Date added: 07/03/2015 Time Management and War: Part II

Time Management and War: Part II - from Judith Kolberg of

I misspoke. This is a blog in three parts, not the two parts I originally thought. Part I is available here. This is Part II. Part III is called ‘Post-Clock Time Management’ but in order to have it make sense, I need to finish up the history of time management in Part II below. So bear with me as I lay the groundwork for the exciting Part III ‘Post-Clock Time Management.’  


In the 1920s the country prospered. The enormous post-WWI working age population clocked in at factories, meat packing plants and offices, but underlying economic dynamics would soon result in the Great Depression. Fully 25% of the population would be off the clock, jobless, aimless, and without the structure of normal modern life. So deeply felt were the economizing effects of the Depression that the children of the children of the Depression, the Baby Boomers, live by a waste-not-want-not ethic even in a time of prosperity. The massive spending necessary to build the industrial-military complex for WWII finally got people back on the clock. Even kids were on the clock as public schooling exploded with its tight classroom schedule. There’s nothing like the regimentation of a couple of wars to teach an entire society the time-saving power of routines. People worked 9 – 5, brushed their teeth twice daily, a habit brought back by returning soldiers, ate fish on Fridays and did the laundry on Wednesdays.


Time and Fast and Discretionary Time

The most significant development in the management of time in the 1950s was the integration of fast into daily life. The expectation of how quickly it should take to complete mundane household tasks changed. Electric blenders took the place of mixing bowls, vacuum cleaners replaced brooms and the washer and dryer moved into the house. TV taught us about the time management skill of dealing with distraction as many a seasoned cook burned the roast more than once distracted by the Ed Sullivan Show. Children would neglect homework watching television until the invention of TV dinners.


The word “instant” entered the popular lexicon when John Glenn orbited the Earth drinking an instant breakfast drink called Tang. Rockets let the fast genie out of the bottle forever. In the 1960s, automobiles, among the most efficient time-saving device ever created, were owned by the masses and specifically designed to go faster on America’s newly built highways with their off-ramps to fast-food. Multitasking, another time management skill, was taught to us by the automobile as we drove, listened to the radio, screamed at a backseat full of kids, rolled down the window at McDonalds and ate all at the same time. But it was still safer than the Bluetooth, texting, and driving of the new century that would nearly kill us.


For the first time in decades, people had discretionary time. Families vacationed. Employees enjoyed personal days off. Women entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers, creating more wealth and presenting a persistent time management dilemma characterized as balancing work and home. In 1969, we landed on the moon and that was better than drugs, sex and rock and roll. The civil rights movement and the anti-war movement inspired the women’s rights movement and the gay movement. People spent their time not just on making money but on raising their baby-booming families, raising their consciousness and raising the bar on empowerment of all stripes.


Knowledge Work and Time Management

During the 1970s the knowledge worker (KW) emerged. A knowledge worker is someone who creates value by applying judgment to his or her work, not just someone who labors to finish a prescribed task by the hour. The judgment needed was often how to use one’s time to optimize productivity. Sitting at a computer the KW of the 1970s had numerous responsibilities and tools to manage, including multiple telephones that had to be answered because there was no voicemail. Still, it was a relatively disconnected world, and the array of competing tasks was much smaller than it is today. One could still manage their time and actually get something done from beginning to end.

Electronic mail made its appearance, drastically cutting down the interruption of people dropping by the office unannounced. While it decreased long-winded phone calls, email also upped the ante on response time. A prospective client who requested a proposal by mail could expect it in a week. A response to an email request for a proposal shortened it to three days, then two. A phone message could still be courteously responded to in a day. Email required an answer within hours, thus response time was totally revolutionized.


