By Francis Wade
Friday, January 16, 2015.
In the past, the signs of poor time management were obvious, but in
today's age of the 'always on' mobile Internet, you could be suffering from the
modern symptoms afflicting employees and not know it.
Many years ago, time-management problems were easy to detect - arriving late and missing
deadlines were clear red flags.
In today's world, however,
things are different. The old symptoms remain, but a number of new ones have
appeared, including the following six you may be experiencing today:
1. An Exploded Inbox
Perhaps the best indicator of
a productivity problem is the state of your email inbox. If
you have 200 or more read and unread messages, you may believe that you simply
get too much email.
For you, the fault lies with
your company and/or the people in your life. They are the reason you feel
guilty and overwhelmed.
The numbers don't lie,
however. If your inbox is in trouble, it's because your daily practices have
made it so.
2. Multi-tasking to 'save' time
Maybe you have noticed
articles and public service announcements discouraging multi-tasking - like
texting while driving - as dangerous, time-wasting, and sometimes rude or even
If you know the facts, but
still find yourself trying to save time with these practices, it's
understandable - you are so far behind that you think have no choice. Maybe
you'll get away with it a few times, but experts predict that your productivity will take a hit.
3. Dramatic pop-ins
If you have ever been sound
asleep and wake suddenly at the thought of an important but incomplete task,
you have experienced a 'pop-in'.
With heart racing and palms
sweating, you realise that a deadline has been missed. You could blame your
memory, but it's actually caused by poor habits.
4. Promises like 'water through a sieve'
If you are someone who has a
reputation for forgetting to complete half the promises you make to others, you
might think you need Ginko or Ginseng memory supplement. You could be wrong.
It's more likely that you
aren't managing your commitments skillfully because your system
for managing time is ineffective. The same applies to your company.
In many firms, people have
stopped trusting each other, having been burned by broken promises. To
compensate, they become "follow-up fiends", using calls, emails, and
their feet to ensure that tasks they care about don't simply disappear.
The issue is rarely an
epidemic of amnesia, but of low productivity skills.
5. Failing to get into Campion
In the old days, children did
the Common Entrance Examination in order to enter high school. Now, things have
changed: Parents are the ones who do GSAT exams. They may not write a single
word, but it's well known that parental involvement makes all the difference
between a top-flight high school and one whose name is used to scare kids into
If you don't manage your time
well over the critical years of your child's preparation, you may fail to help
them attain an adequate score.
6. No time for physical exercise
Our ancestors would be
stunned! For them, moving their bodies was required for work, transportation,
or to complete chores. We no longer have those needs. With greater affluence
has come the opportunity to sit at a desk, computer, or phone, never moving an
One downside is that physical
exercise is limited by your ability to manage your time. The only physical
exertions we make on a regular basis need to be planned in advance.
Poor time-management skills,
therefore, translate into extra pounds - a new equation that defeats many.
Fortunately, these six
symptoms have a single cause in common. As a fully functioning adult, you are
using the time-management system of a teenager.
You aren't alone. Research
shows that in our early teens, we all start making time demands alongside
self-made habits to manage them. The problem our generation has is that these
habits no longer last a lifetime. They must be upgraded in order to process,
for example, the 100-plus electronic messages coming at us each day.
These six symptoms can be
nullified with the right upgrade, bringing your habits to world-class
standards. After all, we don't expect Test cricketers to play with
primary-school skills. Instead, we expect them to practise hard.
Employees, for some reason,
are treated differently. They are expected to arrive at the workplace with all
the necessary productivity skills in place - on Day One - or find a way to
learn them on their own.
This just doesn't work. If the
majority of the meetings at your company already start late and are populated
by multi-tasking attendees, leaving them alone to magically become more
competent won't happen.
A remedy requires a
coordinated response at both individual and corporate levels, revealing
symptoms employees need to be able to see for themselves.
Francis Wade is a management
consultant and author. To receive a summary of links to past columns, or give
feedback, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org