May 16, 2006

No, it doesn’t mean someone who likes to smoke a lot of a particular substance. I had not even seen the word until Rym used it in a sentence in a forum conversation we were having. Then I discovered that there is a great deal of literature on the topic. Polychronic is one end of the time management schedule, where time scheduling itself is unimportant. Rather one works on several projects at once and welcomes interruptions. Monochronic is the traditional linear path to glory. One focuses on one task, completes it and moves to the next.  Schedules are adhered to; meetings are scheduled, interruptions are anathema.

Being polychronic appeals to me because it’s very stimulating. One has a lot of stuff thrown at oneself all the time. The trouble I have with it is that it’s too much like not working. There is so much chaos thrown in that how does one ever actually accomplish anything? Also, if one abandons the idea of the deadline, one will not succeed in business.

It’s a sliding scale, I guess. We all have to answer our phones and email and still shepherd projects through. Although, the captains of industries out there, the true free spirit innovators I suspect are not focused monochromic types. No, I suspect that creative people tend toward polychronism.

It’s almost (but not quite) the difference between the manager and the worker. Managers expect workers to complete projects and move on to the next one. At the same time a manager herself might have to respond to many different inquiries, juggle her schedule and shift her priorities AND make a deadline. At the end of the day, after we understand the concepts, it’s almost a question of “so what?” We still have to work the way we do to get our jobs done.


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