24/7 access, wrong assessment and the increasing problem of interruption. From work-life balance to work-life integration?
I often talk about time management in my acumen sessions around the world. I feel that time management has become a very difficult area to tackle and it is getting worse because of the “big data” available, the constant new ways available to communicate and to be reached and – overall – our wrong assessment of time for tasks which is – for a significant number of people – still based on the 20th century. Let me explain.
First of all, there are a number of ways to get interrupted and we have actually given permission to organizations and applications to do so. Many of us are reached in 10 – 15 different ways. Email accounts, messenger, hangouts, what’s up, viber, facebook, SMS, twitter, facetime etc. etc. If one calculates how much time is required simply to check messages on a few of these you start getting the idea… Then, you need to reply, or simply read. The email accounts we have are growing (personal, company, old accounts by generic service providers) and if you add the emails in which we are cc’d and in most cases need to read, it becomes obvious that managing time is getting more and more difficult. Entrepreneur Jason Fried in one of this Ted talks stated that work “doesn’t happen at work” and provides a solution where organizations set up “no talk Thursdays’” to allow for staff to get things done, given that meetings and other face to face interruptions worsen the problem.
Professionals receive from 50 – 200 emails a day depending on their position and just that says a lot. Furthermore, we check our mobile phones close to 100 times a day, or 90 minutes per day, which amounts to 23 days per year based on recent stats (mobilestats); this is done to check messages, emails and facebook posts. Therefore, the question is “when do we have time to really think creatively if we are constantly interrupted”? How can we filter all this information we are receiving in order to prioritize and get things done? Google is not necessarily helping as well, given that a simple search produces millions of results and there are issues relating to validity, reliability and a plethora of data to go through. Add all of the above together it becomes imperative that we need to find solutions.
There is also one more point. Our assessment of our “to do list” may be “off”. Checking emails, attachments, newsletters etc. takes more time than anticipated, facebook scrolling takes more time that envisioned (this is why it is called by a number of analysts as a major time waster), our assessment of preparing an email, answering a simple email or finding a file in our PC our back up is – in most cases – wrong, especially if there is no wi-fi available, the service is slow or your outbox doesn’t work properly.
In sum, it seems we have all the tools to find each other, interrupt each other and waste time, but I am not sure if these tools actually are helping our management of time, given the number available and the simplicity in access and cost. The point is to make all these turn to our advantage. How? Inform people on how to find you. Do not allow them to use any medium for any reason. Inform them of what you use and how to use it. Also, avoid time wasters. Set a few minutes aside to check social media and share but be consistent and organized. Try not to get carried away. Take the unexpected into consideration when planning, as finding a network, downloading or document or preparing it takes on average a lot more time than we initially think. Marketing Guru Seth Godin also suggests not to use meetings as they are useless. Think about it. He may be right. Other entrepreneurs have meetings standing up for 15 minutes while no food is allowed.
Whatever the case, we are living in a fast moving “big data” world and finding ways to manage our time is getting harder than ever. For those who have a family, there are also issues of having a work life balance. Or is it “work-life integration” as Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos argues?
P.S.: I avoided talking about corporate procedures… If we add these to the equation there may be no time left! I will deal with SOPs soon…
Bite Size Thoughts by Dr. Constantine 'Dino' Kiritsis