Contemplating Leadership Series by Susan Baker
‘Time Management’ or being mindfully aware of how I’m spending my day?
Most of us involved in management development have at some stage delivered or been a participant on a time management course. I’ve benefitted personally from a number of good practical courses where I’ve been relieved to find a problem shared and a good forum for the exchange of solutions.
In the 1980s Time Management tips focused on colour coding your shiny (or stylish leather) Filofax. In the 90s I recall workshops addressing the relationship and communication aspects of Time Management; being diplomatically assertive with bosses, colleagues and customers who were making unreasonable or distracting demands. Much of this used ideas drawn from Transactional Analysis – and was, for me at least, invaluable in learning how to work with people to make the most of each working day.
Crescente hasn’t seen any reduction in the numbers of requests for practical help and sensible ways of managing time, so clearly it’s a topic that still matters to people juggling busy lives. However, the issues folk bring and the tools that can help or hinder have altered over the years. Clients talk about email management and making the digital age work for them rather than overwhelm them with 24/7 contact and more information than a human being could possibly process.
In this second decade of the 21st century people’s lives are lived with far fewer boundaries between work and home, between leading with integrity in the office and people’s faith, beliefs and spiritual practices. More people work from home than ever before. More employees have flexible working practices and staff are generally more available to their employees via modern technology. Company HR strategies often include well-being activities. Work experience and apprenticeships tend to be better organised and offering wider perspectives. There is consequently often more of an expectation that people will spend time investing in the personal and professional development of their teams and colleagues.
While this undoubtedly opens up much richer possibilities for how we spend our time, more choices can mean more challenges and there are still only so many hours in a day.
The best, most engaging book I’ve read on the subject recently comes from the creative and convincing Graham Allsop. The title is enticing and amusing ‘How to be a productivity Ninja’ and it’s well worth investing the time in reading it – and of course chatting about it afterwards!
Allsop’s approach is holistic, embracing life as a whole not just ‘office hours’. His 9 tenets of time management include practising Mindfulness and what he calls ‘stealth and camouflage’ which he describes as withdrawing from the daily world in a retreat like way to be creative. It brings to mind a rather odd parallel: there are innumerable approaches to losing weight from very clear, prescriptive meal plans, calorie counting and weekly weighing, to what someone once described to me as the way French women lose weight by ‘paying attention’ to what they eat in a way that simply integrates with their daily life. Being a productivity ninja is not about lists of rules and masses of self discipline – it’s much more about ‘paying attention’ to how we spend our day. Time management for the 21st century? Definitely!
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