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Why time management is ruining our lives | Oliver Burkeman

The concept of Inbox Zero

'Inbox Zero' is a concept introduced by Merlin Mann, a way to handle your email by processing them to zero.

This is achieved by taking appropriate actions like filing, noting or replying, to all your emails, ensuring no unanswered emails remain to make you anxious, so you can live your life without checking email every few minutes.

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Why time management is ruining our lives | Oliver Burkeman

Why time management is ruining our lives | Oliver Burkeman

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/22/why-time-management-is-ruining-our-lives

theguardian.com

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Key Ideas

The concept of Inbox Zero

'Inbox Zero' is a concept introduced by Merlin Mann, a way to handle your email by processing them to zero.

This is achieved by taking appropriate actions like filing, noting or replying, to all your emails, ensuring no unanswered emails remain to make you anxious, so you can live your life without checking email every few minutes.

The Quest for Personal Productivity

The never-ending quest for personal productivity has spawned countless apps on the Smartphone App stores, and many bestseller books.

Personal Productivity has branched out in the field of dating, hotel stays, parenting and even eating.

Problems With 'Inbox Zero'

The people who implemented the 'Inbox Zero; method ended up getting more emails as they were replying to all their emails, with increased activity.

They also paradoxically started checking the inbox more often.

The anxiety levels increased by applying hyper-productivity.

Cashing In On Personal Productivity Craze

The personal productivity craze got worse due to capitalism, as the essential needs of the population skyrocketed.

Self-help books and gurus cashed in on the productivity craze, as people were promised a sense of control and meaning in their lives.

Pressure Reduces Creativity

While manual work can be sped up, good ideas do not emerge under pressure, as creative people find it difficult to do their best work under looming deadlines.

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Time-management tools
They offer the promise that you would gain certain control over your life, but there's no guarantee it will work.
When it fails to work, most people try another app or another technique.&nbs...
Uncritical Productivity

Pursuing productivity for its own sake is counter-productive. 

Most people feel able to complete more tasks when they start using time-management tools, but they don’t bear in mind that they can’t keep increasing their productivity forever, and they commit to more and more. In a few weeks, they are more productive but still frustrated. 

Balancing act

Back when more people worked in factories, laborers did not have to deal with time management. At the assembly line, time was managed for you.

Freedom comes with responsibility: you have to think a lot more about how you manage your time.

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Productivity Obsession
Productivity Obsession

As workers, we are obsessed with getting stuff done. It is then clear why there seems to be a bottomless well full of advice, hacks, tools, tricks, and secrets to help us pack more into the waking ...

Modern History of Productivity
  • Adam Smith wrote in 1776 that there are two kinds of labor: productive and unproductive. The productive one generally adds value to the materials which he works upon, of his own maintenance, and his master's profit. However, a man grows poor by maintaining a multitude of menial servants who add to the value of nothing.
  • Benjamin Franklin put forth his own "to-do" list in 1791, stating that one should start the day asking what good shall be done and end the day evaluating what was accomplished.
Abuse Masked as Productivity

In the late 18th and early 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution, machines moved production from handmade in the home to factories. A frenzy of producing more goods more quickly became a kind of national pastime.

Low-wage factory workers, many of whom were children, toiled in unsafe conditions for decades before labor unions put measures in place to protect workers from the excesses of the push for productivity.

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Time Management Is Not A Solution
Time Management Is Not A Solution

Most people want more done during the course of the day, feeling productive if they have checked more boxes out of their to-do list. Time management has been a fad for a long time, equating product...

Attention Management

Shifting our focus towards people and projects, rather than the time it takes for us to work on something is referred to as Attention Management.

Productivity is not a virtue, but just a means to an end, and it means nothing if the end is not worthy. Paying attention to your intrinsic motivation, on why you are excited about the project will make you push yourself naturally and achieve the goal.

Lack Of Distractions Promotes Productivity

Many studies show that bad weather days when it is too cold or rainy, keeps the working people glued to their work, being more productive as they are less distracted by the thought of going outside.

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Measuring Employee Productivity
Measuring Employee Productivity

Fixing employee productivity in the industrial age, when most workers were handling machinery and it’s parts, was a tedious but doable process. The managers had to fix the people who were making mi...

