Managing your time isn't enough

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Cognitive work
One thing that’s vital to bear in mind during busy periods is that managing your time and managing your ability to do cognitively-demanding work are two very different things. It’s doesn’t matter how well you chunk up your time, if it’s all the same kind of work, you’re on a slow slide to inefficiency. There’s a great exploration of this on Time’s Ideas blog, in The Mistake Busy People Make:

By bandwidth I mean basic cognitive resources — psychologists call them working memory and executive control — that we use in nearly every activity. Bandwidth is what allows us to reason, to focus, to learn new ideas, to make creative leaps and to resist our immediate impulses. We use bandwidth to be a good participant at an important meeting, to be a good boss to an employee who frustrates us and to be attentive parent or spouse.

For example, I’ve burnt most of my bandwidth for the day in completing, revising and re-ordering a major training schedule, that’s based on a large piece of research and testing of the people to be trained. I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got – but that’s the end of the really demanding cognitive work I can do today. Indeed, with two days of training delivery ahead – which is very cognitively demanding – that’s probably the last big piece I’ll get done this working week.

Luckily, I’d planned for that…


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.