Drucker on Consolidating 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 the three-step time management process as the foundation of executive effectiveness.

  • Recording time
  • Managing time
  • Consolidating time

A knowledge worker who records and analyzes his time and then attempts to manage it can determine how much he has for his important tasks. Drucker suggested those two steps are not enough.

The higher up a knowledge worker within an organization, the larger will be the proportion of time that is not under his control. The larger the organization, the more time will be needed to keep the organization together and running, rather than to make it function and produce.

Before the knowledge worker can effectively leverage his time for the big tasks that will contribute, he must consolidate his discretionary time. He knows that he needs large chunks of time and that small, fragments are not that useful.

Drucker asserted that even one-quarter of the working day, without interruption, is usually enough to get the important things done. But three-quarters of the working day that is filled with fragmented pieces here and there are useless.

There are many ways of doing this consolidation, but the overall prioritization approach is the key to results. Most of us tackle the job by trying to clear the secondary, the less productive matters together, thus giving us a false sense of productivity.

Instead, we should prioritize the use of the chunk of time and spend it on work that should be done in it. When we fail to prioritize effectively, we quickly find ourselves running out of the discretionary time, which has been nibbled away by new crises, new immediacies, and new trivia.

All effective knowledge workers work on their time management perpetually. They not only keep a continuing log and analyze it periodically but also set deadlines for the important activities, based on their judgment of their discretionary time.

Drucker believed that “Know thyself,” the old prescription for wisdom, is almost impossibly difficult for mortal men. But everyone can certainly follow “Know thy time” and be well on the road toward contribution and effectiveness. The analysis of our time is the one easily accessible and yet systematic way to analyze our work and to think through what really matters in it.