It isn’t easy to preach the virtues of effective time management to someone who chooses to waste their time reading this column.
Face it. There are all sorts of effective, efficient, career-enhancing activities you could be performing right now. And yet, here you are with your nose in a newspaper when everyone knows you should be applying that schnoz to the grindstone.
Don’t get me wrong. I am pleased and honored that you’ve chosen to waste your time with me. And I want to reward you — with 10,000 megavolts of advice from Phil Cooke, the highly charged author of “Jolt! Get the Jump on a World that’s Constantly Changing.”
It is Cooke’s thesis that “many practices that used to be considered ‘good for business’ are major time-wasters today.” Surprisingly, many of those time-wasters are the innovative tools that are supposed to make business today much more productive, like cellphones and computers. (Apparently, electric pencil sharpeners get a pass.)
Of course, none of these newfangled devices could possibly waste as much time as some of the more traditional and well-established business black holes, like the Human Resources department. Let’s be honest here: HR has been wasting time since the first company policy binder was delivered to the first Neanderthal.
Cooke does have some surprising statistics to prove that electronic gizmos are wasting our valuable time. For example, did you know that “65 percent of Americans spend more time with their computer than their spouse”? But does this mean we have to give up our laptops? I’m sure we’ll all return to our spouses just as soon as an app is invented that will bug us about picking up our socks or taking out the garbage.
If you find yourself saddled with a bevy of electronic time-wasters, Cooke has suggestions:
Put down the mobile device occasionally.
“E-mail is a wonderful tool,” writes Cooke, “but can easily evolve into bondage, particularly at the expense of your personal relationships.” Speaking personally, I rather like bondage. In fact, I wish there were steel shackles bonding me to my paycheck. However, if you feel you are suffering from “Internet Addiction,” it may be time to enter Internet rehab. Ask management to send you to a tropical island in a sapphire sea where you will be cut off completely from your cellphone. When you stop trying to answer a ringing coconut, you’re ready to come back to work.
Stop checking your e-mail first thing in the morning.
“Don’t deny it!” cautions the author, referring to your habit of not getting anything done because you start the day retrieving messages. Instead of checking e-mail, he suggests spending the first moments of the workday “doing the most important thing you need to do that day.” That’s right. He wants you to start your day with your midday nap. This may force you to cut short your midmorning nap and delay your midafternoon nap, but, hey, you are “doing the most important thing you need to do that day.”
Learn the power of priorities
“Stop responding to what everyone else thinks is ‘urgent,’ and start focusing on what’s really important.” Good advice. Next time your manager gives you a mission-critical assignment, put your feet up on the desk, lean back in your Aeron chair, and explain that while management is hung up on some archaic concept of urgency, you’re going to focus on “what’s really important,” which is developing a sense of personal calm and well-being. This is definitely a high-priority item, since you’ll soon be spending many anxious hours with the other high-priority losers in the unemployment line.
Shut the office door.
“Keep the door shut and focus” is Cooke’s mantra. But what happens if you work in a cubicle and don’t have a door? Easy-peasy! Get a screwdriver, and take your boss’s door off its hinges. Drag the door to the entrance of your cubicle, and nail it into place. This will do wonders for your focus, and when security comes to drag you to the parking lot, they’ll need a chainsaw to get to you.
Cooke has one more tip that I’d love to share with you, but I’m afraid I can’t possibly do it now. My cellphone is ringing, and I have to take the call.
Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.