The Old Productivity Formula

The basic productivity formula(productivity= output divided by input) worked well in the industrial age as the output and input were clearly defined and measurable.

Today’s leaders need innovative solutions to measure and improve productivity in a knowledge-based workplace, as the measurement of output and input is not what it was.

Quality And Quantity

While assigning value to the output of knowledge workers, we cannot simply measure the output like before.

Coders and doctors cannot be measured by the hour, as their output is not uniform or consistent every hour.

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Time Management And Personality

In order for any time-management method to be successful, you have to take into account people’s individual behaviors at work. There is no one-size-fits-all method for time management.

The Action Hero

Give them a seemingly impossible list of tasks and they will have them done and dusted faster than a speeding bullet. But in their haste, they can miss things and prioritize nonurgent tasks.

Strategy: For this type, ranking tasks according to urgency is a good call. 

The Diva

Very sociable and upbeat but with a tendency to procrastinate, they often boast about their nonexistent achievements giving the impression they are more productive than they really are.

Strategy: breaking tasks into tiny steps, scheduling their resolution and setting reminders works well. Email management according to urgency is also crucial considering how much time it usually consumes. 

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Effectiveness Vs Efficiency
  • Effectiveness is goal orientation. It's picking something to do. This is doing the right things—picking a goal and doing that goal.
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Scott Hanselman
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"Effectiveness is doing the right things, but efficiency is doing things right. That means effectiveness is picking a direction and efficiency is running really fast in that direction."

Scott Hanselman
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"Hope is not a plan. Hope is nothing but waiting and letting life happen to you."

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Defer

To defer means saying, "Not right now" rather than, "Not ever." This could be a new project you want to com mence in a week or two or it could be van idea you want to reflect on before takin...

Delegate

You might find it disconcerting when the results are somewhat different than when you complete the work yourself.

To delegate effectively, create a playbook breaking down a project or task step-by-step and detailing what the outcome looks like.

Do

Simply put, act on your tasks. The 2-minute rule can help with that:  If you can complete a task in two minutes or less, do it now.

It's amazing what you can accomplish in just 120 seconds: write an email, make a quick phone call, pull a report and so on.

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Productivity guilt
Productivity guilt

Living in a culture of non-stop productivity, we refuse to take real breaks. We put off sleeping in or reading by the window. Even if we do manage to take time away, it comes with the feeling that ...

The problem with not taking breaks

When we refuse to take real breaks, we tend to turn to the least fulling tendency: We sit in front of our computer and start zoning out. We browse websites and tell ourselves we're "multitasking," but are really spending much longer on the most basic tasks.

This neither contributes to happiness nor productivity.

We don't need to work so hard

Luminaries such as Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez, and Charles Darwin worked for five hours a day or less. In truth, work expands to fill the time allotted. Most of us could spend fewer hours at the office and do the same amount of work.

Taking the time to be unproductive will make you better at your job.

What Time Management Is

Time is our precious resource. It is perishable, it is irreplaceable, and it cannot be saved. It can only be reallocated from activities of lower value to activities of higher value.

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Eat That Frog!

Your “frog” is your most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.

If you have two important tasks, start your day with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Focus on completing it before you go to the next one.

Failure to execute

We tend to confuse activity with accomplishment: we attend endless meetings and make plans, but at the end of the day, no one does the job and gets the results required.

“Failure to execute” is among the biggest problems in organizations today.

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There isn’t enough time
Complaining that you don’t have enough time is not getting to the root problem. It may be that you’re lousy at time management. Admit to yourself that there is enough time -- you just don’t know how t...
A one size fits all solution

Instead of relying on a tool with all the bells and whistles, find out where you’re struggling and what’s essential for you. 

For example, if scheduling is taking you away from product development, then you could use a scheduling tool that uses machine learning to automate most of your scheduling needs. If you’re wasting too much time on email, then consider using a tool to help tame your inbox.

Less anxiety

Time management is only useful when you’re aware of your limitations and don't let the system dictate your entire life. 

In other words, when you don’t tread lightly (especially at first), time management can add more stress to your life.

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