Since it’s early into 2017, I’m still in my resolutions mode. I’ve been looking more into time management books and strategies. With the increasingly fast pace of the world, especially in the food and beverage industry, aren’t we all looking for ways to be more productive?

Pulitzer Prize Winner Charles Duhigg has popularized a concept called SMART goals in his book “Smarter Faster Better.” The letters stand for “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timeline.” First pioneered by General Electric, the SMART goal system is a method to complete a seemingly unachievable task. Having a specific goal—what exactly you want to get done—is the first step, then determine the measurement of its completion and how it will be achievable, which will also prove it is realistic, and finally establish and adhere to a timeline for its completion.

To use my day as an example, I am to create a to-do list first thing in the morning to identify the task (for instance, write an article) and then determine how it’ll be measured (word count) and if it is, in fact, achievable in one day (do I have other stories to edit or lots of emails to answer?), and is that really realistic (will those three meetings scheduled limit writing time too much?). The final step is to create the timeline (a 2,500-word story done in eight hours, so roughly 313 words per hour). And voilà, a feature article is written.

However, it’s not really that easy. The interviews must already have been done in advance before the actual writing could start, and before that, the correct people must have been identified to be interviewed, and that can’t be done without research. So, really the SMART goal system needs to be implemented in a series of to-do lists.

I did notice the SMART goal system is similar to how a modern, IoT-enabled manufacturing facility is run: set a goal, collect measurable data, analyze the data, make decisions based on this real-world data, and do this in real time. Since it’s from manufacturing giant GE, however, it’s not really shocking.

Other books say one of the most important elements of time management is flexibility and being open to changing a scheduled activity in a moment’s notice. And here’s another parallel to manufacturing operations: the importance of flexibility on the factory floor. Flexibility is crucial when a quick change is needed on production lines to accommodate different food or beverage concepts and/or their packaging.

The similarities between personal time management and production processes aren’t really a coincidence, but just another demonstration of the importance of efficiency. After all, it all involves the same goal: to produce more in a fixed time period. Time is a valued object, and we’re all just trying to increase throughput.