5 things to consider before investing in a Time Management System

We are delighted to announce a new guest blogger to the Being Smarter stage – Francis Wade. Francis is the author of the 2Time blog that focuses on helping smart people develop and upgrade their own time management systems. He’s going to be writing with his unique take on the subject of time management systems over the coming months.


A friend of mine who is a brilliant web designer recently complained to me that a lot of the time management stuff to be found on the internet was simply cr*p! I thought about it for a minute, and then I agreed.

I did a short survey of the comments floating around on Twitter and found that a lot of it should insult anyone with average intelligence and ability. While I’m not immune from charges of being an arrogant “smarty-pants,” I think that that there is reason to be annoyed.

Here’s why….

1. Same old, same old

Much of the stuff that’s written about time management has been said elsewhere, MANY times. Merely repeating the same bromides makes little or no difference to most of us who have heard them many times (and may even have repeated them at some point.)

For example, “Start meetings on time” is not something that you can say to an adult without their eyes glazing over… they have heard it before. Putting it in an article or a blog post doesn’t help. When I read a time management article I am looking for something that I haven’t heard before… in fact, I’m hungry for it. When I don’t find it, I am mildly disappointed, especially when the headline hints at some new thinking.

The truth is, it’s hard to come up with fresh ideas, and most writers seem happy to rehash well-worn sentiments that have no impact whatsoever. For the reader it all adds up to a boring sense of deja vu.

2. Magical results with no effort

Many courses and books promise the near-impossible. They convince us that we can produce results with little or no effort, if we just follow the “Top 10 Secret Tips that Executives Use.”

The use of the word “tip” is what makes it all sound so easy to do. Authors make it seem as if a small piece of advice, and a quick and tiny tweak can produce a massive breakthrough in stubborn habits.

Unfortunately, the experience of most people is quite the opposite.

The fact is, time management is built on habits, rituals and practices that take many years to develop. A little tip is hardly ever enough to ensure a solid transformation.

Many don’t buy the snake-oil that’s being sold in this case, and turn away shaking their heads in disbelief… they know that habit changing is hard work, and involves more than just a small change here than there that takes little or no effort.

It reminds me of the exercise machines that used to be sold on television, in which the viewer just needed to strap on a “Jiggler-matic” and watch TV while all their fat was jiggled away. Lots of quick results for no effort!!

3. One size fits all

Many gurus who come up with commercial time management systems would have us believe that their particular solution, which works so well for them, will work just as well for us.

Here is a short list of the things that don’t seem to matter:
– our age
– the culture to which we belong
– the kind of work we do
– our education
– our experience implementing other systems
– our goals and needs
– whether we are executives, or even professionals

The belief that everyone can and should follow the same system makes me imagine long lines of soldiers in a totalitarian country marching in perfect goose-step to martial music: perfect clones of each other.

Instead, we are unique people, and it’s crazy to think that one system of time management can be the final solution for all needs, for all people.

4. Follow or else

Some gurus go even further and insist that a user who doesn’t follow their system down to the last letter is ruining the whole thing, and is likely to fail.

This particular claim is a Catch-22 of sorts.

It’s virtually impossible to implement all the practices of a time management system that someone else creates. There are just too many habits to copy, and too many new word and ideas to remember.

The catch is that the creator who claims that it must ALL be followed, comes out being the only person who can implement the whole thing perfectly. They win, and the rest of us are big losers.

5. Disregard my accomplishments

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of these guru-led systems, however, is that they completely disregard the progress that smart people often make.

Instead of starting with the system that a person is currently using, and figuring out where it’s working or not, they treat all users as if they don’t know what they are doing. They tell the user to start all over, as if they are currently using nothing at all.

That’s harsh medicine!

For many smart people, it’s like transferring them to a new high school and putting them in a class without first doing any kind of assessment.

It just feels wrong.

Most smart people don’t need complete and radical overhauls of their time management systems, as they have been working on perfecting them for years. Instead, they are looking for a way to effect intelligent upgrades.

They also realize that there might never be a time in their professional lives when they stop upgrading their systems, due in part to technology changes. Continuous improvement is the only way to keep up with the flood of information that comes at them. Once a credible assessment is done, however, they can adjust on their own and make small changes that stand the test of time.

