Erich C. Dierdorff, in an article published in January of 2020 in the Harvard Business Review, tries to cut through the sea of advice available online today, including many apps and hacks regarding time management. He posits that time management is one of the most desired skills today.
Tools alone will not help you improve. Most tools presume a person has the necessary skills to manage time. Unfortunately, far too many people lack these skills.
There is extensive research regarding the prerequisite skills necessary for successful time management. The research points to three skills necessary for success:
awareness, arrangement, and adaptation as described below:
- Awareness: thinking realistically about your time by understanding it is a limited resource.
- Arrangement: designing and organizing your goals, plans, schedules, and tasks to effectively use time.
- Adaptation: monitoring your use of time while performing activities, including adjusting to interruptions or changing priorities.
Dr. Dierdorff’s study examined the results from more than 1,200 people in a 30-minute microsimulation designed to objectively assess time management skills. Participants were given a number of tasks that challenged their time management skills in the role of a freelance designer which required, among other things, that they deal with scheduling conflicts, client demands, and the allocation of their time.
Dr. Dierdorff found that all three skills, awareness, arrangement, and adaptation mattered equally to overall time management performance.
Because most apps, hacks, and overall online wisdom are focused on arrangement skills, two-thirds of the necessary skills to succeed in time management are absent.
Therefore, it is not surprising that most people fail even when using the best apps and following some good advice on the web.
Awareness and Adaptation Skills
Dr. Dierdorff found that participants struggled most with awareness and adaptation skills. The scores were on average 24 percent lower than arrangement skills. That’s a lot of points and may explain the weakness of conventional tools and wisdom.
Therefore, awareness and adaptation skills are less common and must be developed and habituated for successful time management. For example, awareness skills were the primary skill to avoid procrastination. On the contrary, adaptation skills were a predictor of how well people prioritized activities.
Of course the ability to prioritize is a key to success overall, and procrastination seems to be part of the human condition that everyone battles with daily.
Contrary to popular beliefs, Dr. Dierdorff’s study did not find a relationship between multitasking and time management success or failure. Thus, multitasking hacks (time management tricks) are of little promise.
The reader should pay particular attention to the evidence that strongly suggests (Dr. Dierdorff states it’s crystal clear) that people vastly overrate their time management skills. Dr. Dierdorff found these results to be consistent with other studies on people’s lack of accurate self-awareness regarding their competencies and how this impedes change and leadership development.
Consistent with the study’s findings, we advise the following to address the lack of awareness and low adaptation skills necessary to succeed with time management.
Be aware of your time management skills.
This can be accomplished by using objective assessments like a microsimulation. You can also seek feedback from others like one’s peers or boss, or establishing a baseline of behaviors against which gauge improvements. This is an area where a coach is invaluable to assess your skills and gauge your awareness.
Examine your preferences.
Self-awareness of one’s preferences or personality related to time management, such as multitasking or being proactive, can deepen an understanding of where you might struggle against existing habits. Also, knowing how your personality can affect the choices you make around time management can allow you to leverage your natural patterns to meet new time management goals. However, skills, not personality, are the most malleable personal attributes and provide the greatest ROI on self-improvement efforts.
The findings regarding lack of self-awareness of skill deficits in time management should be of great concern. Without these skills you may have difficultyy completing important tasks in a timely fashion. You may also suffer increased stress and anxiety.
If you are looking for help to assess your time management skills we at Ignite Your Potential can help. Contact us soon!.