The most stupid time management rule ever

We are all different, with different needs, preferences and pressures. Many productivity programs deliver a ‘one size fits all’ approach that works for some but not for all. I believe modern productivity needs a more tailored and flexible approach aligned to how the individual works best. The most stupid time management rule ever is to assume that one size fits all.

My research suggests that some of the time management principles work well for only 70% of workers. If you’re part of the 70% then you’re fine, but what about those who form the 30%? I’ve worked with many time management practitioners over the years who describe how someone didn’t implement the techniques when outcomes weren’t achieved. While that can be true in many cases, it’s also a condescending view when the time management principles weren’t implemented in a flexible manner to support how the individual naturally works at their best.

The issue isn’t with time management being relevant, it’s how the concepts are implemented. Let’s illustrate this with 3 simple examples:

Example 1

  • Time management email rule – Have an empty inbox
  • Alternative view – This works in the workplace for lots of professionals (including myself). However, I’ve also seen countless exceptionally productive workers who don’t have an empty inbox. The key was how they interacted with their email.

Example 2

  • Time management email rule – Only check email 2 or 3 times a day
  • Alternative view – This works well for those who don’t need to interact with email much. However, it’s a terrible idea for workers in “reactive roles” whose workflow is driven by having to respond to email. Maybe checking email once an hour is a better option in this situation.

Example 3

  • Time management scheduling rule – Do your most important work in the morning while you’re fresh
  • Alternative view – A good idea for morning people but what if you do your best work in the afternoon? A better option is to align actioning important work for when you feel your most effective, whether that be morning or afternoon.

Just like one size doesn’t fit all with clothes or shoes, it also applies to how individuals work at an optimum level. Flexible work environments provide an opportunity to personalise how you work. Superior levels of productivity are possible when you’ve developed your preferred working rhythm. Don’t let others misguide you with antiquated views on productivity.