Time Management, Values and Mobility

With all the lip service paid to knowledge work, judged by value and productivity rather than clock-time devotion, people began to work ridiculously long hours. In the 1980s, US corporations faced intense foreign competition and a slowing domestic market. Millions of middle managers were laid off and big business turned to consultants like the Franklin Institute to get more productivity out of a smaller workforce. The Franklin Institute (now called Franklin Covey) is based on Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy that happiness and inner peace do not come from owning things, but from identifying what is important in one’s life. Covey embodied this principle in his 1989 publication, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Unlike the time management books that preceded it with their emphasis on clock-driven efficiencies of the industrial age, Covey’s self-help books connected the management of time with the personal clarification of one’s life purposes, missions, goals and values. Provided with a two pound, three-ring binder, employees dutifully filled out the Day Planner’s planning aids, monthly and annual calendars, personal time management assessments, goal clarifications and personal mission statements to better align their time with their goals even while the work week swelled to over 40 hours a week.

Users of the time management systems were on the move, in planes, on trains, and traveling between offices. Franklin responded with the Pocket Planner that was eventually replaced by a personal digital assistant, most popularly the Blackberry. Devices proliferated and “work anywhere, anytime” was becoming a reality. Desktop computers at work and home were as standard as TVs. Email jumped the corporate fence to the family. Cell phones the size of cats appeared on the scene though without an internet connection.


Time and the Turn of the Century and Beyond

Digital society and the devices that appoint it pose several time management challenges, especially devices with screens. They deliver unmatched productivity, which simply means getting more done in less time. They also gobble up time to generate and respond to texts, tweets, calls, pings, beeps, tags, blogs, comments, friends, fans, emails and other activities associated with ever-expanding, interactive communication and connectivity. The devices meant to help us manage our time sometimes overwhelm us. In 2008, Americans talked, viewed, and listened to media, excluding the workplace, for 1.3 trillion hours, an average of 11 hours per person per day. By 2012, total consumption had increased to 1.46 trillion hours, or an average 13.6 hours per person per day. Time spent on digital activities displaces non-digital, healthful activities like family dinners, socializing with friends, physical exercise, being outdoors, real-time dating, sleep and sex with a real person. Because technology has made it possible to work without walls, bosses, and without regard for geography or time zones, the expectation of work has changed. In the words of Harold Taylor, a foremost authority on time management, “…the time-savings gained by technology have been offset by increases in complexity, choices, interruptions, expectations, stress, delays and errors.”


If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.


Other Posts You Might Enjoy

The New Done

What Neuroscience tells us about Getting Organized


Calendar of Upcoming Organizing Events

Virtual Chapter of NAPO - August 10, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.


Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition - September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.


National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA


Date added: 06/11/2015 Future Sense and the Rise of Time Management: Part I

I’m writing this blog in two parts because I feel the new, exciting developments in time management that I really want to write about deserve a historical context. If you hate history, you’ll find Part I a bore. Stand-by for Part II!

In prehistoric society, tomorrow always came, though not everybody survived to see it. An occasional eclipse would shake everyone’s faith about whether the sun would ever shine again, but a few hundred human sacrifices would set everything right. Slowly, a kind of involuntary shaping of the homo-sapien sub-conscious was taking place: a subliminal, rudimentary path towards planning based on future-sense. “As an inherent force in nature and within human beings, planning assumes great significance. It may be the most effective force … and among the most basic compulsions in man,” writes Melville Branch, author of The Planning Imperative in Human Behavior. Future-sense became hard-wired into human beings.

The To-Do List

The organizing skill of planning, and the tools that go with it, the calendar, the schedule and the unsung hero of time management, the to-do list, took their place in history. Amenemhat, the great clerk of the Pharaohs, would use a calendar to chart the phases of the moon and the passage of seasons. But the calendar was past-oriented, commemorating events of the past that tended to repeat. Humans’ mental ability to plan, and their faith in the future, gave rise to a revolutionary planning instrument, the to-do list. No longer did humans merely record, track, or tally events of the past and present. They represented actions to be accomplished in the future.

