Do you know how much time you spend working with your computer each day? More importantly, how much of that time is productive? Most MBA students cannot answer these two questions with any certainty. However, MBA students run the risk of productivity loss because of their dependence on technology and multitasking. As aspiring executives, MBA students need to understand where their time actually goes each waking hour.
Peter Drucker, in his 1966 book, The Effective Executive said, “Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes. Then, they attempt to manage their time and to cut back unproductive demands on their time.”
While the work environment has changed since 1966, the need for executives to find out where their time actually goes has not. Perhaps the need today is even greater, given the ever-expanding use of technology in the workplace. Yes, technology can increase one’s capacity to do work. Nevertheless, it can also contribute to lost productivity because of the ease with which one can switch tasks or multitask.
“The Multitasking Paradox,” a March 2013 Harvard Business Review article, addressed “the perils of multitasking.” Data collected using a software tool called RescueTime suggests that multitasking is, in fact, counterproductive. The article compares data collected from two workers, one who switched tasks frequently during the workday and one who did not. The conclusion is that the more workers switch, the less they accomplish. Other research supports this conclusion as well.
RescueTime, a web-based, time management and analytics tool for helping knowledge workers be more efficient and productive, provides MBA students with a simple and easy way to learn more about how they are spending their computer time. Here are examples of the things you can do with RescueTime:
- Use the in-focus mode to have the application block distracting parts of the Internet for a period of time that you specify.
- Automate time tracking, which operates in the background and measures which applications, websites, or documents you are actively using or working on.
- Automate tracking of project work via keyword matching, or you can manually assign blocks of time to specific projects and let RescueTime fill in the details as you complete the work.
- Use the reports and analytics functions to see: 1) the top apps and sites you use, 2) how email usage fluctuates throughout the day, 3) which days or times of day you are most productive and 4) how your productivity compares to other RescueTime users.
- Set alerts to notify you when you get too distracted from working on a goal-directed activity.
- Have a message pop up asking you what you are doing when your computer goes idle.
Explore the RescureTime website to learn more about this application and its capabilities, or download the free version and experience the benefits yourself. I did so, and while I am still learning about the application, I can see its benefits.
Aspiring executives, knowledge workers and MBA students will likely find RescueTime a useful tool for enhancing their productivity because it helps them measure what they are doing, so they can identify where their time is going. As Peter Drucker pointed out, knowing where time actually goes is the first step to becoming an effective executive. Let me expand this strategy to include the knowledge worker or MBA student.
How much time are you spending on unproductive tasks or switching from one task to another? If you know, how do you know? Please share your answers with the MyeEMBA readers by making a comment below.
Full Disclosure: I am not a RescueTime shareholder or affiliate and I am not receiving any form of compensation from RescueTime for writing this article. My only reason for writing about RescueTime is to show how its use can help MBA students live and work smarter while earning their MBA degree.
Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Founder of MyeEMBA.com