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Francis Wade

Founder, Framework Consulting

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Can young adults be taught how to change their individual approaches to managing time so they don't also fall into crazy techno-habits?

All over the world, employees are adapting desperate tactics with their smartphones in an effort to save time. They text while drive, interrupt conversations and meetings, use them in bathrooms and interrupt their private-time, turning it into work-time(on holidays, vacations, weekends, sick days, etc.)

Managers have responded by handing out more devices, as it's obvious to many that an employee with a smartphone is better than one without. In the US by 2015, it's predicted that all employees will have smartphones, and it's likely that they'll be continuing the unbalanced habits that companies have been slow to address with either usage policies or training. Only a tiny handful of companies have responded by banning smartphones from meetings, in an effort to slow the downward trend.

We are seeing the beginning of a problem that the next generation will have to deal with. There will be more new mobile technology, and an explosion of time demands that they'll have to deal with as they navigate the usual events of life: marriages, kids, big projects, promotions and illnesses. Will they respond with more loony habits and crazy multi-tasking that are dangerous, rude, unhealthy and unproductive in attempts to maintain some balance?

Given the most recent research showing that we all use different approaches to time management, and that it's developed individually as young adults, should we try to prepare them? Can they be shown how to adapt their approach to improving their productivity and time management systems over the course of their careers? Should it happen earlier in life? Should corporations have an interest in trading cheap "always-on" wins for a longer term sustainable productivity? Are they willing to invest in this area?

Or are we doomed to fall into the trap of buying the latest gadgets, and watching as it damages productivity and unbalances lives?

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    Feb 20 2011: This is actually a problem of CONTROL. Either technology controls you, and you live a life of fractured attention and reaction, or YOU control technology, and you live a life of the actions you CHOOSE. It's imperative that young adults, even teenagers, are taught how to control their attention because habits formed after years in the business world are that much harder to change. The demands on our attention are only going to get greater, and the quiet, reflective learning times are being abandoned, although often not by choice. The frame needs to be shifted from "time management" to "attention management," as I've written about here: http://regainyourtime.com/productivity/time-management-irrelevant/ and here: http://regainyourtime.com/attention-management/

    It's not the technology or the gadgets, it's when we fail to CONTROL them that our lives are in danger of being damaged.
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      Feb 22 2011: The thing that's difficult about attention and control is that neither can be measured. It's easy to have a conversation about what was worked on and when, but I believe it would be easier to fool oneself about being in control and paying attention.

      Having said that, I think that both attention AND time need to be managed. Once time is allocated to an activity, it pays to give it one's full attention, according to Csikszentmihalyi (author of "Flow") and others. Many people make time choices that prevent them from ever giving anything their full attention, and many people don't know to give anything their full attention, even when they have the best possible schedule or plan.

      We need to do both well, in order to be as productive as we can be.

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