I would like to first address a couple of misnomers that kind of bother me about the body of “Self-Help/Productivity” literature out there. Lets face it. The stuff I am going to present here fits squarely in this category and if these ideas were to ever make it into a book sitting on a library shelf, that book will be surrounded by other books, thanks to Mr. Melvil Dewey, that are filled with two concepts that really bother me.
First is the idea of “Multi-Tasking.” There is no such thing as “Multi-Tasking.” It simply does not exist. You can’t multi-task, your friends can’t multi-task, your computer can’t multi-task.
This phrase came into our lexicon about the same time as the personal computer as a way to describe why computers can be SOOO useful, because they can do more than one thing at a time. They can “Multi-Task!” But this isn’t actually what computers do. Computers are very good at switching very rapidly between tasks, far faster than any human, but they are never doing more than one thing at a time.
What computers do would be better called “Switch-Tasking.” Some you are probably pretty good at switch-tasking and others of you are not. Either way, when humans switch from one task to another, there is always some level of — let’s call it cognitive friction — during that switch where your neurons have to change the way they are firing and refocus on the task at hand. It would be beneficial for you to come to grips with the idea that YOU CANNOT MULTI-TASK. You can only switch-task, and it is generally more productive if you can reduce the amount of switch-tasking you do.
The second is the idea of “Time Management.” There is no such thing as “Time Management.” This one is not as bad as “Multi-Tasking” but it does bother me and if you can help me out with a better phrase, I’d welcome the input. Here is the rub though. You can track how you used your time in the past or how you use it in the present. You can plan how you hope to use your time in the future. But you cannot manage time. There is no way to manage five minutes and end up with six. You can manage your actions at any given time to make better or worse use of your time, but the time is finite. I guess if you define management as an activity that involves planning and organizing, then this phrase is not that bad, but I still don’t like it. Action Planning might be better, but sounds so contrived… anyway.
Because multi-tasking is impossible and time is finite, one of the big jobs you need to get good at is organizing and planning the actions that will use the time you have.