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时间管理与工作过量 几个值得思考的问题

更新时间:2018-9-25 21:02:13 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why time management so often fails
时间管理与工作过量 几个值得思考的问题

People are obsessed with time management. Every single person I have discussed this subject with had a strong opinion. There were fierce debates between those who say nothing works, those who swear by their low-tech Moleskines, and those who cannot live without their apps.

人们迷上了时间管理。和我讨论过这个话题的每一个人都有强烈的意见。大家争论得很激烈,有人认为什么都不管用,当中有的是在没什么技术含量的笔记本上写下承诺,有的离不开应用程序。

The stories always start in a hopeful tone, but often end on a sour note. Charlotte Bordewey, an entrepreneur in Herefordshire, UK, has tried all sorts of apps, books, and techniques – and wasted hours later, she still feels like time is melting between her hands. “I never seem to be organised enough to set myself tasks and actually complete them,” she despairs.

故事开篇总是充满希望,但常常会黯淡收场。博德韦伊(Charlotte Bordewey)是英国赫里福德郡的一位企业家,她尝试了各种应用程序、书籍和方法,在浪费了很多时间后,仍然觉得光阴在从指缝间溜走。“我似乎从来都不能井井有条地给自己设定任务并顺利完成,”她绝望地说道。

Ana Cecilia Calle, a PhD student in Austin, Texas, started to keep track of so many tasks she thought her mind would not be able to cope. Time-management tools offered “this promise that you would gain certain control over your life”, she says. “But whatever you start doing, it works for a while, and then it stops working.”

卡莱(Ana Cecilia Calle)是美国德克萨斯州奥斯汀的一名博士研究生,要做的事情很多,感到大脑会疲于应付,于是开始记录各项事情的完成情况。时间管理工具“保证你会在一定程度上控制自己的生活”,她说。“但是无论你做什么,它都只在一段时间内管用,之后就不行了。”

When this happens, most people try another app or another technique. There are hundreds out there, from straightforward to-do lists to complicated services with dozens of features. It is its own genre of internet self-help, with countless blogs and videos about it. Most universities in the US and the UK offer time some form of time-management training.

当某个时间管理工具失效时,大多数人会尝试其他应用或者方法。摆在面前的有好几百种,例如直截了当的待办事项清单以及复杂的多功能服务。在网上一搜一大把,有数不尽的相关博文和视频。英美的多数大学都会花时间进行某些形式的时间管理培训。

Still, searching for a technique that works leaves many people frustrated, anxious and guilty – the opposite of the ‘stress-free productivity’ that time management is supposed to achieve.

寻求一种有效的方法仍然让很多人沮丧、焦虑并且内疚,而这恰恰与时间管理应该实现的“无压力生产率”正相反。

The available evidence suggests these tools and strategies work for some people in some settings, but not for others. “The link between time management and well-being exhibits much variability,” write researchers Brad Aeon, from Concordia University in Montreal, and Herman Agurnis, from George Washington University, in a research paper. 

已有的证据显示,这些工具和策略在某些情况下对某些人适用,对其他人则不然。“时间管理和生活质量间的联系呈现出很大的差异性,”加拿大蒙特利尔市康考迪亚大学的研究员艾恩(Brad Aeon)和美国乔治华盛顿大学的阿古尼斯(Herman Agurnis)在一篇研究论文中写道。

What makes so many people frustrated with time management? And, is there a better way of dealing with time?

是什么让这么多人对时间管理感到沮丧呢?有没有更好的办法来管理时间呢?

The problem with productivity

生产率的问题

After Calle missed an important dissertation deadline, she started to go to time-management classes in her university. It seemed like a logical solution, as she felt overwhelmed with her reading, teaching, lectures, and grant applications. There, she learned how to use many time-management tools to cope with her multiple commitments. But as she tried one after the other and failed, there was something that kept upsetting her. “We always ask ourselves if we are not as productive as we can be, but we never wonder if we are doing more than we could,” she says.

