Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Monday, January 30, 2012


A required class I wasn't thrilled to sign up for this semester, but which I'm beginning to change my mind about is "Management for Information Professionals." As someone who has had a series of uninspiring entry-level jobs, "management" has always been kind of synonymous with "the enemy." And in cases where things weren't that bad, the individuals in those positions may even have been considered friends, something about the position has always seemed distasteful. But the material in the course has been interesting at least so far, and it's brought up some issues definitely worth thinking through. One of those has been the subject of time management, a key component of a manager's work since time is something they never have enough of, which can really be said of most of us, manager or not.

Mintzberg and Drucker are two writers who wrote about the position and function of management decades apart and have different ideas about how to describe the daily work of managers, but they both agree on the importance of time management. Mintzberg writes “perhaps the most important resource the manager allocates is his own time” (p. 58) and Drucker emphasizes the managerial task of harmonizing “two time dimensions:” the immediate and the long-term (p. 343). This notion of keeping “two dimensions” in mind, while simple in theory, I have found is much more challenging to implement successfully in real life, even just as it applies to one's personal time management, a skill I have never claimed to possess.

Drucker believes that those who are good managers of time “achieve results by planning,” and many
of the elements he identifies that make up the work of managers can be related to careful time management (p. 347). For example, setting objectives is an important way to define goals for one's time and balance desirable end results with “available means” (p. 345). Even when just budgeting personal time management, I find it is often difficult to accurately gauge what a reasonable objective would be for a limited time window. The act of organizing similarly requires one to consider a larger task and “divide it into manageable activities” (p. 344). My tendency to underestimate the time it will take to write a paper or overestimate my ability to read 200 pages in a single sitting shows me that I am not always certain of what constitutes a “manageable activity,” even within my own life. The social skill of communicating might seem inapplicable to personal time management, but on the contrary, communicating with ourselves by writing down reminders or reconsidering our objectives and priorities is crucial for successfully completing projects and meeting deadlines. Finally, effective self-control for measuring one's own performance ensures that tasks stay on schedule and progress is rewarded.

Mintzberg deemphasizes the manager's traditional planning activities but acknowledges that planning does happen on a short term basis “in the context of daily actions,” even if the typically imagined form of long term, abstract planning is not a real managerial priority (p. 51). Personal time management perhaps should also be thought of more along these lines: planning as an ongoing process with adjustments and adaptations made along the way responding to present activities and surrounding environments. When describing the approach of managers to project-related decision making, Mintzberg writes that rather than single decisions, managers work based on “a series of small decisions and actions sequenced over time” (p. 57). Following this idea, perhaps if, instead of designing a set schedule to manage time, I tried to balance homework and other goals as an ongoing process within the dynamic context of daily life, and kept my objectives flexible, I would be able to improve the efficiency of my time management, something this course has made me realize needs to be a real priority in my life.

Drucker, P. (1954.) The manager and his work, in The Practice of Management, pp. 341-350. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Mintzberg, H. (1975). The manager's job: folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review. July-August 1975, 49-61.

No comments:

Post a Comment