ability to say no.
Example: In the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs famously reduced the company's product line from dozens of models to just a handful, focusing on a few key products that he believed would have the greatest impact. This allowed Apple to concentrate its resources and innovate more effectively.
Embrace Flexibility and Resilience🧘♀️
Adaptability over rigidity: Embrace change with resilience.
Instead of trying to control everything, embrace the unpredictability of life and work, and develop the resilience to adapt to changing circumstances. This requires a mindset shift from one of the fixed schedules and rigid routines to one of flexibility and tractability, as well as the ability to learn from failures and setbacks.
Example: During World War II, the British government implemented a system of "command and control" to manage the war effort, with strict rules and procedures for every aspect of military operations.
However, as the war progressed and new challenges arose, the military leaders realized that they needed to be more flexible and decentralized, empowering their field commanders to make decisions on the ground.
Another example is Warren Buffet, a legendary investor. Imagine having a laid-back attitude towards time management, yet still amassing a mind-boggling net worth of over $100 billion like him. He famously avoids busy schedules and spends most of his time reading and thinking. It's almost hard to believe, isn't it? But it is possible to be successful and not be a slave to time management.
Search Balance in Ageless Wisdom🦉
Discover equilibrium through timeless insights.
Ancient writers, whose timeless wisdom continues to resonate today, recognized the importance of seeking balance in all aspects of life, including work.
Example: In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle stresses the importance of balance and moderation in all aspects of life, including time management. He warns against both wasting time and overworking oneself, arguing that both extremes can be harmful to our well-being.
Instead, he recommends finding a balance between work and leisure, so that we can both achieve our goals and enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Aristotle's ideas on time management are still relevant today, more than 2,000 years after they were first written. By following these principles, we can live a more fulfilling life and achieve our goals while also enjoying the journey along the way.
Use Technology🖥️ Wisely
Empower yourself by using tech mindfully.
Finally, instead of relying on time management tools and apps to do all the work for you, use technology wisely as a supplement to your own skills and abilities. This means choosing tools that complement your own work style and preferences, rather than trying to force yourself into a pre-determined mold.
Example: In the early days of Pixar, the animators used a combination of traditional hand-drawn animation and computer-generated imagery, adapting their techniques to suit the needs of each project. This allowed them to achieve a unique and innovative style.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to take a step back and give yourself permission to simply be. By taking a time-management-free approach, you open yourself up to unexpected opportunities, creativity, and relaxation.
Time management can be a bit of an overblown concept like it's some special formula for productivity and success.
But it's only one part of the equation. It doesn't provide the structure, drive, or accountability necessary for accomplishment.
While effective time management can be advantageous, it alone does not ensure success; in essence, one needs to have the essential resources and enthusiasm to fully capitalize on life.
Worshipping time management devoid of any proactive measures toward meaningful life is a fruitless endeavor.