One Man’s Waste of Time is another Man’s Productivity

Time WasterI’m often branded as a Time Waster by my family and friends. I like to think they look upon the trait as an endearing factor but who knows? Whatever the real root of the descriptive, it was one that was reinforced this Christmas with a gift from a friend. This ‘basic guide to basically doing nothing’ suggested I would be provided with the opportunity to ‘bone up on being bone idle’

Being well versed at taking procrastination to new levels, this hopefully tongue-in-cheek gift, invoked a wry smile when I received it. But as the well-known proverb actually points out, in reality time and tide wait for no man, which is probably one of the main reason why so many of us are so preoccupied with the management of our time, especially in business circles.

Time management: the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date…(

Whilst those who observe society can see, much of mankind is generically obsessed with time these days, our business anylysts are continually crying out; Time IS Money! That may be so but isn’t the obsession many of us possess actually with the money and not the time per se? Especially for those who live in environments governed by profit and loss.

I’ve never had any inclination or desire to spend hours and hours with my head buried in self-help books myself, certainlynot ones which tell me how to manage my time. That said, my working life is and always has been governed by time. But it’s all about awareness, priorities and importance as opposed to obsession.

I’ve always been a good time-keeper, I’m never late for work or appointments and I usually complete all work tasks correctly and in a timely fashion. I’ve always been organised with important information but here’s the rub, what others find important may well be irrelevant to me. I don’t believe I need ‘self-help’ however; judging by the sheer number of such publications, I can only assume that many people actually do?

People like David Allen, ‘the guru of personal productivity’ (according to the Fast Company Magazine), is one of those who has made a very succesful (and profitable) business out of telling other people how to manage their time.

The author of bestsellers like Getting Things Done et al, inspires us all to work better, not harder. Now that is a sensible idea and also, one of those principles which I’ve actually spent a lifetime perfecting.

I do believe in getting a job done, whatever that job may be but why work at it harder than I need to? I always aim to do any job to the best of my ability, what I don’t like doing is working any harder than is absolutely necessary to complete the task, if at all possible. Failure is often due to some blithering idiot or lazy arse not fulfilling their role in the task at hand. You then end up working harder to mitigate against or disguise their failings, especially if those failures are likely to have a negative impact upon how you are valued or perceived by an employer for example. 

Cover of "Ready for Anything: 52 Producti...

Allen tells us how we can all be Ready For Anything with his 52 productivity principles for work and life but how we go about Making It All Work is what really matters.

Learning these ‘principles’ must obviously be a time-consuming task in it self, else why would there be any need for a Time Saving Summary of David Allen’s Book on Productivity? I for one much prefer a slightly more simplistic ethic for time-management.

Although slightly off track (in a literary sense), my work and life ethic can probably be summed up in the title of a book by Janet Street-PorterLife’s Too F***ing Short. I don’t need some self-important business ‘guru’ to explain to me how to manage my time because, at the end of the day; one man’s waste of time can actually be another man’s productive time. You see the importance of  ‘time’ is also relative to the individual.

Building Resilience by Wasting Time: …research suggests that engaging in some activities we assume are nonproductive—as tiny exercises—may actually be a smart way to spend time, especially at work. These practices can make people more-resourceful problem solvers, more collaborative, and less likely to give up when the going gets tough. In other words, they can make people more resilient… (Harvard Business Review)

Aside from all the clap-trap ‘science’ of business, human beings are not robotic machines; try to push them too far in that direction and you will never get the best from them. It is said that, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy, the secret is to ensure that the individual can differentiate between which time is right to do either.

I’ve often found that the ‘science’ of time-management (or any other business ‘science’ for that matter) tends to be about; training people to do something they lack appropriate skills (or inclination) for in the first place.The driving force for that training being maximum productivity and profit.

So often these days, mostly due to poor selection processes, many organisations appear to have a constant battle on their hands, trying to make square pegs fit into round holes. They are unprepared to accept they may have recruited the wrong person in the first place, either by mistake or after having been duped by the applicant. It’s a common situation these days in the often less than honest quest for the higher salary. Also often, current employment laws prevents any speedy remedial action but is that such a bad thing? After all the original mistake is usually an organisational one.

You can apply all your X verses Y theories, add in a little theory Z and be an expert in Maslow’s hierachy of needs but if you can’t even select the right person for the job in the first place you’re kind of stuffed. In addition, if you don’t (can’t or won’t) empathise, understand and effectively communicate with those who you manage, you may as well pee in the wind. The application of more Scientific Management is unlikely to be the saviour you desire, in any business.

The 1st requirement of any good manager (to my mind) is first and foremost; be a human being, one that people can like, relate to and actually be inspired by. Don’t act like a bloody machine and remember, those you manage aren’t robots. They won’t respond to a constant barrage of electronically communicated instructions and unattainable targets, at least not productively. Especially when those edicts have originated from behind a “do as I say not as I do” self-important closed-door.

I’ve never seen the point in rushing headlong and lemming like towards death, no a more leisurely and methodical pace, with time to enjoy the experiences along the way is much the better option for me. Why spoil the journey for the sake of a little extra cash?

It’s time to call a halt to all this overt Taylorism which unfortunately tends to be embedded in the work ethic of so many of our organisations and their management today; much of it is almost bordering on eugenics. We all need a work-life balance where the sanity and health of the individual must come before the organisation and cash.

Signed: A Productive Time Waster!

One thought on “One Man’s Waste of Time is another Man’s Productivity

  1. You bring up a great point that there can be many forms of productivity and time management. Most importantly, it depends upon your personality and working style and what helps you get the most done. Not everyone will agree on the same techniques!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.