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.

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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.

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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…