Jim Collins, author of business books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” once wrote:
True discipline means channelling our best hours into first-order objectives.*
Just to be clear, he was not promoting blind obedience to the Empire’s replacement in the latter Star Wars movies. That’s not the First Order he meant.
He was promoting the idea that success in any venture is best achieved by making the best use of time available, and wasting as little as possible. He also suggested that the better use of time was a discipline. Not desirable. Required. And, by implication (if you define discipline accordingly), difficult.
The truth is that time management as a discipline isn’t physically hard. It’s just seen as mentally draining. The simplest time tech – the To Do List – is draining because it constantly expands and is a visible reminder of all the things we haven’t yet done, along with all the things we know we must do, but don’t want to.
However, like any discipline – and I am positive that I mean any discipline – once the basics are learned and applied there is less and less need for ‘discipline’, because it becomes second nature. But until it becomes second nature, it seems hard.
Returning to the quote – what is so profound? If you think about it, that’s one of the most common-sense pieces of advice you’ve probably ever heard. The more time you spend on ‘doing’ something directed towards ultimate success, the quicker that success will come about. But no one ever thinks that learning a methodology that will help you apply that common-sense, is common-sense. (Sorry to labour the point.)
Moreover, many public organisations don’t seem to think that training in time management should be made available to anyone earning less than £80k per annum, in my limited experience. They provide that kind of training only to people who can delegate their work downwards, meaning the people to whom that work is delegated – the front line, coal-face operative – aren’t provided with the training that they need in order to cope.
Of course, they could seek out time management input themselves, and I would encourage them to do so. But there is one problem – it isn’t common-sense.
My goodness, what a convoluted, Mobius Strip. “I don’t know I need this, but I need this, but I won’t learn this because it’s common-sense and therefore I am expected already to know it, but I don’t.” (Don’t analyse that sentence too deeply.)
I stress. Yes, it may seem to you that time management training is either unnecessary or too hard, but a workforce trained in time management, that is using common language in its respect, can massively improve productivity simply because it is psychologically committed to what it has been taught. Each individual empowered to say to another, “I need you to be proactive in how you deal with this. Begin with the End in Mind and do First Things First.” No need for further explanation if everyone knows what you mean.
But if all you do is say, “Make a list,” everyone knows what you mean – but hates you for it!
*In his foreword to the 25th anniversary edition of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.