“Tess…started her way up the dark and crooked lane not made for hasty progress; a street laid out before inches of land had value, and when one-handed clocks sufficiently sub-divided the day. —Thomas Hardy
Imagine your life without time, without a constant sense that you’re running behind, frustrated that yet again you are losing the battle against the irresistible force of the ticking clock. Imagine not wishing there were more hours in the day.
We haven’t always been obsessed with time. In fact, as the historian E.P. Thompson highlighted half a century ago, before the Industrial Revolution clocks were largely irrelevant. Instead of a time orientation, people had a task orientation. They had jobs to do, and so they did them in the natural order, at the natural time. This worked for a largely agricultural society. However, the factories of the Industrial Revolution needed to coordinate hundreds of people to get them working at the same time, in synchronicity—and that required clocks. So business leaders imposed clock time on their workforce (not without resistance), and eminent leaders, such as Benjamin Franklin, reinforced the value of this with statements like “time is money.”
Cast the clock forward 250 years, and we’re all obsessed with time. We don’t need managers to impose time discipline upon us—we do it ourselves because we’re so busy. It seems the only option in the face of the demand-and-expectation tsunami hitting us each day. So we schedule and cram our time, squeezing all the efficiency we can out of each day. Time management, we believe, is the solution to our busyness: if we could organize our time better, we’d be less overwhelmed, happier, and more effective. We are completely wrong on all three counts, and it’s damaging our lives and our careers.