Old-school Time Management

April 18, 2011
Esther Katz

Esther Katz

Several months ago, I noticed that Esther Katz, who I know through our mutual involvement in the Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, created a Facebook page for a new life coaching and consulting business.  When I launched my beat blog on time management, I figured she would be the perfect person to interview

Esther is one of the busiest and most productive people I know.  By day she serves as practice manager for the busy pathology group that handles lab work for The Med.  She regularly volunteers at the Margolin Hebrew Academy, from which her children all graduated and where her grandchildren now attend school.  This year Esther co-chaired the school’s fundraising auction.  She also volunteers at her synagogue, Young Israel of Memphis, where she helps to coordinate the efforts of the Kosher Food Pantry.

Esther knows a little bit about the struggles of balancing life responsibilities with the pressures of graduate school since her husband Allan Katz has gone back to pursue a master’s degree after more than 25 years in the working world.

I recently sat down with Esther to learn some of her tools of the trade.  I was quite surprised by her answers, and I suspect that you will be, too.

How is your motivational consulting business going?
Oh, I’m not doing it anymore.  I had someone help me set up a Facebook page and a blog to help me market my services.  I tried blogging and realized it was not the way I wanted to build a business.  I found it to be very inpersonal and very time consuming.

So social networking isn’t your thing?
In my opinion, Facebook is a really big time waster.  I get so much done because I don’t spend my time finding out details about people that I really do not need to know.  I’m not much of a technology person in general.  I am not impressed by all the new technology that is supposed to save us time, yet it is used primarily as a time waster.  I just got an iPad for free and I haven’t even played around with it yet.  My children and their spouses are already fighting over it.

Where did you learn about time management? 
A lot of it is innate.  It’s related to being organized.  I’m an organized person to begin with, so for me time management is not that difficult.  We have shelves full of books on leadership and time management in my house.  My husband has read all of them and I’ve not read one.  Maybe you should have interviewed him instead. 

So you don’t subscribe to the teachings of any time management experts?
The time management expert I most admire is my mother.  She was extremely organized.  The way she ran our house, everything was just so efficient.  She starting making charts for us when we were little kids, long before the gurus recommended it.  She was definitely before her time.  She could have written a book and made millions.  My father was also very organized, which helped him run a very successful business. 

How do you use time management in your current job?
I am responsible for managing other people’s time.  I manage the schedule for the lab and make sure that the day flows smoothly.  My job is to foresee our workload for the day and say what exactly needs to be accomplished in what amount of time to ensure that everything gets done.  If I just leave my colleagues to their own devices, they don’t manage their time well.  One of my strengths is that I can easily make adjustments to the workflow without getting harried or flustered, which is important to managing your time efficiently. 

If you were to read blogs about time management, what kind of content would you like to see?
I would like to learn more about calendars, especially technology tools that could help me with scheduling and time management in a group setting.

What tips can you offer those looking to better manage their time and become more productive?
Don’t feel the need to answer e-mail the second it comes in.  If you interrupt your work pattern to look at every e-mail that pops up, you’ll never finish what you’re doing and you’ll be totally inefficient.  The same holds true for checking voicemail.  Carve out time every hour or so during your workday to check your messages.   

It’s also good not to need too much sleep.  That definitely helps.

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I think I expected Esther to have some more scientific insights on time management, but the more I reflected on our interview, the more I found her old-school approach strangely refreshingSometimes good productivity is as simple as hunkering down and doing what needs to be done, even if that means burning some midnight oil

The problem with this philosophy is that we don’t all have the focus and drive needed to make that work every time we are behind the eight ball.  The science of time management was developed to help us mere mortals who, unlike Esther, do get flustered when things don’t go according to plan.  Those of us who don’t have the self-control not to be distracted by the e-mail alert icon at the bottom of the screen and the flashing light on the BlackBerry—we are the ones who need the gurus.

I definitely commiserate with Esther’s frustration about blogging and social media, especially how time-consuming it can be.  Keeping up with two blogs this semester (this one and my social media reflection blog) has at times felt like a full-time job, even though I already have one of those.  And like Esther, I’ve had to do without a lot of sleep in order to keep both up-to-date every week.  But with the finish line of the semester within sight, I now have a few months of blogging experience under my belt and know that it is doable.  I hope that Esther will one day give blogging another chance.

What do you think of Esther’s approach to time management?  Is her level of focus and resolve attainable for everyone?