How to use your illusions about time for better management, performance

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Updated May 14, 2021

As truck drivers, as my colleague Gary Buchs wrote last week and as I’ve emphasized before myself, time is our most precious commodity. Our lives are governed by it – from the amount of time we sleep and work in a day, to the time we actually get to spend with family and friends. It can be a fleeting commodity. If one is not careful, we can go from wishing we could grow up faster as we did when we were children to wondering where the time went as we lie on our death beds.

As scripture says, time is but a vapor, a shadow, a breath, and it is gone, for we are only yesterday.

One of the greatest strengths we can foster is a capability for effective time management, and with electronic logs this ability has become critical. We are a hectic species, easily preoccupied with new ways of carving out more time, and productivity. But we are also easily distracted by the newest gadget, guru or tool to promise a few more minutes. While some prove to be beneficial, others often propagate fairytales, illusions that will eat up our time and make others question our time management skills.

We need to look at these illusions, discard them and concentrate on what is truly is productive. After all, the clock only stops when we are pushing daisies.

Illusion No. 1: Better time management will increase performance. A fascinating fact is that time management and increased performance show little correlation. In fact, the connection is quite pathetic. Performance equates to a whole lot more than just time. Adopting the mantra “work smarter, not harder” is much more effective for performance and time management both, because performance is not about how much you get done but about the positive influence it has on the bottom line and others.

It is better to focus on quality over quantity. That, of course, does not mean we ignore time management. Effective time management is associated with a positive state of mind and well-being. This happens in the cognitive reframing process I’ve written about before it various ways – reframing a situation toward effective outcomes helps us identify and change the reality of those situations and of experiences, ideas and emotions. Thus, we shouldn't be in the game solely of increased productivity, but rather staying productive while also reducing stress.

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Illusion No. 2: Managing your time equates to success. If you allow too much on your plate at once, it really doesn’t matter how efficient you are with time management – you will never have the time to finish everything efficiently or match quality standards. Most time management advice involves practices, methods or systems to manage your responsibilities and schedules. The most effective way to increase performance without adding stress is filtering. That is, learning to say no or being selective in what you commit your time to.

To filter correctly, we must ask better questions of our brokers, dispatchers and everybody else we work for. Asking for details when approached with a new project or duty, you will have a better understanding of what is expected of your time and your role – big-picture stuff – before you commit. Filtering also helps us set expectations of our time. When we tactfully say no to things that require too much time or time we do not have, we build both rapport and respect from our cohorts for our transparency and realistic assessment.

Illusion No. 3: Meetings are an extreme waste of time. You may feel the best way to maximize your time is to skip the meeting, and clearly, we should not take on meetings indiscriminately. However, if you are not the CEO, VP, or other big wig in charge you may not have a choice. Instead of blowing off that meeting and getting in trouble with HR or safety, we need to set our schedules to meet demand. This will help you stay on track and productive instead of draining your energy.

Given the electronic babysitter and the reality that time is money, negotiating attendance may be the best way to meet obligations while staying productive without adding undue stress. Although the back office can see your time available for work, do not forget they cannot know what is going on in your personal life unless you share it with them – quality time with family is something to always keep in mind for the professional trucker.

[Related: Time is but a vapor, make the most of it]

Whether you pay attention to it or not, time is the absolute equalizer for all of us. When our time is up, it is up – there is no negotiating for more time. Those of us who use our time judiciously are more likely of achieving success, at least in our own eyes – personal contentment cannot be overrated.

The key is being realistic, and for the trucker, work-life balance should be the goal. Nay, it’s a necessity. The important point to remember: time management takes persistent and conscious habit evaluations. We all trade time for money, and often we tend to take on things that take advantage of our time and devalue it. Too many think of truckers as a commodity, and to a point that may well be true, but the real commodity is our time – make sure you place the correct value on it.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and we are fertilizer.