Bottom Line

Most smart people have already given some thought to their systems of habits, practices and rituals and understand that changing them is no trivial, superficial business.

If they need help, it is the kind that must go well past the superficial tip-giving that seems to have infected so many. Instead, they require solid insight that illuminates the challenge of time management and results in consistent new behavior.

That wouldn’t be annoying — far from it. Whenever I have been lucky enough to find that kind of help, I have been very, very grateful.


Francis Wade is the author of the 2Time blog and the originator of Time Management 2.0. He’ll be back in a couple of weeks with more words of wisdom…

Guest post: Do you challenge the status quo?

Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.


How many of us get up to do a full day’s work, and then conform to the expected norm?

Most of us I suspect, but the key to competitive advantage is to continuously challenge the norm, continuously challenge the status quo.

Think of the new and successful products or brands that do just that. Look at EasyJet. Who would have thought, 20 years ago that we would all be flying around Europe for £20 a seat, and that whilst we had to give up a free warm gin and tonic and a handful of nuts, we now accept a cheaper price and ‘what you see is what you get’ service.

BA certainly didn’t.

Look at Apple’s continued success based on innovation…the Ipod, and the iPhone. OK some of the ‘apps’ are pretty trivial like the beer glass one, but others like the SatNav one are powerful and have started to really shore up the niche.

Look at Mark Copeman’s idea of challenging the status quo of the training world with The 8.45 Club, a great idea to keep up to date while you’re having that first cup of coffee. (Ed-Thanks Ian) All of these are about challenging the status quo, getting an edge and most importantly asking ‘Why?’, the world’s most powerful question.

Why do we do things that way?

Why can’t it be done this way?

There are big inhibitors to that ‘why’ question in most companies… “because we’ve just spent £x million on a new system to support the process’ or “because that is how we built the business doing it this way”, but the competition or new start up doesn’t have that inhibitor when they’re looking for their edge…so it’s important that you challenge the status quo on a regular basis, if you’re not going to be playing panic catch up on your competition.

Interestingly that got me thinking about the question “what is a strong brand?” I remember being asked this by my marketing tutor and answering that “it was one I went to because I recognised it”. A torrent of sarcasm ensued and he drummed it into me, that a strong brand was one which one someone was prepared to pay more for.I’m sure BA comforted themselves on that mantra when Easyjet sprang up. In my view, they are both strong brands and plenty of folk still use BA… but Easyjet certainly doesn’t fit the definition of my old tutor.

So, maybe a strong brand is about being clear on the price for the deliverable and being consistent with that deliverable. Any way you look at it, it’s a challenge to the status quo.

Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com

How to get noticed

OK – so it’s a day later than planned – the final part of my “5 days with Ed Dale”, founder of the Thirty Day Challenge. If you’ve missed the first three, you can see the intro here, How to do business in 2010 here and 3 golden rules to creating content here.

It was an inspiring few days with Ed and his team which I’ve enjoyed writing about. Today, however, seeing as a few people came to ask me during the event we were recording how I managed to persuade him to work with us, I thought I’d do my final article on how to get noticed… or more specifically, how we got noticed.

I’ve not had a great deal of experience of getting noticed in the B2C space, however I have spent the last 10 years or so working in the business to business environment, and believe me, it’s not an easy thing to do. Attempting to create new relationships with Directors of Marketing or HR in large corporates is difficult to say the least. Inboxes are crowded places, cold calls aren’t exactly the way forward, and snail mail will almost certainly end up lost in some strange basement post room.

So – how did I get Ed’s attention? What are my tips for getting noticed by your Targets?

Know your Targets

You are looking for new customers – you have to know who they are first. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all. You have to niche it down. If you are selling a service with mass appeal, focus on one niche at a time. Figure out 100 targets and then get to know them before approaching them…

Legal stalking

Do some basic searches on your Targets… find out all about them. Use Gist as a great tool to data mine and cross reference. If you can’t find anything on them, get to understand their company instead. People so often ask my why I bother with Twitter. Legal stalking is my answer – follow those of your targets who have a Twitter stream. Get to understand what makes them tick, so that when you finally come to approach them you can be personal and relevant. The key words in this whole article.

Email marketing is dead in the water

Broad brush, blanket, call it what you will, email marketing does not work when you are looking to target new customers. Sure, it’s fine to maintain a relationship (although I’d still question that) however you are never going to get noticed with an html newsletter. How many do you delete on a daily basis?

