Trivial Pursuit

Not surprisingly, we feel that applying Peter Drucker’s timeless insights to current events is immensely helpful. But we can’t deny that we do so online—and that’s a place that many people (younger ones in particular) believe is becoming a big time-waster.

In fact, according to a new Gallup poll, 59% of Americans ages 18 to 29 say they spend too much time on the Internet. Fifty-eight percent in that age group, meanwhile, say they spend too much time on their cell phones or smart phones, while 48% make the same admission about social-media sites like Facebook.

Of course, one problem is that so much information (of greatly varying quality) is so easily available, a trend that Drucker began to pick up on in the business world decades ago. “Every professional and every executive . . . suddenly has access to data in inexhaustible abundance,” Drucker wrote in Technology, Management, and Society. “All of us feel—and overeat—very much like the little boy who has been left alone in the candy store.”

The key question is what all of those online overeaters are going to do about it. “It is possible that younger Americans—concerned about their use of time—will attempt to scale back their use of the new technologies,” Gallup’s Frank Newport noted. “On the other hand, recognition of negative aspects of engaging in certain activities doesn’t necessarily mean people are able to stop doing them—as witnessed by those who would like to quit smoking but can’t, and those who would like to lose weight but don’t.”

Image source: Flickr Commons – Hartlepool Museum

Drucker, for his part, believed that “it is . . . essential to remedy your bad habits—the things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance.”

When it comes to managing time, he taught that a good way to be more productive is to record your actual time-use and then analyze it, rethinking and reworking your schedule accordingly.

But people must be prepared to repeat this process frequently because bad habits tend to resurface. “Six months later, they invariably find that they have ‘drifted’ into wasting their time on trivia,” Drucker wrote in The Effective Executive. “Time-use does improve with practice. But only constant efforts at managing time can prevent drifting.”

How about you? What steps do you take to prevent the Internet and social-media sites from swallowing too much of your time?