卡莱在错过了一个重要的论文截止日期后,开始去修读本校的时间管理课程。这似乎是一个合乎逻辑的解决方案,因为她被阅读、教课、上课和经费申请压得喘不过气来。课堂上她学到了许多时间管理工具来应对各项任务,然而她一次次地尝试却又一次次地失败,有什么东西一直让她心烦意乱。她说:“我们总是问自己,是不是效率还不够高,但从来没想过,做的事情是否超出了能力范围。”

She has a point. Pursuing productivity for its own sake is counter-productive. Aeon claims that this self-imposed pressure is the reason why many people get frustrated with time-management tools. Most of them “have been written with this unstated ideology that you have to outperform yourself all the time”, he says.

她说的有道理。单纯追求生产率反而会事与愿违。艾恩表示,这种自我强加的压力是很多人对时间管理工具感到沮丧的原因。他们大多数“虽没明说,但都认为必须要一直超越自我”,他说。

This is a self-defeating strategy, Aeon says. Most people feel able to complete more tasks when they start using these tools, but they don’t bear in mind that they can’t keep increasing their productivity forever, and they commit to more and more. In a few weeks, they are more productive but still frustrated. “The real problem is that they are overworked, [it’s] not a time-management problem.”

艾恩说,这反而会弄巧成拙。多数人觉得,使用这些工具就可以完成更多任务,于是不断增加工作量,但忽略了生产率不可能一直提升。几周以后,他们的生产率变高了但仍然沮丧。“真正的问题是工作过量,而不是时间管理。”

Another consequence of uncritical productivity is that it often makes people lose track of their real motivations. According to Christine Carter, senior fellow at the UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre, this is a primary reason why these tools do not work for many people. Most of them rely on willpower to succeed – they are often written like a large list of don’ts – but “you are not really motivated by willpower as much as by your emotion.”

盲目追求生产率导致的另一个后果,是常常使人们忘记了自己真正的动机。卡特(Christine Carter)是美国加州大学伯克利分校大善科学中心(Greater Good Science Centre)的一名高级研究员,她表示,这是时间管理工具对很多人不起作用的首要原因。很多人的成功靠的是意志力——常常是一张长长的清单列满了不能做的事——但是“意志力的激励远没有情感激励强烈”。

“Most people want to feel loved more than they want to feel productive, and social media is very good at promising make you feel good,” she says. “You might want to check out how many likes you got in a post – that makes you feel loved.”

卡特说:“比起工作高效,多数人更想被人喜爱,社交媒体非常善于让你感觉良好。你可能想知道自己发布的动态获得了多少个赞——这让你觉得被人喜爱。”

Balancing act

平衡法

Why, then, is there an expectation to do more and more? Back when more people worked in factories, labourers did not have to deal with time management, says Aeon. “At the assembly line, time was managed for you."

为什么会期待越做越多呢?当人们大多在工厂工作时,劳动者并没有时间管理的问题,艾恩说。“在生产线上,时间已经为你安排好了。”

But most office workers today have considerable freedom to organise their time, and with it comes a lot of pressure. “Freedom comes with a responsibility: you have to think a lot more about how you manage your time,” Aeon says.

然而如今大多数的上班族都可以自由支配时间,随之而来的是巨大的压力。“自由和责任相生相伴:在管理时间上,你要思考得更多。”艾恩说。

Many professionals have to juggle multiple projects, as well as the demands of family and social life. It’s easy to drop the ball, “and if you screw up, you are the only person to blame.”

许多专业人员必须兼顾好几个项目,此外还有家庭和社交的需要。很容易出问题,“如果搞砸了,只能怪自己。”

So, people feel unproductive, pick up a tool, use it successfully for a while, pile on more work, and feel unproductive again. What does it take to break that cycle?