Get noticed

So – my personal favourite tack is to write a short, punchy email – question every single word within it to see if it is relevant and adds value to the approach. Make sure your target knows that this is not a cut and paste email. Write something personal in it… “I noticed you were interested in chocolate tea pots…” etc. Make it easy to read – and don’t send it straight away. Send it the next day. As the Lynx advert rightly says, you’ve only one chance to make a first impression.

Now comes the clever bit

I’ve been developing and refining a system for the last 8 years and have shown beyond reasonable doubt that the more personal you get, the higher the chance of a response. At the end of your email, refer your target to a URL, and do not make it your company URL – again, that’s not personal enough – if they liked you, they’d look it up anyway. Instead, make the URL personal. ie www.chocolateteapotsdemo.com/richard-fox.

That’s right – a URL with their name in it… put your mind in your Target’s shoes… they open the email, see the link and think  “Huh – they’ve done something for me? wow – I’m intrigued – I’ll take a look.”

Think about it – you’d click the link wouldn’t you?

Get them engaged

So they click the link – and you’re thinking it’s just a redirect to the main website? Wrong. Big mistake, I’ve tried that too. Instead, that link needs to go to a page which is personal to them. A page which carries on the conversation and then tells your story. Typically in a short video format. Here’s an example of one we use… (imagine this at the bottom of your email).


The feedback loop

You then need to know if / when they clicked the link so that you can follow up, or if you do it well – so that you can predict when they might respond to you.

How to automate this process

Having used this technique for a while now, I started to get my targets asking whether they could  buy the system.  My first answer was no, but now it’s yes…. Targets to Prospects is now born and in 30 seconds, you can create a personal page and personal link for your target. This is the exact technique I used to get Ed’s attention. This is what he said to me once we’d started to work together…

“I get dozens of approaches on a weekly basis and 99% of them tend to get ignored. I noticed Mark’s email to me, because it was personal. The link with my name in stood out from the rest of the crowd, and the page it landed on hooked me in, due to the excellent video story… As a result, I’m now looking forward to working with him over the coming months.”

He is a busy man to say the least. No one was more shocked than me when I got a response from him in 12 hours. I created cut through, because the communication was personal and relevant.

Tell me more

To see a full demo and details of how to buy a system for your choice of domain, you can check out Targets to Prospects here.

A big thank you

To Ed for a cracking few days and for the quote above. I learnt a load and am looking forward to bringing together his expertise in 8.45 Club style courses over the coming months.

3 golden rules to creating content online

I’d firstly like to thank everyone for their interest in the posts from the last two days. 5 days with Ed Dale and 10 ways to not do business in 2010 have been amongst the most popular posts I’ve ever written – so I’m hoping you’ve found them interesting. Let’s get back to it then in day #3 of our series of articles on my experiences and learnings of spending 5 days with Ed Dale, the creator of www.thirtydaychallenge.com.

The three day seminar he gave last week has been inspiring to many (Hashtag here). Today, as someone that creates content online in various guises every day of the week, I wanted to add my take on Ed’s thoughts on creating content online.

#1 Overcoming writer’s block

“It’s all been done before”… Oh no it hasn’t… not with your spin on it… not for your audience – think about a different take. Add your opinion. Leave your own web footprints around the Internet by creating opinion. Create an audience for yourself. Granted, it won’t happen over night – but it will do eventually if you are discipined in your approach. Go find the prominent bloggers out there – Chris Brogan didn’t say that everything’s been done before… he just started writing and created an audience.

“I’ve got nothing to say”. Of course you haven’t, because you aren’t following rule #2.

#2 Be a selective  information sponge

Google Reader without question is the most awesome free business tool you can possibly use. It is your very own personal information database, which pushes the information you need to you… If you don’t know what it is and how powerful it is, then take a look here.

Get into the habit of:

  • Using the ‘note in reader’ button on your browser toolbar, collect information as you go. Don’t get distracted by it – store it away for when you need it.
  • Use the TAGS function. If you see an article you want to share – note it and tag it as tweet. When you’re short of something to say – head into reader and dig it out again. When you are going to write a blog post, look at the blog post tag for articles you’ve filed away.
  • Clean up your RSS feeds on a regular basis. Your information needs change over time – so manage your feeds accordingly.

