Productivity: The how-to guru still has time on his side

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The Independent Online
IT IS tempting to think that the hurly-burly business world is a purely 1980s and 1990s phenomenon. But it seems that the desire to get work under control dates back to at least the Fifties.

That is when Ray Josephs first published his book How To Gain An Extra Hour Every Day. 'It was the 'how-to' period,' he says now, explaining that the success of his book How To Make Money From Your Ideas led to the writing of another guide that, his publishers claim, has been read by 2.5 million people around the world.

Keen to capitalise on the tips in the previous book, people used to ask him how they could find the time to do things. This led him to seek hints and insights from numerous famous and successful people, such as Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt, which he turned into magazine articles.

Then, displaying the skill that he later used for a successful international public relations business, he appeared on radio programmes talking about his findings and urging listeners to contact him with their own homespun tips - with the promise that he would give them a copy of the book if their contribution was used.

Although the book he is in Britain to publicise now is a completely updated and Anglicised version, it still contains housewives' time-saving tips sitting alongside the maxims of the rich and famous.

Consequently, the section on 'The Morning Routine', for example, contains guidance on the preparation of breakfast trays the evening before to avoid the morning rush that characterises most households, in almost the same breath as a description of how the American publisher S I Newhouse's habit of arriving at work at 6am gives him the opportunity to carry out his most important tasks of the day before his staff come to work.

A former foreign correspondent who still has a cub reporter's enthusiasm at the age of 82, Mr Josephs has clearly hit on a winning formula. The original book has been through 80 printings in Japan - where he says he is a guru of time management in much the same way that the late J Edwards Deming was considered an expert in quality - and has been sold around the world. It is due to appear in a German edition in the new year.

However, for all this popularity, it is difficult to escape the suspicion that this endless pre-preparation amounts to just moving the tasks from one part of the day to another, rather than doing them more effectively or doing away with them altogether.

But Mr Josephs, who travels with notebooks packed with maps, contacts and plans of action, insists that working this way is more effective.

He also rejects the suggestion that adopting these sorts of method only enables organisations to extract still more work from their already hard-pressed employees. Since they work on the basis of the practitioner being rewarded for completing a task, the idea is that the time freed is used for a pleasurable activity - such as visiting an art gallery, reading a book, or going to the beach.

Pointing out that he is deliberately addressing the seekers after the American Dream - ambitious people aged between 18 and 45 - he says: 'Only the individual gains.'

'How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day' by Ray Josephs is published by HarperCollins at pounds 4.99.