Small driblets are no time at all.


“The effective executive therefore knows that [he] has to consolidate [his] discretionary time. [He] knows that [he] needs large chunks of time and that small driblets are no time at all. Even one quarter of the working day, if consolidated in large time units, is usually enough to get the important things done. But even three quarters of the working day are useless if they are only available as fifteen minutes here or half an hour there.” — Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive

The dude is management legend, so despite the archaic man-centric language up there, it’s really worth a look. 50 years ago — way early in the information overload era — he is telling us exactly what we need to hear about how we work today.

Interruption. It’s everywhere! Text and IM and email are constantly buzzing away. If you are trying to do anything complicated, it’s utterly insane. One has to sympathize with college students writing papers today — or with scientists, accountants, product strategists, folks writing sales presentations… everyone. Everyone doing serious work is getting distracted and their time divided into driblets of useless “let me just finish this email” time.

Meetings. On the other end we are trapped in meetings where we try to force ourselves to concentrate on one thing at a time (but usually it’s a boss or coworker that’s just demanding your attention and putting you to sleep).

So the tips from Drucker for how to find solid blocks of time to get stuff done are quite amazingly modern

– work from home one day per week

– work in the morning, or late

– set up “meeting hours” e.g., “all the weekly meetings are Monday or Friday and “quiet hours” e.g., no emails on Thursdays or weekends

– make your meetings longer (90 minutes) and 1-1 (no lectures) or less structured (over lunch, no content agenda just social)

The stuff is awesome. Worth reading the book from the guy who invented “knowledge worker” as a concept.

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