This is a book about you, but only if you happen to be someone who wants to get better at what you do.
You want to make the most of each hour of every day: get better at what we call “time management.”
You’re not alone – I’m a member of this group, and so are many others. Do you have big dreams of all the things you could do if only you had more time and capacity to fulfill your commitments? Your aspirations call you to further accomplishments, but you find yourself constrained. Perhaps you’re frustrated by what you want to do but somehow can’t achieve. It appears as if time won’t allow you to reach your productive potential.
I imagine that if you’ve picked up this book, you have stopped wishing for more than 24 hours in a day. You have found yourself ready to make the most of the time you do have. Simple enough to say. Quite another thing to do.
It’s just not that easy. Most people who pick up a book like this have gotten to the limit of how much they can use their own ideas to improve on their own. Perhaps you have too, and you’re actively looking for other solutions.
The only problem is that the solutions available… well, to be frank, they suck. Conventional wisdom steers us all towards three stock answers: buy a new gadget, search out tips and tricks, or just copy someone else’s blend of habits, practices, rituals and routines. Sadly, these don’t work as well now as they did in the past.
Modern devices are small miracles, but even the guy who lines up outside the Apple Store for three days to get the new iPhone struggles. The connection between individual productivity and the size, speed or cost of the fanciest smartphone, tablet, watch or laptop is dubious at best.
Even though a lot of the tips and tricks on the Internet and in books are interesting, they easily become a distraction from our goal – making the best of each day while being at our productive best. We know that Michael Jordan didn’t become a basketball great by Googling listicles on random websites. Perhaps you also suspect that people don’t become efficient, accomplished professionals that way either. (A “listicle” is an article built around a list (of what are often lightweight tips), e.g. “The Top Ten Ways to Become a Great Basketball Player”).
But what about copying or mimicking the behaviors of someone we respect? Is there a blogger, guru or trainer somewhere who has figured out the ultimate pattern of habits, rituals and solutions?
Maybe you don’t quite buy into any of these solutions, even though you aren’t sure exactly why they don’t work. All you may know for sure is that more stuff comes at you each day with a rising expectation to stay on top of it all, chewing up more of your available time and demanding ever greater portions of your attention. New technology has become, in part, a delivery mechanism for more.
Some call it “progress.”
However, as working professionals, our productivity hasn’t budged (even though we can now answer our email from any point on the planet, at any hour of the day). The truth is, we’re stuck at pre-fancy-new-technology levels.
To make things worse, we don’t know why. Neither did I back in 2006.
Constant Spring, Kingston, Jamaica. 2006.
Another waste of my time. I shook my head and lifted my fingers from the keyboard.
Once again, I found myself blogging about the hours I had just blown at an inefficient local company or government agency. My mind searched for an answer: What could I have done differently?
It was a detour, I knew. A few minutes before, I had opened up my blog with a clear intent: to add another entry about bureaucracy in Jamaica.
But now, I had stopped typing as my head whirled with more questions. Should I have arrived earlier? Was leaving and coming back a better strategy? How could I have been more prepared? Did they make me late, or did I make myself late? Me? Or them? Or just “life in the tropics”?
I hated wasting my time, silently complaining: There are too many damned days like this. I moved my mouse to save the post and reviewed the last 20 posts. This blog, which was supposed to be all about my transition, now had eight entries on productivity and time management. This stuff is way off topic.
But I wasn’t sure if I should be surprised. Born in the US to Jamaican parents, my life had involved moving back and forth between both countries: 18 years in Jamaica were followed by 21 years in the USA.
Now, I had recently moved to Jamaica, where a chaotic business environment brought one surprise after the next. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index I was moving from a country ranked third to one ranked 86th out of 144 countries in terms of its productivity. I should expect some things to be different with an 83 point difference in ranking, I reasoned.
But obviously, I had a problem. Even though I had taught productivity and time management programs in the USA and other countries previously, I had stopped several years ago when I got bored. The topic had gotten stale. Or, more accurately, I had gotten stale and moved on to other interests, believing that I couldn’t become more productive. If I was already using the best techniques, I decided, what more could there be to learn?
What shocked me was the impact this new, hectic, unreliable environment had on me personally. I found myself running late. Forgetting to do stuff. Dealing with organizations that weren’t reliable. Trusting people who were, apparently, incompetent. Watching the wonderful laidback environment that tourists love so