by Alec Mackenzie (1997)
Reviewed by Grady McAllister
material is taken from the audio program, Managing Your
Goals by Alec Mackenzie and Melody Mackenzie Brown (Chicago:
Nightingale-Conant, 1992) and the article "The Trouble with
Time Management Courses" (Fortune, June 4, 1990,
Time Trap is not a Star Trek episode about being caught
in the a time warp or a space-time continuum. It is the title
of Dr. Alec Mackenzie's down to earth book on time in the workplace.
The 1972 edition of the book helped spawn the modern time management
ties time management directly to the issue of American productivity:
U.S. manufacturing sector is showing an improvement in productivity
at the rate of 3.5 per cent a year. The service sector, however,
has lagged behind at a rate of 0.5 per cent since 1979. And
since service industries represent more than 70 per cent of
our economy, this is an acute problem indeed.
our productivity must shift to individuals. If the memo
writer, the marketing vice presidents and the finance officers
can learn to get better results and do it in less time,
the impact on the U.S. economy could be powerful.
may have done the definitive study on time wasters. In The
Time Trap, he devotes an entire chapter to each of these topics:
Management by crisis
· Telephone interruptions
· Inadequate planning
· Attempting too much
· Drop-in visitors
· Ineffective delegation
· Personal disorganization
· Lack of self-discipline
· Inability to say no
· Leaving tasks unfinished
· Inadequate staff
· Confused responsibility or authority
· Poor communication
· Inadequate controls and reports
· Incomplete information
uses himself to illustrate the problem of procrastination.
He tells of the time he kept putting off his calls to sell
Celestial Seasonings Tea on his program. When his calls didn't
go through, Mackenzie became convinced that the president
finally reached him on the seventh call, and Mackenzie felt
the "final put-down" when the man called him "Charlie." He
had picked up the phone expecting someone else. Mackenzie
wearily identified himself.
president said, "Alec Mackenzie? I've had your name on my
desk for months. I don't need any explanation of your program.
How soon can you come out to conduct a two-day seminar on
time management for all my people?"
asks seminar participants to do "the one thing they'll not
want to do," and that is to keep a time log. For at least
three days, they must write down every interruption and change
of mental attention, "no matter how trivial."
purpose is to find out where their time is really going and
which time wasters need to be attacked. Mackenzie states:
you grasp the universal fact that there will never be 25 hours
in one day.when you internalize this basic truth of contemporary
existence.you will have armed yourself with a piece of knowledge
you can use as the groundwork for making radical changes in
the way you manage yourself and achieve your goals.
says the time log will create the motivation leads to
time log is necessary because the painful task of changing
our habits requires far more conviction than we can build
from learning about the experience of others. We need the
amazing revelation of the great portions of our time we are
wasting to provide the incentive and the determination required
to manage ourselves.
of Mackenzie's participants complain that the time log itself
will take up too much time. He tells them:
something you can't afford not to take. Since you take the
log while you are doing the activity, it takes much less time
than you originally think. Jot down the entry during the phone
call, while a visitor is on the way in, and at the beginning
of an interruption.
says a time log brings its own reward:
most astonishing time saver which results from a time log
is the powerful self-correcting tendency which sets in automatically
once you start the log. The time log is not only an essential
diagnostic tool, it is an extremely effective time management
device in itself.
senior AT&T executive liked it so much that he "never stopped
also introduces employees to the "ideal day." They decide
the best times for various activities and try to do them at
the same time every day.
ideal day is a template, in effect, for your daily plan. It
indicates blocks of time for major categories of activities.
Then, for each day's plan, you schedule the specifics in those
asks the organization to set up a "quiet hour," a period when
everyone is able, in theory, to work without interruption
for 60 minutes. He says that one hour of uninterrupted work
is worth the weight of three which are constantly interrupted.
endorses the use of an organizer to plan and keep track of
time. His Time Tactics organizer includes "Control Sheets"
to track projects and a "Contact Log" to record decisions
and follow-up items. Also available: a "Time Waster
he discusses the problem of the cluttered desk, probably the
most prosaic of all time management topics, Mackenzie recalls
the story of an executive in Heidelberg, Germany. The man
turned to him and said:
Doctor, do you know why we stack our desks? It's all those
things we don't want to forget. We put them on top where we'll
see them. The trouble is it works too well. Every time our
gaze wanders, we remember them, and we forget what we we're
prescription is to "keep your desk clean for the rest of your
life" and never have anything on it but what you are working
on at the moment.
with the minutia of time management training, Mackenzie
teaches a system to set and manage goals. Mackenzie sees goals
as the way to cope with turbulence in the U.S. economy:
in contemporary society are likely to make at least seven
significant career changes during their adult lives--and not
all of their own choosing. This is a subject which should
be dealt with universally in secondary schools and colleges
so that it is less overwhelming when it occurs. The person
who has thought through the concepts of success, failure,
and change to determine what they really mean will be better
equipped to approach change of this kind as learning experiences
and as opportunities or challenges.
1990, Fortune magazine ran an article that included these remarks:
"In spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on it,
time management training isn't working."
these are the words of Alec Mackenzie, who told Fortune: "Managing
time is a lot more difficult than what I imagined when I wrote
The Time Trap." The problem, he says, is that the techniques
go against human nature, like exercise or sound money management.
Fortune article concluded:
courses offer wisdom, but you probably can't corral time between
cow skin covers. Consider this: When Mackenzie spoke with
us, he asked if we had tried his Time Tactics organizer. "You
really should," he urged. He promised to mail it the following
day. But despite Mackenzie's theories, his best-seller, and
his system, human nature intervened. He forgot to send it.
Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.