因此,人们觉得自己并不高效,去找一个工具,成功使用一段时间,于是堆给自己更多的活,然后又觉得效率不高了。如何打破这个怪圈呢?

One size does not fit all

同一种方法并不适用于所有情况

Even when people have their priorities clear, finding the right time-management tool is tricky. These tools assume a lot of things about the environment where they are used and the individual personalities of people who use them.

即使人们清楚事情的轻重缓急,找到合适的时间管理工具也不容易。这些工具预设了很多使用环境和使用者的个人性格。

Some people are more conscious about time than others: they have a better awareness of how much of it they will spend on a particular task. Others are very prone to be optimistic when ‘budgeting' it – a common pitfall when managing time, called ‘the planning fallacy’. Some prefer to do one thing at a time, while others feel comfortable multi-tasking. Also, the norms and expectations about time vary a lot between workplaces and cultures.

一些人的时间观念更强:更清楚自己要花多长时间来完成某项任务。另一些人“预时间”时倾向乐观——这是时间管理中一个很普遍的陷阱,叫做“规划谬误”。一些人喜欢一次只做一件事,而其他人觉得同时处理多项任务也没有什么问题。对于时间的规范和期望在不同工作地点和文化中差别同样很大。

The thing is, many of these tools are made by a very particular group of people: software developers. “We always want to solve a problem we have ourselves. And the most recurrent one is the daily mess we have in our own desk,” explains Hernán Aracena, a Venezuelan entrepreneur who created Effortless, a to-do list app and timer.

问题在于,许多时间管理工具都是由一个特定人群开发的:软件开发者。阿拉塞纳(Hernán Aracena)是委内瑞拉的一位企业家,开发了“小菜一碟”(Effortless),这是一款待办事项清单应用程序和定时器。他说:“我们总是想要解决自身存在的问题,最容易反复出现的问题是我们的办公桌上每天都是一团糟。”

Unsurprisingly, tech workers are among these tools’ biggest enthusiasts. One of the most recent books on the issue, Pick Three, was written by entrepreneur and investor Randi Zuckerberg (Mark’s sister), creator of Facebook Live. Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the famous Pomodoro Technique, the idea of organising your day in 25-minute bursts, is a veteran software industry consultant. The 43Folders technique creator, Merlin Mann, has given conferences for employees of Apple, Google or Adobe, among other technology giants.

果不其然,科技工作者对这些工具最为热衷。最近一本相关书籍《挑三个》(Pick Three)的作者是企业家兼投资人兰迪·扎克伯格(Randi Zuckerberg, 脸书首席执行官马克·扎克伯格的姐姐),她也是脸书直播(Facebook Live)的创始人。西里洛(Francesco Cirillo)发明了著名的“波莫多罗法”——以25分钟时间段安排你的一天,他是一位经验丰富的软件行业咨询师。马恩(Merlin Mann)是“43文件夹法”(43Folders)的创始人,曾为多家技术巨头公司(如苹果、谷歌和Adobe等)的员工做过培训。

Indeed, Aracena created Effortless after becoming frustrated with the many apps he used for managing his work. “I began to quit tools one at a time”, he says. After successfully scaling back to a pen and a notebook, he missed having a timer to know how much time he had left to finish a task. His app mixes these two features, and nothing more: “I did not want a Swiss army”, he says.

事实上,阿拉塞纳之所以开发“小菜一碟”是因为他使用了多款程序来管理自己的工作都不如意。“我开始逐一弃用这些工具”,他说。成功回归笔和笔记本之后,他还是想要有个定时器,知道还剩多长时间去完成任务。他的程序结合了这两点,除此之外再无其他:“我不想要一支全能军队”,他说。

Many of the most popular apps and techniques evolved this way, as a particular solution for a specific problem someone else had – someone else who most likely does not work or think like you. Hence, it makes no sense to feel sorry for being unable to take advantage of them: it would be like feeling bad because someone else’s shoes do not fit in your feet.

