Time Management Is Dead: How I Actually Boosted My Team’s Productivity


For decades, people have been told that time management is the key to productivity. We’ve been taught to create schedules, make to-do lists, and to try getting as much done in as little time possible. But what if this approach is actually doing more harm than good? What if our obsession with time is actually killing our productivity?

As a productivity expert running multiple successful businesses since 2008, I used to be obsessed with time management. I felt I had mastered the art of managing time— I had eliminated unnecessary meetings and even introduced a four-day workweek, but my team and I still struggled with overwhelm.

However, in the midst of the pandemic, something remarkable happened. When I shifted my focus away from tracking my team’s hours and prioritized the quality of their work instead, our productivity soared. It wasn’t about working remotely; it was that I stopped trying to manage time.

In my recent Oxford Talk I share how, as a society, we’ve unknowingly created work models where we measure productivity in time—not in the quality of the work. We’ve been focusing on efficiency over effectiveness. It’s time for a new approach to work that doesn’t leave us feeling exhausted and unsatisfied.

The Myth of Time Management

The fallacy of time management lies in the belief that time is a controllable factor that can be managed like any other resource. In reality, time is a finite and elusive resource that cannot be controlled or manipulated.

In today’s fast-paced and dynamic business environment, it is becoming increasingly clear that traditional time-oriented models of working are no longer effective. Trying to fit as many tasks as possible into a day, using time management techniques like to-do lists, the Pomodoro Technique or multitasking give a false sense of control over time; they don’t address the fundamental problem of time being a finite resource. Plus they have the added side effect of creating more errors and lower quality work—making you unproductive.

By focusing mainly on time, we end up neglecting other important factors, such as creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

A Task-Oriented Approach

A task-oriented approach to productivity and work can be a more effective solution. Rather than focusing on the number of hours worked, instead, we prioritize the tasks over time. By making this shift, we place the focus on quality rather than the quantity of work accomplished. Meaning, we spend more effort on tasks that align with the goals and values of the company rather than getting caught up in the busywork.

But, while a task-oriented approach may be more focused on quality than a time-oriented approach, it completely ignores a key resource—time. We cannot pretend time does not exist.

Deadlines are a critical component of productivity and should be used strategically to help team members focus on the most important tasks. When deadlines are clear and realistic, individuals are better able to focus on completing tasks in a timely manner.

Time Management is Killing Your Productivity

Watch my 9 minute Oxford Talk to learn more about why time management is making you shockingly unproductive.

A Modern Model for Work and Productivity

The time-focused 40-hour workweek is a relic of the factory days gone by. This rigid scheduling model was actually created 100 years ago to make assembly lines faster—it’s not the most effective model for modern productivity. With the rise of remote work, flexible schedules, and generative AI, a new approach is needed to truly optimize productivity.

When I started using a modern hybrid model for productivity—blending task and time oriented ways for thinking, my team and I were more productive. It helped us simplify the business and every team member found more meaning in our work (and our profit margin reflected that).

Here’s the top three strategies I used to see an immediate boost in my team’s productivity:

Focus on Outcomes

One of the key strategies is shifting to prioritizing outcomes rather than time. Instead of focusing on the number of hours worked (or tasks completed), leaders should focus on their desired results. This requires setting clear goals for each project or task. By communicating clear metrics for success and proposed outcomes, business leaders can provide their team with a clear sense of purpose and direction.

To shift the focus from time management to outcome management, business leaders should communicate to their team that the focus is on achieving results, rather than simply completing tasks within a certain timeframe.

By setting clear metrics for success and tracking progress towards those metrics, this allows team members to see the impact of their work and make data-driven decisions. When focusing on outcomes, you create a results-driven culture enabling your employees to work towards shared goals and ultimately achieve greater success.

Encourage Autonomy

Empowering team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions is another key strategy for implementing this hybrid approach. By giving team members autonomy, leaders can allow them to work more deeply on key tasks, rather than fixating about time constraints. Because they are no longer playing “beat the clock” their attention becomes laser focused on the most important tasks.

To encourage autonomy, leaders should be open to adjusting deadlines or shifting priorities based on changing circumstances or new information. Provide clear guidelines and expectations for tasks, but trust your team members to make decisions and work independently.

By promoting autonomy, you can create an environment where employees feel empowered and engaged, which can lead to better outcomes and greater success for your business.

Communicate Priorities

Clear communication is essential for any successful team, and this is especially true when it comes to prioritizing. Leaders should communicate objectives for the quarter and provide regular updates on progress towards those goals. This helps to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same outcomes.

To communicate priorities effectively, leaders need to prioritize tasks based on importance, rather than time constraints. This means focusing on the tasks that are most critical to achieving the overall goals of the business. Leaders should also make sure that everyone understands how their individual tasks contribute to the larger picture.

By communicating priorities effectively and creating an environment that supports deep work, you can help your team members to stay focused and achieve collaborative goals more effectively. This can ultimately lead to better outcomes and greater success.

As a business leader, it’s important to recognize that time is a finite resource that cannot be managed or controlled. Instead, by prioritizing quality over quantity and focusing on outcomes, we can achieve greater success and create a more fulfilling work environment for ourselves and our teams.

Let’s rethink time management and embrace a new approach to work that integrates task-oriented productivity with a focus on outcomes. Together, we can build businesses that are more successful, more productive, and more fulfilling for everyone (including you).

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