Drucker on Knowing Our Time

In his book, The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, Peter Drucker analyzed the ways that management practices and principles affect the performance of organizations, individuals, and society. The book covers the basic principles of management and gives professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the environment of tomorrow will require of them.

These are my takeaways from reading the book.

In the chapter “Know Your Time,” Drucker discussed how effective knowledge workers should manage their time.

Effective people know that time is the limiting factor. We cannot rent, hire, buy, or somehow obtain more time.

Time is a unique resource where the supply is inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not increase. Time is also perishable and cannot be stored like many other resources.

Within limits, we can substitute one resource for another. We can even substitute capital for human labor sometimes, but similar substitution does not work with time.

Since all work takes place in time and uses up time, Drucker believed that nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.

Despite its importance, Drucker also believed that humans are ill-equipped to manage our time. We are as likely to underrate grossly the time spent doing something as to overrate it grossly.

As the knowledge workers, we have our challenges with the use of time. Most of the tasks of the knowledge worker require, for minimum effectiveness, a large chunk of time. When we spend time in one stretch that is less than this minimum, we rarely accomplish anything useful and must begin all over again.

Moreover, small dribs and drabs of time will not be enough even if the aggregated sum adds up to an impressive number of hours.
This is particularly true concerning time spent working with people, which is a central task in the work of the knowledge worker. People are time-consumers, and most people are time-wasters.

Before an effective person can manage his time, he first must know where it goes. We start by finding out where our time goes; then we attempt to manage our time and to cut back unproductive demands on our time. At last, we consolidate our “discretionary” time into the largest possible contiguous units for effective uses.

This three-step process, as Drucker believed, is the foundation of executive effectiveness:

  • Recording time
  • Managing time
  • Consolidating time