许多很受欢迎的程序和技法都是这样产生的,因为别人遇到了某个问题于是出现了这个问题特定的解决方案——但别人很可能跟你的工作及思考方式不同。因此,利用不好这些工具也没关系,这就好比,别人的鞋如果不合你的脚,也没什么好遗憾的。

All this sounds fine when people work on their own. But in corporate settings, where people’s routines and deliverables are connected, it gets more complicated. Sometimes companies buy expensive software suites with many features, but people have a hard time learning how to use them, says Eduardo Álvarez, the founder and CEO of Workep, a project management software aimed at companies.

当人们独立工作时,这都不是问题。但在公司里,人们的例行工作和工作产出都是相互联系的,这就很麻烦。阿拉瓦雷斯(Eduardo Álvarez)是“沃克普”(Workep)的创始人兼首席执行官,这是一个面向公司的项目管理软件。他说,有时公司会购买高价的多功能软件套装,但人们很难学会使用。

These tools often do not fit their user's work style, and since they are mandatory and essential for coordinating tasks between team members, they become a nuisance. "Flexibility is important in these tools. You have to offer each team member a way to see their work comfortably," he says. But flexibility is also important in another sense: people will not always get everything done, and that is OK – even if you run a productivity software company. “Sometimes I saw a lot of expired tasks in my own inbox,” he confesses.

这些工具常常不契合用户的工作风格;因为是强制使用,而且对于小组成员协调任务不可或缺,于是造成麻烦。“工具的灵活性很重要。得让每一个小组成员都能轻轻松松地了解自己的工作,”他说。另一层面的灵活性也同样重要:人们并不总能把一切都打理好,而这并没有什么问题,即便你是做生产率软件开发的也无所谓。他承认说:“有时我自己的收件箱里也会有很多到期事项没处理。”

How can it be solved? Álvarez believes technology can help. Workep will soon launch an AI ‘coach' that will remind users of their unfinished tasks. It will check their calendars and warn them if they do not seem to have enough time to complete their to-do list. "First it teaches you how to organise your time, and then it helps you to do it," he says.

这要怎么解决呢?阿拉瓦雷斯认为技术可以帮上忙。“沃克普”即将发布一款人工智能“教练”,提醒用户未完成的任务。它会检查用户的日历,如果没有足够的时间来完成待办事项就会发出警告。“首先它教你如何安排时间,然后它帮你安排。”阿拉瓦雷斯说。

But others beg to differ. Aracena’s main advice is surprisingly low-tech: “start without an app and try to understand what is important to you”.

然而其他人对此却并不买账。阿拉瓦雷斯的核心建议居然没什么技术含量:“先不用程序,弄明白什么对你来说是重要的”。

‘Take control of your life’

“掌控你的生活”

You are going to die – and this is a crucial fact for time management that is very often neglected. “Cemeteries used to be downtown, but now most of them are pushed out of sight, so we don’t have to think about death,” says Aeon. “In modern society, there are not many reminders of our mortality, of the fact that we have to take charge of our lives and be happy for whatever time is left.”

你将走向死亡——这是时间管理上一个重要,却又常常被忽略的事实。“坟墓原来是在市中心的,但现在大多数坟墓都看不到了,因此我们不必再思考死亡,”艾恩说。“在现代社会,没有太多东西来提醒我们生命是有限的,提醒我们必须掌控生活,无论还剩多少时间,都要欣然接受。”

After taking seriously the fact that he was going to die, Aeon decided to break with other people’s expectations and create his own rules. He wakes up at 9am after a nine-hour sleep, and only works for four hours a day. His e-mail signature warns that he only checks his inbox on weekdays at 1pm. He goes to the gym and reads every day – something that allowed him to get valuable insights for his research.

