Old School and New School Time Management

Normally, business productivity and time management books fall into one of two categories:

  1. Basic commonsense tips for improving productivity, all of which generally recycle the same information that can be found online (Try Googling 10 Top Time Management tips and you will see what I mean).
  2. Motivational guides that tell you to organize and manage. They are packed with terms like ‘Positivity’ and ‘Visualize’ but never actually tell you how to do anything.

Two Books, Two Approaches

Two books, The Organized Executive, by Stephanie Winston, and Steve Chandler’s Time Warrior, break away from these tired stereotypes. Winston was one of the first to develop a commonsense guide, and most other productivity tips are mere copies. Chandler, by contrast, completely changes the concept of time management.

Stephanie Winston: The Organized Executive

Organized Executive on Amazon

If you want to improve productivity the old school way, you need a tried and tested book. Stephanie Winston’s relates a traditional approach to time management and shows you how to organize an efficient office.

Winston’s book is well laid out and her writing style is light but authoritative. The book covers a range of topics for ensuring that your office is a clean and efficient environment, with employees fully aware of their responsibilities. This book shows you how to:

  • Assess exactly what tasks need doing
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Break down projects and work out realistic timescales
  • Delegate
  • Follow up
  • Toss, Refer, Act, File (TRAF) – Be ruthless in tossing out paperwork. Refer paperwork to those who are most skilled. Create an action folder for tasks, ready for prioritization. File any tasks that do not need delegation or action, ideally with a date when they can be safely removed.

This book has aged a little, and misses out many of the modern innovations that have seen us move towards the paperless office and lean systems. A lot of the advice in here is based upon traditional values, in the days before we invented software that can do pretty much everything. However, despite most business’ claims that they are streamlining, managing through-flow or [insert latest management buzzword], the vast majority of modern offices are still swamped with boxes of paper balanced precariously on shelves or stuffed under desks.

As a result, the book is probably a little too old school for experienced managers, but they are not really the target audience; it is perfect for starting managers and supervisors wishing to learn how to do the simple things well. I have met many new managers with great software skills or training in people skills, but they haven’t got a clue about the basics of filing, organization, keeping diaries, or prioritizing.

For them, Winston’s book is a great investment. It isn’t some esoteric management book promising riches and success. Neither is it one of the rather thin and tired ‘101 Ways to Organizer Your Office.’ It is a classic book packed with commonsense tips and practicality.

Information’s pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.
– Clarence Day

Time Warrior – Steve Chandler

Time Warrior on Amazon

In a 180-degree change of direction, Steve Chandler’s Time Warrior is a book that will appeal to any businessperson.  Chandler’s style is direct, yet manages to keep a flowing, very readable style with a touch of warmth and humor.

Time Warriors is a complete departure from these tired formulas and encourages you to reassess how you work and live, completely changing your mentality. This book skillfully departs from the tired ideas of using to do lists and shuffling paperwork, and Chandler actually encourages you to move away from the old ideas of linear time and concentrate only upon the ‘Now.’

The analogy he gives is the samurai concentrating upon slowing down time and focusing on action. Chandler believes that we expend all of our energy on mediocrity, trying to keep our heads above water with no sense of purpose. We waste our time balancing contradictions and our energies are spread too thinly to achieve anything.

Perhaps the best way to sum up Time Warrior is with the Bruce Lee quote that Chandler refers to often: “The warrior is an average person with laser focus.” If you watch a skilled warrior, they are always in motion, always seeking to carve out space to move and think. A Time Warrior’s battle is against interruption and distraction, looking to create uninterrupted space for serenely focusing on tasks.

Some of the concepts explored by Chandler are:

  • Uninterrupted Time: One hour of interrupted time is worth three hours of interrupted time, A Time Warrior, before starting work, will seek to carve out uninterrupted time.
  • Non-Linear Time: The non-linear time is binary; you only have now and not now. Complete small, achievable tasks, and create a routine
  • Sustained Assault: Focus on a problem and attack it until it is solved, instead of allowing yourself to be distracted. Always complete things, because incomplete projects prey on your mind and sap your creative energy.
  • Focus: With the same time and energy you expend in avoiding an overwhelming job, you could actually make a solid start.
  • Only the ‘Now’ is Important: Concentrate on the present task instead of cluttering your mind with thoughts of the future. The future distracts
  • Procrastination and People Pleasing: Most procrastination is based upon fear. However, this is fear of what other people will think when you fail. The constant compromising of your personality to make it conform to what others expect saps energy; you can channel this into creativity, instead.
  • Silencing Emotions: Most time-management problems stem from emotions; “I can’t do this” or “What will the boss think?” Your inner voice will try to distract you; it might say that you are disorganized. Instead of letting it eat away at you, clean your desk, now, and silence the voice.
  • Set Realistic Goals and Challenges: Set process goals and do them, now; this could be working through your inbox in 30 minutes, or scything through your in tray. Sustained action is the key
  • Problems Become Projects: Capture a problem by writing it down. Redefine the problem; rather than use meaningless buzzwords to make it merely sound positive, convert it into a project, which is a challenge to be solved with the warrior’s focus

Two Approaches: Whatever Works For You

These two books offer two different approaches to time management, one using tried and tested formulas, the other looking at a whole new approach. Winston’s book is perfect for those needing to know how to organize an office efficiently. Chandler’s book is great advice for people looking for a way to breaking away from the tired motivational books or time management books packed with theories that do not reflect reality.

Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil.
– J. Paul Getty

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