4 Misconceptions You Thought Were True About Time Management

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Here is an excerpt from an article written by Amy Gallo for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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I don’t know anyone who doesn’t struggle with how to make the most of their time at work. How do you stay on top of an overflowing inbox? How do you get work done when your day is taken up by meetings? How can you get through a continually expanding to-do list? How do you even find time to make a list in the first place?

To make matters worse, there are lots of misconceptions about what time management really comes down to and how to achieve it. Let’s look at some of the most common suggestions and assess whether they’re actually true.

[Here is the first of four misconceptions.]

It’s about managing your time. False.

Time management is a misnomer, says Jordan Cohen, a productivity expert and author of “Make Time for the Work That Matters.” He says that it’s really about productivity: “We have to get away from labeling it ‘time management’. It’s not about time per se but about how productive you can be.” He likens it to the difference between dieting and being healthy. “You can diet all you want,” he says, “but you won’t necessarily be healthier.” In the same way, you can pay close attention to how you spend your time, manage your email, etc., but you won’t necessarily be more productive.

Teresa Amabile, the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and coauthor of The Progress Principle, whose expertise in this area comes from reading the work diaries of thousands of workers who documented their struggles to get work done, says it’s more about managing your overall workload. Many managers simply take on too much. “If you don’t keep an eye on the commitments you’ve made or are making, there is no time management technique that’s going to solve that,” she says. Sure, this might be an organization-level problem — many managers overload their team members ­— but she says that most professionals have more control over their workload than they might admit. “It is possible to say no. It is possible to negotiate,” she says. Cohen agrees: “While your schedule may not be yours per se, you can be judicious about what you go to and how you manage it.”

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter at@amyegallo.

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