It´s time for me to revisit one of my favorite diatribes. I go off on the same tangent to whatever poor soul is around to hear me whenever I see another survey, or another article, or some other piece of empirical or anecdotal evidence, which reinforces what I believe. The most recent cause of my ranting, a survey by Robert Half Management, says that 46% of the chief financial officers they polled said that time management was their single biggest challenge. That was up from 36% just five years ago. Here´s the kicker, though — the second biggest challenge was keeping up with technology.
So, it´s getting harder for people in busy and important positions to manage their time, and they are finding it difficult to keep up with all the new technology? No kidding. This is the same trend that we see in survey after survey and in story after story — we seem to have less time now than we used to have and we are working longer than we used to work. All of this in an era where technology is supposed to be our savior.
Here´s the thing that gets me so heated up — technology is not saving us time and we are kidding ourselves when we think it will. I´m talking about the phones and PDAs and tools that are supposed to keep us connected and organized. We spend so much of our resources acquiring the latest and the greatest new toys, and then figuring out how to use them, because we are told by commercials and advertisements and websites that they will change our lives and make us more productive, and we believe them.
Here´s the problem with that — we´re just buying band-aids to put over the sucking chest wound that is actually the problem. The reason that we are having trouble managing our time isn´t that we can´t e-mail Alaska from our shower, or that we can´t easily turn our schedule into a color-coded pie chart. The reason that we are having trouble managing our time is because we are doing very little to actually look at the root causes of why we are having those troubles. The problem, though, is that doing that, and making real changes in our attitudes and behavior, is hard. Really hard. It´s so much easier to head down to Circuit City and drop a couple of hundred bucks on the next miracle solution, or head to some website and punch in your credit card to access the answer to all of your woes.
If you are one of the people who would tend to answer the survey in the same way that half of the CFOs did, then do me a favor. The next time you feel the urge to buy a new toy, or upgrade some software, or sign-up for a miraculous new service, don´t. Stop, slap yourself if you have to, take a deep breath and wait. Ask yourself why you want to buy whatever you are going to buy. What problem is it going to solve? How is it going to make you more productive and, ultimately, happier? Unless you can come up with a very compelling answer, put your credit card back in your pocket and think about what you really need to do.