The Schedule

Agrarian society still had most of us awake with the sun and asleep at sunset in accordance with our circadian rhythms. By the Middle Ages, quality of life improved (unless you were a debtor, a Jew, or had the Black Plague.) Increasingly, people needed to know what time it was. Peasants and farmers could still divide their day by the passage of the sun, but priests and monks who played an active role in village life were responsible for performing daily rituals and communal prayer. This was no small deed. Entire villages had to come together to pray at various times of the day and the monks themselves needed to gather for prayer seven times a day between midnight and lights-out at 9 PM. The to-do list was a beautiful thing but sixth century Benedictine monks would trump it by inventing the schedule.

Much of the scheduling of village and pastoral life was accompanied by bell ringing. Gradually, the schedule seeped out of the monastery and into secular society. The rising merchant class lent itself well to scheduling. There were schedules for ship departures and arrivals, schedules of loading times, schedules for the shifts of labor, schedules for payments due, and schedules for hanging people who missed that deadline.

Clock Time

Life synchronized to bells soon translated nicely into clock-time. Monastic communities kept track of the time by various means including water clocks, sundials, astrolabes, and well-trained body clocks from years of practice. The great race to mechanize timekeeping was on. The first truly mechanical clock appeared late in the thirteenth century and just fifty years later most towns boasted a clock in the town square to regiment church services, regulate working hours, and allow craftsmen to bill by the hour. Time was not yet money because the medieval economy was still 85% subsistence agriculture, but the historical connection between time and money was emerging.

The Great Synchronization

Quality of life at the dawn of America’s Industrial Revolution improved by leaps and bounds. Food production soared, the spread of childhood diseases lessened and as a result, the population exploded. Huge numbers of people needed to be absorbed into the economy. The mass production conducted in factories and mills fit the bill. That infernal bell ringing of the medieval towns and honed clock-time enabled what historian Lewis Mumford called “the great synchronization,” the beat of labor to the tempo of the assembly line. Eli Whitney’s musket assembly line used standardized and interchangeable parts, an innovation that became the gold standard for economizing time until a man named Henry Ford raised the efficiency bar even higher.

Taylorism (Frederick, not Harold)

Frederick Winslow Taylor, meanwhile, figured out how to squeeze every last bit of productivity out of Americans. Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, took getting organized to new heights. “Conservation of our national resources is only preliminary to the larger question of national efficiency, the great loss which the whole country is suffering through inefficiency in almost all of our daily acts,” Taylor maintained. “Efficiency experts” with a stopwatch and clipboard standardized every movement of the factory workers to achieve maximize output. Taylor’s principles of scientific management were applied to parenting, home management, government and many areas of life. But Taylorism pushed efficiency too far. Maximizing effect and minimizing effort was a sound goal, but humans are not machines. People revolted against the dehumanizing nature of scientific management which eventually gave rise to labor unions. Nonetheless, scientific management left a great legacy to the history of getting organized including documenting processes, improving the transfer of knowledge among workers, and the evolution of what became known as “best practices.”

The period from World War I through the Roaring Twenties was an era marked by unprecedented industrial growth and modernization. The San Francisco 1915 World’s Fair featured a small model of Henry Ford’s assembly line that turned out one car every 10 minutes for three hours every afternoon. At home the vacuum cleaner, electric iron, and refrigerator helped to economize time. Routines were common: fish dinners on Friday, laundry day on Wednesday, and spring cleaning always began May 1st, regardless of the official start of the season. Although it would not become the law of the land until 1938, many employers were beginning to observe the 40-hour work week based on research that productivity actually declined after 40 hours. Leisure time was now official!

In the next post, I’ll finish off clock-time and then talk about post-clock time theories of time management.

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not. 

