Peter Drucker is one of America's foremost consultants on business management. He has written over twenty books on the subject, including Managing For Results, The Effective Executive, and Management: Tasks, Practices, Responsibility. Since 1971 he has been the Clarke Professor of Social Sciences at the Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California.
Professor Drucker has also done some thinking on the use of management in the local church. He has done consultations on management questions for several religious organizations and has spoken about management and ministry to divinity students at the School of Theology at Claremont.
"Know Thy Time" is an excerpt from Drucker's book The Effective Executive, published by Harper and Row. It is obviously aimed at a business audience, so not everything applies to local church ministry. But we think that, with some judicious translation and editing, you can distill a lot of valuable information on the stewardship of time for the church leader.
To help with this, we have included here some remarks Professor Drucker gave to students at the School of Theology at Claremont that help put his views on the uniqueness of ministry in perspective.
Most discussions of the executive's task start with the advice to plan one's work. This sounds eminently plausible. The only thing wrong with it is that it rarely works. The plans always remain on paper, always remain good intentions. They seldom turn into achievement.
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. Finally they consolidate their "discretionary" time into the largest possible continuing units. This three-step process:
• recording time,
• managing time, and
• consolidating time
is the foundation of executive effectiveness.
That one has to record time before one can know where it goes and before, in turn, one can attempt to manage it we have realized for the best part of a century. That is, we have known this in respect to manual work, skilled and unskilled, since scientific management around 1900 began to record the time it takes for a specific piece of manual work to be done. Hardly any country is today so far behind in industrial methods as not to time systematically the operations of manual workers.
We have applied this knowledge to the work where time does not greatly matter; that is, where the difference between time-use and time-waste is primarily efficiency and costs. But we have not applied it to the work that matters increasingly, and that particularly has to cope with time: the work of the knowledge worker and especially of the exective. Here the difference between time-use and timewaste is effectiveness and results.
The first step toward executive effectiveness is therefore to record actual time-use.
The specific method in which the record is put together need not concern us here. There are executives who keep such a time log themselves. Others have their secretaries do it for them. The important thing is that it gets done, and that the record is made in "real" time, that is at the time of the event itself, rather than later on from memory.
A good many effective executives keep such a log continuously and look at it regularly every month. At a minimum, effective executives have the log run on themselves for three to four weeks at a stretch twice a year or so, on a regular schedule. After each such sample, they rethink and rework their schedule. But six months later, they invariably find that they have "drifted" into wasting their time on trivia. Time-use does improve with practice. But only constant efforts at managing time can prevent drifting.