Do you stand in a lift repeatedly pushing the control button?

Control, Time, Time Management, Timlyness, Timeliness
Come on Lift

You get in the lift, press the control button and….. So you push it again, and again. You know the lift needs some time to close the door and release the brake, yet you keep pressing the button.

  • So why do you do it?

  • What is the impact of doing it?

  • Does it matter that you do it?

The reality is that, in physical terms, it does not matter too much; but psychologically, you start creating stress and this is not so good. From little acorns, big trees grow, and you might find you are then bursting to get out of the lift and arriving at your location all tensed up. Not a good start to your event, or for the rest of the day.


So Why?

Let us consider what caused you to keep pressing the  button. Try using the 5 Why’s!

  1. Why did you keep pressing the button?  I wanted the lift door to shut quicker and get moving.

  2. Why did you want the lift door to shut quicker and get moving? I wanted to get to my next event quicker.

  3. Why did you want to get to the next event quicker? Because I was late.

  4. Why was you late? I had to finish a job and it took longer than I thought.

  5. Why did it take longer than you thought? I did not realise how long it would take.

The 5 Why’s model is a great tool for getting to the root causes of problems, it is what made its creator’s company successful (Toyota).

Saving grace is that you are not alone. A lot of people do not realise how long things take or under-estimate how long a task will take.


How long does it take?

Control. Waiting, Time Management, TImelyness, Timeliness, Capacity Management, Time
Waiting Anxiously

We have a tendency to under estimate how long things take. That report you needed to complete, just took longer than you thought. You thought you would just check your emails, and time ran away.

That two page report, well you are lucky if you can just type 1,000 words in 25 minutes, let alone think about what you are going to say. It takes time


  • to prepare for what you are going to do

  • to focus your mind on what you are going to do

  • to check what you have done.

So, you can easily double the actual typing time and that 25 minute task becomes a 50 or 60 minute one.

Your attention span is good for about 20 minutes, before you need to take a break or change your focus. So 20 minutes preparation and setting up the document, 20 minutes typing the bulk content and 20 minutes checking and editing takes it to 60 minutes.

Another point, is finding the information you need for a report. Mark Ellwood (Pace Productivity Inc.)  did some research with a group of independent consultants and found that they spent 42 minutes a week on an activity called “search for things/clean office”.  So, the time you take writing this report will be influenced by how cluttered your office is. The more cluttered you are the longer it is likely to take.


Are you in Control?

Unless you are lucky enough to have an office of your own, then other people can impact on how long something will take you. For any important piece of work you need to create the right environment. You should either find somewhere quiet to do it, or make sure your colleagues are aware of what you are doing, at that you need to be left alone.

This is the more difficult challenge. It is not easy to say no to your colleagues and you may feel foolish asking them to leave you alone for a while whilst you do the report. Sarri Gilman, a psychotherapist, has spent a lot of time researching the issue of boundaries. In this video, she talks about a Yes/No compass and how “Good Boundaries Free You”. Knowing and setting boundaries “mitigate stress”.

Gilman, emphasises that creating these boundaries, defining what you say YES to and what you say NO to, can in itself be stressful, but it is a form of temporary stress rather than the long term form that can result from not doing this.

Julian Rotter may ask question where is your “Locus of Control? Is it internal? You are in control, or is it external? Someone else is in control.

“Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909-1993) wrote an essay, published in The Economist (1955), that started with “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

Now all three point towards the situation that perhaps you keep pressing the lift button because you are not in control elsewhere. The lift is easy, it is not going to speak back to you, apart from “door closing”, and with a machine you feel in control.

Whether you like it or not, you only have a certain capacity. That is 24 hours in a day. In fact it is not even that. In reality you have a lot less – about 8.5 hours of real work time. So, you need to understand:

  • How long do things really take you?

  • How much time do you really have?

  • Where is your locus of control?



So, next time you find yourself pressing the button in a lift too many times, try this.

  • Use the 5 Why’s technique to identify the real cause.

  • It is often because you are in a hurry and late for some event.

  • This is often because a task has taken longer than expected or you have been side lined by someone when you least wanted it.

  • You need to create a better internal locus of control.



  1. Start using the 5 Why’s, it is a great tool for identifying real causes, rather than perceived ones.

  2. Begin to appreciate your daily capacity by downloading my 24 Hour Activity exercise.

  3. Start to developing your internal locus of control by downloading my free Myth Of Time Management Book Sampler by clicking here.


Best Wishes


This article was first published on

The 21st Century Alternative to Time Management

Please do share this with your friends and family.

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