A Better Way To Work TimeBack Management

About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

TIMEBACK BLOG Syndicate content

Step away from the computer.

Posted August 4, 2008 @ 11:33 AM

Lee Gomes, one of the technology columnists for the Wall Street Journal, wrote a piece last week pleading for the next president to avoid spending too much time on a computer. He poses a succinct, powerful question that all of use would do well to consider: Does anyone who spends all day in front of a PC, forging a river of data posing as information, have any time to think?

He relates the following story:

A group of technology reporters once received the CEO of a midsize, low-tech company eager to impress his listeners with his connectedness. He described his day as one long session checking emails and news alerts, save for the occasional interruption of a staff meeting or a sales call.

All this was related with pride, as though it was what modern executives were doing. His listeners, though, were struck by how he seemed to have no time left in the day to think, which was surely why he had yet to realize that he was spending his day consuming the information version of junk food.
Gomes' prescription is for the next president to spend no more than 20 minutes per day on the computer. That time could be spent on a favorite blog, on YouTube videos, on Solitaire, whatever. All the other stuff -- memos, newspaper articles, etc. -- would be printed out, and email would be delegated to assistants. His rationale is that

the severe time rationing is necessary because a computer, far from making you more productive, instead loads you down with things to do....
What struck me most forcefully about this column is the blunt distinction he makes between working on a computer and thinking. The more time I spend with clients, the more I see bright, talented, motivated people driven to despair by their inability to find time to solve problems. They're so busy responding to the latest input that they can't get to their jobs.

To be fair, most people don't have the luxury of off-loading their email. But then, most people don't have their days scheduled down to the minute, either, as the president does. So it's a given that you'll have to spend more than 20 minutes on the computer. But are you allocating time to actually think about the work that you need to do?

Here's what I think: each day, step away from your computer, from the "river of data posing as information," and from the next demand upon your time. Maybe it's only for 30 minutes. But take that time to think and ask some questions like this: Is there a better way to do my job? Is there something that we should be doing, but aren't? Is there something that we should stop doing? What's the most important thing I can accomplish this week?

These are the sorts of questions that lead to a kaizen (continuous improvement) mentality. And that will lead to real achievement in the long run.


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