Action Management Vs. Time Management

I’ve had a deep interest in time management for many years now. I’ve adopted the Priority Manager system, with some success for a while, with A. B and C categorisation. I’ve jumped on board the 7 Habits train, and learned to balance urgency and effectiveness, putting first things first. But I’ve continuously found that no matter how much I’ve tried to manage time, it often doesn’t want to be managed.

It may be a bit of a cliche, but time is one of the few constants in the world. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year, and so on. No matter how hard we try, time just want stand still. It has momentum, and moves along at a constant speed of 60 minutes an hour.

So its kind of a misconception to have the belief that time can be managed. We can only manage ourselves, and our actions, within the time we have available to us. Into that limited bucket, we need to pour rest, work and play, in some combination that gives us the return that we desire.

Everything we do is an action — whether it be sleep, eat, attend a meeting, complete a report, send an email, take a customer to lunch, take a loved one to dinnner, drive to work, go to a movie, have a dive or whatever. Whatever we don’t do isn’t an action — its an idea for a future action.

So, for me, personal productivity is all about managing the actions that we take relative to the commitments we make/have in life.

I guess this is why I’ve taken to David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach. GTD drives us to catalogue our entire inventory of actual and possible actions (and the projects they are associated with), and organise them into a system that will remind us when and where we are best able to tackle them. It provides a framework in which to keep that catalogue alive, and topped up with actions that are associated with fresh and exciting new projects.

We need to handle our priorities in life. But we need to live those on a day to day basis that revolves around taking on and executing actions that relate closely to the work we do, and the life we live.


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