Save Your Money: It’s Time to Stop Trying to Improve Time Management

Time Management Tools That Work – No Such Thing

If you’re a regular reader to this blog, you know we don’t put much stock in time management tips, tricks or techniques. We believe, like Stephen Covey, that you cannot manage time, you can only manage self. Any attempts, in fact, to manage time are just fruitless efforts that get you no closer to your goals.

Time management is about execution, organization and personal efficiencies. Sadly, you will not begin to execute simply by following a few time management tips; organization will not suddenly become second nature because you learned to use the calendar feature on Microsoft Outlook; and just because you can efficiently complete tasks doesn’t mean you are completing the correct ones or in the proper order.

True Time Management is about Effectiveness

Prior to the technological onslaught of time management tools, managers could be divided into two distinct groups: effective and ineffective. In the 1980s, a business leader who needed something done – and done right – knew which of his executives could handle the task. Back then we described this person as organized.

So what’s changed? As we examine our fellow managers today – those armed with a PDA synced to their Outlook, their CardScan machine, a CRM tool and their computer desktop – we notice very quickly that we can divide them into two distinct groups: effective and ineffective.

In the 1980s, truly effective salespeople – those who seemed to always win Salesperson of the Month – used index cards to keep track of their customers and prospects. This was their CRM tool; this was their version of They were slaves to their paper planners (yesterday’s Microsoft Outlook) and they never missed a meeting. Why were these salespeople so much more successful than their peers? Didn’t everyone have access to index cards and paper planners?

Why Technology Hasn’t Moved the Effectiveness Needle

While the tools technology has provided have slightly shifted the bell curve of effective leadership to the right, it’s no surprise to us that these tools have done little in the way of narrowing the curve. We are no more effective as leaders today than we were twenty, thirty or forty years ago.

To stick with the salespeople analogy: we find it almost criminal that today’s technological tools (whether CRM software or a CardScan machine) go largely underutilized by the unsuccessful salespeople people, while being exploited to their fullest by the Salesperson of the Month.

Salespeople, you see, more than any other group, stand to gain the most from employing technology in their daily work. So why don’t more of them embrace the very technology that has been proven to help them make more money?

People are Lazy, Procrastinating Do-Nothings

While we can think of a few choice descriptively redundant terms for the ineffective salesperson or manager, the truth is that personal effectiveness is not something that can be burned onto a CD and loaded on your laptop. Effectiveness – the essence of time management – must become part of your DNA.

The effective salesperson in 1984 who mastered the use of index cards had the desire and DNA to be successful. It’s likely he was not a “natural born salesman” and therefore had to work at it. Knowing this, he strived to add anything to his arsenal that would give him a leg up – even if it meant more work.

This element of human nature is still present twenty-five years later – we see it in the successful salespeople who learn every nook and cranny of the company’s CRM tool and go out of their way to master new technologies – but we still see these qualities in just a few salespeople on any given sales team. Technology has done nothing to move the effectiveness needle.

So it’s Hopeless to Attempt to Improve My Time Management?

Well, yes and no. Would you describe yourself the way Waffle House describes hash browns? That is, are you scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, topped, diced and peppered? If so, then you need a lot more just than technology to improve your time management (something you should start calling your “effectiveness”). May we recommend you internalize (that means read until you fully understand and live) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey? (There’s a reason this book was voted the best leadership book ever written by the editors of AskTheManager.)

Alternatively, would you say that you’re generally effective; that you do a good job of cleaning your inbox; that people can count on you to get things done and that you’re only looking for something to help you recover a few minutes a day? If this describes you, congratulations, you are one of the lucky few who are either hardwired to perform or you’ve worked hard to achieve effectiveness. For you, we’d like to recommend something that’s helped us organize our contacts: the CardScan Personal v8 Card Scanner. This tool is great for the already organized and worthless to the lazy, procrastinating do-nothings.

The first step is recognizing you are a lazy, procrastinating do-nothing – this could save you a lot of money.