Questioning the Value of Time Management
Oliver Burkeman plays the devil's advocate in a piece for The Guardian (London), where he argues that "All of our efforts to be more productive backfire - and only make us feel even busier and more stressed."
Burkeman structures the piece around the story of Merlin Mann, a one-time (and accidental) personal productivity guru. Mann popularised the "Inbox Zero" system, which many followers latched onto as a solution to overflowing email inboxes. Mann proposed that we should systematically "process to zero" each time we check our email. Rather than reviewing your email (again and again), we are better served by acting on each email - either by adding to our to-do lists, filing it away, or replying then and there. While a simple process, many thought Inbox Zero helped them reduce that lingering anxiety caused by an overflowing inbox. The system emerged just as knowledge workers were beginning to buckle under the pressure of never being away from work; always available.
Merlin Mann's own doubts about what he created serve as an example for Burkeman of a wider problem with productivity programs: " . . . the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have."