Date added: 06/04/2015 The Myth of 'You Can Work Anywhere, Anytime'

The Myth of 'You Can Work Anywhere, Anytime" - from Judith Kolberg of


How amazing is it to be able to work anywhere without regard to outlets, wires, walls, offices, or bosses? Latest statistics reveal the average American uses up to 3 mobile devices daily (source: The untethering of people to computing has made productivity shoot up. But just because we can work anywhere, anytime, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. That’s because no matter how mobile we are, different kinds of work still require different kinds of environments. Strategic planning, brainstorming, creative projects, and large group work thrives in open spaces with lots of light and windows and plenty of space to spread out. Loud talk, patching in people via Skype, and lots of input that might otherwise be considered interruptive are welcome in this scenario.


At the opposite end of the spectrum is intense, solitary work such as analysis and writing. This is best accomplished in smaller, quiet spaces, such as study cubbies at the library where you turn off your cell phone and interruptions are held to a minimum. A client of mine does her professional reading in the lobby of a local hospital across the street from her office. “That’s where I hide,” she tells me. Another client checks into a hotel for two days to do her taxes. “Only my family knows how to reach me. After working a few hours, I can take a swim, workout in the gym, or get a massage. Meals are convenient and the whole idea of a dedicated place seems to make me more productive.”


Kind of in the middle of the spectrum is purposeful small team or committee work that benefits from a lot of collaboration, decision-making and accountability. This is best accomplished in an environment of small tables, chairs that swivel, and an easy way to take notes or minutes. 


The benefits of technology, especially computers, are crucial for any kind of productive work, but the physical environment also plays a huge role. Teachers in classrooms have known this for years. Steelcase recently conducted research on this topic concluding that even an ergonomically comfortable chair on rollers attached to adjustable work surface improves kids’ concentration.


 When choosing the best place for working on a task, ask yourself these questions:

    What is the task to be accomplished?

    What level of focus does the task require?

    What physical setting would best support the task?

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.


Other Posts You Might Enjoy

The Starbucks Effect

Work Creep

Date added: 05/26/2015 The Starbucks Effect

The Starbucks Effect - an unusual place for productivity - From Judith Kolberg of

It wasn’t a scientific survey. The results would never hold up under academic scrutiny, but when 50 people were asked the same question and 97% of their responses were the same, it’s safe to conclude you’re onto something. That’s what happened to me when I discovered what I call “The Starbucks Effect”™. I carried a clipboard to make me look official, and a couple of copies of my books proving that I am a published author.  Choosing people way in the back of the coffee shop to interview (so I would not attract the attention of management), I put on a big smile and approached Starbucks customers who seemed to be working, rather than just hanging out.


“Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m Judith Kolberg, a local author doing research for my next book about getting organized. My survey takes less than 6 minutes. Mind if I ask you two brief questions?” For those agreeable, I asked: “Do you think Starbucks is a good place to get work done?” If they said, “No” I thanked them for their time and gave them a 10% off coupon on my books. I was looking for the people who said, “Yes, I think Starbucks is a good place to get work done.”


I made a wild assumption that chocolate and caffeine figured high into people’s explanation of why Starbucks is a good place to get work done. But I wanted to understand how a place as noisy and busy as Starbucks could be a good place to accomplish work. Thus, my second question:  “It’s noisy in here,” I commented to each of my interviewees over the roar of the espresso machines, clatter of cups and loud din of voices. “Don’t you find the noise and commotion distracting?” To a person, the response was either “No” or “I don’t even notice it.”


Survey results

Is Starbucks a good place to get work done?

Yes                              No       Total

38                                12        50


Do you find the noise and commotion distracting?

Yes                              No       Total

0                                  38        38


Huh? I’d always thought the best condition for getting work done was quiet places like libraries or cubicles. How can a place as noisy and busy as Starbucks not only be non-distracting, but actually be conducive to productivity? I call it the Starbucks Effect. Using the latest research on the brain and multitasking (check out The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin), I believe it works something like this:  The external distractions (voices, people coming and going, clattering plates, etc.) cancels out internal distractions such as random thoughts, ideas, worries, and that mental to-do list we all carry around with us. Once the external and internal distractions are roughly zeroed out, the task-at-hand comes into focus. More support: some people find a quiet environment devoid of activity very distracting. It lets those internal distractions run wild. This explains why some people go nuts in a library or can’t concentrate in a cubicle. I have to turn on a radio or TV when I’m writing in my office. Gotta have some noise.