认真思考了自己会死亡这个事实之后,艾恩决定打破他人的期许,建立自己的规则。他早上9点起床,睡眠时间9小时,一天只工作4小时。他的电邮签名写着他只在工作日下午1点查收邮件。他每天去健身房,每天读书,做些能为自己的研究激发精辟洞见的事。

He actually uses a lot of tools: to-do lists, calendars and timers. But this is not what he means. Instead of using them to cramp your life with work, he says they “should allow you to take control of your life, and then structure your work around it” – not the other way around.

他其实也使用很多工具:待办事项清单,日历和定时器,但意不在此。不能用它们来将生活为工作所束缚,他说,工具“应该允许你掌控生活,然后围绕生活来规划工作”,而不是围绕工作来规划生活。

‘Take control of your life’ can sound like heavy advice, and it is: “Do I want this job? Do I leave my spouse? Do I want kids? They all are time-management questions.” In a TEDx talk, Aeon lamented that this field is "philosophically empty" because almost no-one considered these things when managing their time. “People would rather not think about it because it is difficult,” he says.

“掌控你的生活”听上去像一句沉甸甸的忠告,它其实是在说:“我想要这份工作吗?我会离开我的另一半吗?我想要小孩吗?这些都是时间管理上的问题。”在一次TED演讲中,艾恩感叹这一领域“在哲学上很空洞”,因为在管理时间时几乎没人考虑过这些问题。“人们宁愿不去思考它,因为太难了,”他说 。

No holy grail

圣杯并不存在

Life’s big questions aside, there are some early steps anyone can make.

先不去讨论人生中的重大问题,每个人都可以尝试从简单的问题开始。

First, bear in mind that productivity is not an endless race, just a tool with limits. Second, experiment often, as finding an approach that fits your personality and habits can be hard. Many people who despise time-management tools “realise that being systematic allows them to deal better with nuisances and be creative”; those who ruthlessly live by their schedules “also should see what life is like without calendars, take a vacation [from] them”, Aeon says.

首先,要记住生产率不是一场永无止尽的比赛,它只是个有局限的工具。其次,要经常尝试,因为找到一种适合你的性格和习惯的方法并不容易。许多不屑于时间管理工具的人“意识到,做一个有条不紊的人可以令自己更好地应付烦心事,并且更有创造力”;而那些坚决按照日程安排生活的人“同样应该感受下没有日历的生活会是怎样,给自己放个假”,艾恩说。

The flashy videos and optimistic blog posts of productivity tools promise an easy way to get things done. But each person who starts using them embarks on a journey that is more difficult than it appears to be. Calle ended up using a spreadsheet; she still hates productivity apps. Bordewey realised that the five-second rule works for her: she just takes a deep breath, counts from one to five, and starts working on whatever annoying task she has to do. None of them found a holy grail yet, and it is unlikely that there is any.

这些浮夸的视频和对生产率工具持乐观态度的博文让人感到完成事情很简单,然而每个开始使用这些工具的人都发现这其实比看上去要困难得多。卡莱最后选用了电子表格来安排时间,仍然不喜欢生产率的程序。博德韦伊发现,“五秒定律”(five-second rule)很适合她:深呼吸,从1数到5,然后再开始着手做那些烦心又不得不做的任务。他们都还没有找到万能的圣杯,圣杯很可能并不存在。

Still, there is one thing we all can do to have a healthier relationship with work: don’t be too hard on yourself. If the reasons above don't convince you, try this one: self-criticism is terrible for your productivity. Carter says it triggers a stress response, and the part of your brain that you need for time management will go offline.

不过,还有一件大家都可以做的事,能让我们和工作的关系更为健康:不要对自己太过苛刻。如果以上原因都没能说服你,试试这一个:自我批评对生产率来说是很恐怖的。卡特说,自我批评会让人消沉,大脑中负责时间管理的那一部分将停止工作。

Compassion is way better than self-judgement, she says. “We are all in this together”.

同理心远远好过自我批判,她说。“我们都有时间管理的问题”。

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