HEALTH WARNING: be obsessed by relevance. Don’t collect information unnecessarily and don’t get distracted by it. There’s a time and a place for reading – schedule it.

Get into the groove

Ed talked about having a process for creation – whether it be writing or video recording or whatever. This is great advice. I write blog posts at the start of each day – never in the middle or at the end. It’s when it’s quiet. Some people literally put their writing hat on to get into the zone. What could you do to help you focus? Turn the phone off, turn your email off and turn the children off if you have to … that’s the only way it will happen.

Once it’s happened – whatever it is on the page – then take a break, and go back and edit… add the images, add the links, tidy it up and make it fit for purpose. Key to success is – don’t edit as you go.

Day #4 of my experience of working with Ed comes tomorrow…

My 5 days with Ed Dale

So, first things first, this is not a sycophantic rant about someone I have admired for afar for a while… this is going to be a 4 part series of articles explaining what I’ve learnt over the last few days from a man who’s been there and got the t-shirt in many ways. I hope you pick up something from the wisdom.

You may not know who Ed Dale is. He’s the architect behind www.thethirtydaychallenge.com which simply put, is a free 30 day online video training guide on ‘how to make your first dollar online.’ It runs every August as live, but is available all year round for the price of your email address. 80,000 people went through the process last August.

It’s the course I stumbled upon about 18 months ago when looking for the next ‘thing’, and being frank, I’ve not looked back since. It may be over the top to call it a life changer, but it’s not far off, as it changes your view on the Internet Marketing world (for the better) and explains in detail the principles behind it and how to do it. Ed’s not the only one in front of the camera. He’s assembled a great team who’ve helped research the principles and then go on to present it.

I’m delighted that Ed has now partnered with us here at The 8.45 Club and so we spent some time together filming, had a very nice lunch and followed that with a three day seminar we recorded and so I got quite an insight into the guy…

Business can be fun

Ed brings humour to most things he does… he records a lot of video (as we did together) and humour is a key element. Not humour for humour’s sake – it’s appropriate and injects personality into everything he does. He passionately believes in making business fun. The  three day seminar was based around the FUNdamentals of business. Think about it.

  • If you are doing something repeatedly in your day job which is potentially a chore, for goodness sake, make it so it’s easy and fun. (Have you read FISH! ?)
  • If you are not doing, creating or writing around a subject you enjoy, then it is not going to be fun. You’re never going to excel in that space until you change your subject matter or role.
  • Have fun and celebrate success with your teams. He’s made that mistake of not doing that before and won’t make it again.

Newton’s 3rd law is an essential rule of business

Newton’s 3rd law for those of you who hated physics at school is simple.

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

It was a superb piece of advice someone gave me 10 years ago which I value and Ed is a prime example of someone who embodies this law.

  • He’s a self-made man who’s taken action throughout his life. He’s created and sold businesses and created quite a following. You don’t do this by prevaricating and sitting on the fence. You don’t create a following (eh Seth?) without taking action, without expressing opinion, without helping people.
  • So – taking action is all about making decisions… and making them quickly. Don’t take 3 months to write a technical spec. Sketch it on a side of A4 and review as you go.
  • Don’t spend months trying to create a brand and spending thousands on an agency to do it for you… keep working on the content behind the idea and the brand will come. (Sometimes in the shower or on a tube train – true story).
  • You will make mistakes, regret actions (or inactions) and there will be disappointments along the way. Dust your selfdown – take a day out and then get on with it again. Even if that decision cost you millions, you can’t get it back – so go find another way to make it back.

You can be a good human being and still ‘make it’

This is an interesting one. So often in business, you come across successful people who have sold their own grandmother at least twice to climb to the top of a greasy pole. You don’t have to – and I’ve seen this a few times now – which is really rather good news for us all don’t you think?

  • Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be YOURSELF.
  • Live your values – and stick to your principles. If you don’t believe something is the right way to do things, despite many others doing it to further themselves – then find another way. A way you believe in.
  • Go out of your way to help others… give something back. Good karma will come around. Eventually.

Tomorrow – what I’ve learnt from Ed and his team on how to get your web business started.

By the way, you could do a lot worse than following @ed_dale (oh and @ME of course…)

Update (March 2010)

You can see the results of the photo above at www.ed-ucationonline.com