Many times, I’ve seen business leaders send their employees off on time management courses in the hopes that the training will help increase engagement and productivity. Many times, I’ve seen those same leaders show bewilderment when the training doesn’t seem to have any impact—or worse yet, results in employees being less engaged and less productive.
Why is this happening? Traditionally, organizations have believed that, to create higher-performing workplaces, employees must: Be more committed and dedicated to the cause; stay later and come in earlier; and make more of an effort—that is, “try harder” (such as by learning new skills).
In other words, organizations seem to think that sheer determination is the key to helping employees perform their absolute best. Now, I’m not going to lie: time management courses can be helpful. But, when a person is depleted of energy, all the skills and know-how in the world won’t be able to help them, especially when it comes to managing their time. That’s because wherever you see high performance, you will see the efficient management of energy.
February is National Time Management Month. And, it’s time that business leaders start looking at time management differently—through the lens of brain science.
Understanding the executive function
First, a little science lesson. The brain is, inarguably, a very powerful organ. It controls how we think, feel, behave, and perceive and understand the world around us. Moreover, within the brain lies a remarkable central processing unit called the “executive function” (EF). Capable of astonishing levels of value creation, the EF enables us to:
- Process: analyze, predict outcomes, and problem-solve
- Focus: memorize, pay attention, and verbalize
- Self-regulate: maintain impulse control, self-monitor, and cognitively flex
- Initiate: prioritize, plan, and decide
But wait, there’s more! The EF also helps us:
- Think strategically: addressing systemic issues, uncovering root causes, and predicting the downstream implications of decisions and actions
- Collaborate broadly: influencing and aligning stakeholders across the organization
- Communicate clearly: providing context, making meaning, harmonizing competing priorities, and resolving conflict
- Execute decisively: drawing out the best information possible, making a call, and closing the loops to ensure complete follow-through has been achieved
Directly or indirectly, every one of the above capabilities is related to our ability to No.1 manage time and No. 2 be productive. In other words, the executive function is absolutely critical to how we manage our time.
For more of When it Comes to Time Management, It’s All About Energy, order your copy of the Spring 2016 issue here.
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- When it Comes to Time Management, It’s All About Energy - February 27, 2016