I am looking from time to time at what people are asking on the web around deliberate diligence topics, and I came across the following question:
Why is Time Management considered a Soft Skill?
Since I'm slightly ill, I'm picking this question for this post today since it's easy to answer from my perspective.
I used to look at "productivity" the wrong way.
I'll start the answer with an anecdote. I used to be more of the "rigorously manage and work through to-do lists" faction. I was careful not to forget any tasks and to work off everything that was thrown at me as a task.
Productivity meant working through the lists as fast and as well as possible—the goal: Tabula Rasa - no more tasks left.
This benefited my career because I quickly gained a reputation as an ambitious and reliable worker.
However, this approach was doomed to failure at some point. The problem is that I quickly reached a point where there were infinite tasks to complete.
My goal of getting to a point where I could have everything worked off in a week/month/before vacation was absurd and impossible to achieve.
You can imagine what this did to me emotionally:
- I was constantly stressed and disappointed in myself.
- The disappointment often turned into anger towards those who put extra work into me.
My boss only worked 4 hours a day.
I owe an essential change of mind to one of my bosses, whom I had for a couple of years. My first unreflective impressions of him were as follows:
- From my point of view, he was "lazy" and very selective in the tasks he took care of.
- He sometimes didn't come to meetings or didn't respond when he had anything else to do at the moment. I thought: „How unprofessional!"
- I got the impression, in sum, that he only worked 4 hours a day or so. And yet, he was super successful and well respected in the company.
However, with time I realized that I was simply wrong with my attitude and could learn a lot from my boss. Because deficits mentioned above can be looked at differently:
- Selective task selection = focus & clear priorities: he consistently separated the essential from non-essential issues and always spent energy on the crucial ones.
- Infrequent attendance at meetings and accessibility: if you're focused on a critical task and giving all your attention, you can't be distracted by colleagues and meetings.
- 4-hour days: first, my perception can be deceiving; second, his results were exemplary. He produced 3-4 times the results for the company than the average.
He teaches me that productivity is not working off checklists efficiently but effectively managing your time and generating practical impact.
Time and attention management are the century's most critical (soft) skills.
When I look away from my boss and towards my past and so many other colleagues, I see so many people who are unnecessarily "busy".
Everyone is always working at 100% capacity. Sometimes even more, when they are working not only 40 hours but even 60 and 80 hours a week "to get it all done".
This is also the reason for many societal problems: depression, burnout, sick backs, high dissatisfaction and organizational/individual procrastination.
This is also why so many people cannot fulfil their actual purposes and desires - they are busy with unessential tasks.
I have, fortunately, caused by the above experience, been able to free myself from fake productivity.
I hope that with my "Deliberate Diligence“ blog, I can help others to join this mindset shift. Diligence, after all, must always be coupled with deliberate use.
To return to the occasion of this article: Why is Time Management considered a Soft Skill?
People who understand that they need to manage their time and attention are more effective than those who only manage their tasks and notes (if at all).
As a company, when you hire someone, you are looking for someone who will create value and make a real impact in the challenges you delegate to them. Goal-oriented, unbending, and simplistic.
That’s why you’ll look for time management skills.
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