FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | James Cathcart

The Compass and the Clock

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

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Over the last year, I have immersed myself into some of the time-management literature that is wildly popular right now. I began with David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

First of all, let me state for the record that I like and respect David. I think that he has a lot to offer. His distinction between projects and tasks (or, The Next Action Items as he would call them) is an excellent observation. I believe that ignoring such a distinction is one of the primary reasons people get overwhelmed by their goals.

But, as I read some of the blog and forum comments of those who are impacted by this new batch of organizational literature, I cannot help but think that we are taking a few steps backwards.

People are becoming overwhelmed with the sheer weight of information that constantly presses upon them. In a desperate attempt to alleviate the pressure, they turn to efficiency programs for aid. “I just need to learn how to organize my inbox” one might say, or “If I could just get my desk uncluttered, then I’d have a handle on things”.

Many of the new authors in the field of organization and time-management share some excellent tips to help us get more things done, but there is a component missing from these approaches if we’re not careful. That component is “should I be doing a lot of these things in the first place?”

The clock is the tool that we use to measure the amount of time that we have, and drives us towards efficiency. “What time is it?” or “When will this meeting be over?” are both clock-related questions.

The compass indicates our direction, and helps us know whether we are on or off course. This is the symbol of effectiveness.

As Stephen R. Covey has often said, “It doesn’t really matter how fast you are going if you’re headed in the wrong direction.”

So, as we move forward into the 21st-century, and as time-management evolves into its next incarnation, I believe that one thing must never change. That one thing is the price that we all have to pay to understand what our primary purpose in life is, and whether or not we are adhering to the principles that help us to achieve that purpose.

When we focus first on the compass, then the clock, we truly begin to unlock our potential and set ourselves on a course for fulfillment and greatness.

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