Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Managing your Time as a Master Builder

Time management is a long established but curious management idea. Time, after all, is a measurement like length or depth or height. Just like physical dimensions, we can fill it with things. So a mile along a street might be filled with houses, an hour can be filled with events. Events such as the ticking of the clock, the writing of a report, or the watching of a TV programme. Or sleeping, or eating lunch, or having an argument. Or planning the following day’s work, or taking a nap, or doing nothing (a tricky one).

So time management isn’t so much the management of time, which will pass no matter what we do, but the management of the events that fill our time.

Of course not all events can be managed. There is nothing we can do about a colleague coming in to work in a lousy mood. We can’t control the Porsche trying to overtake just before a bend, nor the weather. But we can attempt to manage the events that are important to us.

Our choice of “events” or “things to do” during each hour is what determines the course of our businesses, our careers, and our lives. Just as what we choose NOT to do during each hour has the same (but less obvious) effect.

If we think of ourselves as master builders, coming to work each day to build houses, hotels or mansions on our day-long streets, we get more of a physical picture of what we are doing. We are building little houses along our days. Some days we barely manage to complete the foundations for a rickety garden shed, other days we map out grand plans for palatial extensions.

As you start your day, have a look down the street you are currently working on and inspect yesterday’s building work. Was it done according to the architect’s plans? Are you happy with the quality of the workmanship? Are other builders briefed so that tomorrow’s work can start on time? Are you almost ready to start roofing work or have you been labouring on the foundations for far too long?

Most of us manage a multitude of projects, and it can be helpful to think of abstract notions such as time, reports or software as physical things. Time as a street that we are about to walk, and our day’s work as the buildings we are constructing. Concepts such as foundations, levels, and rooms, are useful for many different types of work, whether they are tangible or intangible. Happy building!

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