The Time Trap – Transform from being Time Poor to Time Rich

On reflecting on the evolution of mankind in every sphere one of the lessons that emerges is of societies ability to successfully adapt to change, no matter how hard it may seem. It is not all plain sailing, many people fall by the wayside during this process, while others seem to thrive and not only win out but surge ahead. In keeping with a spirit of innovation we must all continue to adapt to the changing needs of our time by constantly coming up with new decision making processes and improving ways of working together, rather than opposing or working against one and other. While building on firm foundations, we have to seek out new opportunities for renewal, to invigorate and to innovate change for the better.

Life politics is a new term coined by renowned British sociologist Anthony Giddens (1938-), who is known for his holistic view of modern society. His theory of ‘structuration’ explores whether it is individuals or social forces that shape social reality. By imposing structure on what we do on a daily basis we can just as easily enable action, as constrain it. It’s not what, but how we play the ‘game’. Without some general structure society would always be in chaos. So it is really all about our gaining a balance on what we have to do and what we want to do.

Like most theories in practice we need to apply the age old principle of ‘common sense’, which Cambridge dictionary defines as having a ‘basic level of practical knowledge and judgment… to help us live in a reasonable and safe way‘.  At the moment we could all just sit around whining about how tough it is. However we all know, because history teaches us, is that eventually, we really need to take positive action. But where, and how do we start? More than often we cannot see the wood for the trees or find our own way out of the maze so that we can plunge headlong into life and its many complexities.

There is a well known quote ‘crisis can sometimes hide a blessing‘. It suggests that we must be creative in challenging times, such as the era we are in right now, especially if we are to continue to progress.

The quote was written by a 20th century internationally well known speaker and expert on time management Alec MacKenzie (now deceased). His landmark publication The Time Trap, first published in 1972, became one of the all-time bestselling books on time management ever.

It is now considered the classic book from all others on how to manage your time and how and when to take time out.  It went into its fourth edition in 2009, when it was updated by another time management aficionado, who had also personally studied with MacKenzie. Pat Nickerson brought his originals up to date with technology and modernity. What it reveals, as ever, that it is our own human nature that acts against us. It is usually the root cause for all our dwindling time issues, both personal and professional. One of the main reasons why is that we all must learn when it is both right and appropriate to say NO.

Setting limits and boundaries are important to our sanity as individuals and professionals if we are to not be time wasters. In the past thousands of years, without the aid of technology, people still moved forward. Taking charge of our lives often means managing the tools that best help our efficiency. Today that is technology.

A great many people however seem to have forgotten that there is an ‘off’ button on most of our devices and that it can be a very empowering experience to actually turn them off. If you go for a walk in the park, on the beach or by a river you can refresh your spirit and soul. Just sitting in the fresh green grass in the cool air or under the shade of a tree on on a park bench overlooking a lake full of ducks and swans listening to the sounds of nature (not music through earphones) can be very uplifting – as long as the gardeners with leaf blowers, mulchers or lawn mowers have all gone home. Seriously though, how do we transform from being time poor to being time rich?

If you read the latest edition of  ‘The Time Trap’ and follow some of its suggestions I guarantee your life can only begin to get better.

Reading the first edition had a big impact on my then husband and my own busy lives. We produced three very energetic sons in under 5 years just as his business career began to take off.

Throughout the 70’s and early 80’s when he was busy managing and expanding this business, which was going international, was perhaps the busiest time of our lives.

I was also busy managing the children from nursery school to high school, while being an interior designer renovating real estate and supporting my husband in his business endeavours. That meant national and international travel and heavy schedules of client entertaining and children’s school entertainments.

During that time I was renovating my own and others real estate, while also working on three city committees raising funds for social profit organizations. When I look back on what I used to achieve in a day I feel awe struck myself.

The reason we managed was reading MacKenzie’s book, which transformed both our lives as we took up many of his early suggestions.

Re-designing the entrance to my husband’s office so that no one, not even his own staff was able to enter it without running the gauntlet of his p.a. was step one. She could monitor those who wished to see him, gauge the urgency of their inquiry and manage their access.

The second and most important implementation was personal, and about family life. Up until that point he was coming and going often before the kids were up or after they were asleep. They could go through the whole working week and not see their father at all.

For me who had grown up in a large extended family where everyone was involved this was simply unacceptable. As MacKenzie pointed out, having time for family life was the most important thing that anyone can do. So we decided on how to manage it so that the boys could count on seeing their father at least one night during the working week.

We adjusted his working diary so that he left the office on Wednesday precisely at 4:30 pm, coming home early to help bathe the boys when they were small and read their bedtime story and eat with them during primary and high school, so he would know what they were up to in terms of schooling. Wednesday night was special. We set the dining table and sat down to talk over our meal, even when the kids were small, so that they would learn how to enter into and be part of a conversation, an important and vital lesson for them to learn. Everyone also helped with the preparation of the meal, the setting and clearing of the table before bedtime stories and singing.

The boost it gave to all our spirits mid week was vital to ensuring that we shared in family communicating that ended up benefiting our professional lives in many different ways.

Mind you when he first started leaving the office at 4:30 pm he met with stiff opposition for quite a few months, but after a while his commitment to doing so began to be admired by his other business partners and staff, who then helped to make sure it happened. It also had an empowering ongoing effect on the rest of the partners and staff. Soon they also changed how they valued and spent time with their families.

No matter how hard we all try to get things done…there will never be enough time! It was important that we took time out to read the Time Trap. Its practical, realistic solutions to the problems we faced were spelled out clearly and concisely. It was all about helping you squeeze the optimal efficiency, and satisfaction, out of each workday as you learn about creating a whole new way of life.

The Time Trap is available through

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

Over the years since it was first published The Time Trap’ has shown countless readers how to gain optimal efficiency and satisfaction out of their work day. It is filled with smart tactics, revealing interviews, and handy time management tools. It has been extensively revised to surmount new time management challenges, which are caused by emerging technologies and the Internet. It also provides technology-based solutions.

About the Authors

Alec Mackenzie (deceased) was an internationally known speaker and consultant, and author of the first three editions.
Pat Nickerson is co-author of the fourth edition and the founder and president of EBI, Inc. In addition to being a speaker and corporate trainer, she is the author of Managing Multiple Bosses (978081447025-1).

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