Fourth Generation Time Management: Relationships and Results


image“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

Time management is an art and science.

Unfortunately, there is still a big gap between the state of the art and the state of the practice.

I don’t hear too many people complain that they have too much time on their hands.

If they do, I’m more than happy to help them spend it.

Moving Time Management Up the Stack

The key to moving your time management skills up the stack, is to understand how time management has evolved over the years.  For example, one of the most important insights into time management is that it’s not about time management, it’s about energy management.   Another insight is that it’s outcomes, not activities.

Lucky for us, Stephen Covey outlined the Four Generations of Time Management in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Gen 1 Time Management: Notes and Checklists

Generation 1 Time Management is all about consolidating and sorting all the things you want to get done or have to do.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Characterized by notes and checklists, an effort to give some semblance of recognition and inclusiveness to the many demands place on our time and energy.”

Gen 2 Time Management:  Calendars and Appointment Books

Generation 2 Time Management isall about moving things from “To-Do” lists onto your calendar.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

”Characterized by calendars and appointment books.  This wave reflects an attempt to look ahead, to schedule events and activities in the future.”

Gen 3 Time Management:  Weekly Plans

Generation 3 Time Management is all about living your values, planning for goals, and designing your week.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Adds to those preceding generations the important idea of prioritization, of clarifying values, and of comparing the relative worth of activities based on their relationships to those values.  In addition, it focuses on setting goals–specific long-, intermediate-, and short-term targets toward which time and energy would be directed in harmony with values.  It also includes the concept of daily planning, of making a specific plan to accomplish those goals and activities determined to be of greatest worth.”

Gen 4 Time Management:  Relationships and Results

Generation 4 Time Management is all about relationships and results.

Via The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Rather than focus on things and time, fourth generation expectations focus on preserving and enhancing relationships and on accomplishing results–in short, on maintaining the P/PC Balance.  It recognizes that ‘time management’ is really a misnomer–the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.  Satisfaction is a function of expectation as well as realization.  And expectation (and satisfaction) lie in our Circle of Influence.“

If you’re not getting the results you want, and if time management seems to elude you, then take a look at how you are focusing on relationships and results.

On a good note, Getting Results the Agile Way (my best-selling book on time management), puts relationships and results, front and center.


  1. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem”. When I first started reading this post I assumed it was the lack of direction of others that was the problem. By the end it was very easy to relate it to my own lack of direction. Great post.

    • It sounds like you found your personal power.

      Whenever we own the problem, we take our power back, and personal power is simply the ability to take action.

      It’s another reminder of some of the best advice for life:
      “Focus on what you control, let the rest go.”

  2. 1. Satisfaction = Function(our Expectation | Realization)

    2. Realization of our dream depends on our skills and our relationship with others who directly influence our goal

    3. ultimately

    Satisfaction = function(our Expectation | our skills | our relationship)

    when we reduce our Expectation and improve our skills and relationships we can have maximum satisfaction and Result.

    That is how we effectively manage our self and our time.

    Great Post JD, as always.

    • Thank you.

      It’s a great reminder that building rapport might seem like slowing down, but it’s slowing down to speed up.

      If we build better partnerships, we build a platform for better results.

  3. While I agree with managing energy instead of managing time, they both go hand-in-hand sometimes. For example, I find time boxing activities is a great way to leverage our time and energy to give us the best outcome. What good is spending so much time on something when our brain is in saturation mode?

    • Indeed they do.

      Just the other day I was reflecting on how some people make major productions out of otherwise simple tasks, or turn one-time events into ongoing projects.

      Time-boxing would help them avoid spending $20 on $5 problems.

      Our absorption rate is very much a key bottleneck and throttles us.

  4. I wouldn’t entirely exclude time management. Energy and direction management just happen to be the firs steps toward effective time management. You may not be able to get more hours in your day but you can manage what you do with those hours.

    I might suggest that the different generations should not really be considered exclusive but concepts that work most efficiently together rather than separately.

    • I’m a fan of spending time on high-value activities (and value is in the eye of the beholder and stakeholder.)

      I like how Covey’s model moves up the stack, and builds on previous generations (it’s not a mutually exclusive thing, it’s a stack thing.)

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