Business thinking about Time Management needs updating.
Did you know that we all have a preference for the way we think about time? It’s called our Time Perspective, the concept’s been around for 25 years, with tons of top-quality cross cultural and longitudinal research. People who are Future (F) orientated make sacrifices now, that they think will benefit them in the long-term. They have career plans, pension plans, insurance plans. They’re about plans. Present Hedonists (PH) get distracted by immediate gratification. They’re good at being in the moment, and live for today, who knows what tomorrow will bring? Present Fatalists (PF) feel they have little control over their destiny, someone else is in charge of their life plan. Past Positives (PP) have a rosy, nostalgic picture of the past, the good old days. Past Negatives (PN) are, well, negative about their past, and the past in general.
“Every picture tells a story”
These 5 perspectives explain how we go about our daily lives, and how we make our choices about time use throughout the day. They’re fundamental to how we use our time at work, but also to how we do our work. Let’s have a look at the diagram above. How will this character behave at work?
They’re high PH. Reactive, present, personable. Combined with Low F – not so good at making plans or being proactive. Easily distracted by something interesting that grabs their attention, so maybe not a good finisher. Low PF – they believe they’re responsible for their destiny, won’t blame things on “the management” and will manage their own development. Medium PP and low PN – they won’t have much time for the people who remember how Project X went wrong in June 1987, or who like to reminisce about when we were a start-up working out of a garage.
“You’re failing to connect the Past, Present and Future”
Why does this matter? Next time you’re driving through a change management project, and you meet resistance, it just may be because people aren’t buying the future you’re selling. You’re failing to connect the Future with the Past and the Present, and not everyone wants to live there anyway.
“Time Management and Productivity used to be the same thing”
Psychologists have been studying Time ever since psychology became a science, yet what they have discovered mostly stays in the academic world. Business thinking about time is still rooted in Frederick Taylor’s time and motion studies, where efficiency and productivity are still the declared goals. This worked in the 19th and early 20th century, when factory output was, literally, what counted. Time Management and Productivity used to be the same thing.
Today, most people are adding value by using their knowledge, rather than being part of an industrial process, yet we still use the same words to talk about output. This leaves no room for measuring modern concepts like innovation, problem-solving, creativity, strategic thinking, collaboration and team-working.
People who use their brains for a living, which is most of us, need a better framework for managing their time and measuring their effectiveness than working faster, harder, or longer. That’s not Working any more.
If you would like to find out more about your own Time Perspective, please leave a comment below.