Activities Rule! Not the Clock: Don't Be a Slave to Time
So you’ve read all the best-selling books about time management and productivity. They sounded good at first. In fact, they are good. But, you didn’t implement them, or implemented them only for a short time, because they seemed to further complicate an already complicated world. It’s hard to remember what all those principles and skills are, let alone apply them. The problem with some of the old, established time management strategies is many of them do not fit today’s high-intensity, rapidly changing, and fast-paced environment.
What we need today are fast, flexible, and ridiculously easy solutions to help us navigate “time” for greater productivity.
Is there an easier way to approach the time challenges we face today in this chaotic world? We think so!
You already know what the problem is: Times have changed. Not that time itself has changed; it hasn’t. But the times in which we live have changed. It’s not that we don’t have enough time—we have the same amount of time we’ve always had, and all the time we ever will have.
The problem is that we have more events and activities to manage in the same amount of time. This is due, in part, to technology, the Internet and expectations of doing more with less. We are wired 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with multiple demands, and hardly a chance to catch our breath. In a way, we’ve become compressors of life, trying to jam an unrealistic number of events into our daily allotment of minutes.
All of this has caused a paradigm shift. A paradigm is a patterned way of thinking. The old way of thinking had us dividing our work and personal life with an imaginary line. For most people, that simply doesn’t work anymore. For some people it never worked, simply because life was too complicated. When we separate work and personal life with an imaginary line, we set the two up in opposition to each other. That drives stress upward. We feel guilty regardless of which side of the line is getting our attention.
The new paradigm is for us to see our work and personal life as one life, with work and personal activities integrated throughout the 24-hour day.
Maybe you’re thinking that an integrated work and personal life sounds undesirable. Maybe, for you, it even sounds as final as placing the last nail in the coffin of work-life balance. After all, doesn’t work-life balance mean equally dividing time between work and personal life? No, that’s the old way of thinking.
The new way of thinking about balance is to realize it means maintaining equilibrium in a sea of change. It requires the ability to flexicute. Okay, so we invented a word—but, you have to agree, it is a very descriptive word and it makes sense. Flexicuting activities means the ability to adapt to changes during the day without letting it throw you. It is executing activities by way of being flexible. As author James Ballard said, “We need to learn to dance while the carpet is being pulled from underneath us.”
The first step in creating ridiculously easy time management is to learn the new “time management dance steps.” In other words, recognize and embrace the simple but significant differences in the new time paradigm.
Here are some old ways of operating as compared to the new ways. Making these adjustments will help you be more comfortable with chaos.
Old way: Balance meant equal amounts of time spent on work and personal life.
New way: Balance is maintaining equilibrium in a sea of change.
Old way: Emphasis on multitasking.
New way: Emphasis on alternate-tasking, alternating work and personal life activities around the clock in a way in which both can be fully experienced.
Old way: Work is a marathon with long, hard hours and inadequate recovery time.
New way: Work is a series of sprints with adequate recovery time. Energy management is an essential component to achieving peak performance. (Source: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.)
Old way: After-hours accessibility was limited.
New way: All-hours accessibility is becoming standard with technology.
Old way: Daily schedules and plans were fixed.
New way: Daily schedules and plans are fluid and flexible.
Old way: Work could be caught up and finished.
New way: Work is continuously processed but seldom finished.
Old way: One time management tool provided a complete system.
New way: Multiple tools are combined to create a complete system. We use both paper and electronic.
Old way: Activities were arranged primarily based upon the clock.
New way: Activities are arranged primarily based upon necessity, practicality, efficiency, and spontaneity. In other words, doing activities when they make sense, rather than based on what time it is.
Old way: Performance is judged by the number of hours one puts in at the office.
New way: Performance is judged on the basis of productivity.
Let’s emphasize again that time hasn’t changed. We still measure time by the same calendar and clock. And time is still defined as the occurrence of events one after another. An event is anything that happens, including activities: These are the basic building blocks for designing the quality of life we desire.
In the new paradigm, the clock does not rule: Activities rule. If you are looking for an easier way to manage time, it is simply to become an effective activity manager.
Let’s take a closer look at the nature of activities, as outlined in the book Tick Tock! Who Broke the Clock? – Solving the Work-Life Balance Equation, coauthored by Dr. William A. Guillory and Trapper Woods.
An activity is something we do. Even sleeping is an activity. From the day we draw our first breath of life until the time we expire our last breath of life, we are executing activities on a nonstop basis. Examining activities further, we realize that activities can be
- Long in duration
- Short in duration