So my questions to you are:

1)    Is a coffee shop a good place to get work done?

2)    Do you find the noise and commotion distracting?

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.


Other Posts You Might Enjoy

An Interview with Judith Kolberg

What Neuroscience Tells Us About Getting Organized

Date added: 05/15/2015 Create a Digital Estate Plan for You and Your Clients

The Atlanta chapter of the American Association of Daily Money Managers is hosting Judith Kolberg on May 21st to present Create a Digital Estate Plan for You and Your Clients. Come join us and learn how to protect your digital assets and information afterlife!

Go to for more information.

Date added: 04/22/2015 Judith Kolberg to present Creating Your Digital Estate Plan to NAPO-NNJ

Judith Kolberg will present Creating Your Digital Estate Plan to the Northern New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers on June 22, 2015. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “digital afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Download the Flyer

Date added: 04/15/2015 Coaching Help with Organizing Your Home

Jonda Beattie is launching a coaching program called The Zone Plan: A method for Organizing Your Home. Based on the principles in her workbook From Vision to Victory, the program helps you set your vision, develop a plan, and implement that plan so that your home truly becomes a place you love. Join Jonda for the 10 month Zone Plan Group Coaching Program, starting Friday, May 1, 2015.  You will benefit from 10 months of 2 open (group) calls per month (recorded for your convenience), one personal private call, motivating content and exercises, a pdf copy of her workbook, and Facebook group, just for members. All of this is designed to set you on your path of living in the home you envision. Each month (skipping the months of July and December) will concentrate on one zone of your home. The early bird rate is only $400 if you register by April 24 and $450 thereafter. There is even a 2-pay option if you need to spread payments out.  Register by emailing or go to for more information.

Date added: 03/03/2015 Creating Your Digital Estate Plan


What if you suddenly died or became incapacitated?  Would your Executor, Power of Attorney, heirs, or family know about the existence of your “invisible” online and web-based accounts, the ones with no statements or paper trail? How about the critical information inside your email accounts or the content on your website or social media accounts? Does anybody know your log in information to these accounts? While your family is planning your funeral and grieving your loss, criminals could be hijacking your Facebook account. Do you know how to protect your “information afterlife”? 


Order Creating Your Digital Estate Plan , an easy-to-understand guide to

  • Provide for the safe transference of digital information to your family and authorized representatives.
  • Account for digital assets that might be overlooked by your estate.
  • Protect your information afterlife from unauthorized access by identity thieves and other digital mischief-makers. 

Creating Your Digital Estate Plan is only $9.99 and is essential for

  • Prudent baby boomers who understand the Digital Age poses challenges for planning their estate
  • Adult children of senior citizens who desire to be well-informed about comprehensive estate planning
  • Members of the financial and legal community responsible for the estate planning of others
  • Digital natives and millennials with assets, accounts, and information stored on the web
  • Professional Organizers who want to extend value-added benefits to their clients

Available as a PDF, Creating Your Digital Estate Plan is the best $9.99 you’ll ever spend. Loaded with critical cutting-edge information, it also includes a link to a simple, customizable Digital Estate Plan form so you can make your own, personalized Digital Estate Plan. Order your copy of Creating Your Digital Estate Plan today!

Date added: 11/27/2014 FileHeads announces release of Get Rid of Your Stuff Flash Cards

Date added: 11/26/2014 Free! Digital Estate Planning Checklist

A Digital Estate Plan identifies ‘invisible’, digital assets that may be part of your estate such as web-only accounts that often have no papertrail.  It also provides login information to appropriate authorized individuals to access the digital assets and accounts of the deceased. Download your free checklist today.

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