Death of a Thousand Tips


There are a number of time management websites that exist, all offering thousands of tips.

To read them all, however, is to do oneself a disservice and create a distraction, if that is where one starts in an attempt to improve productivity. The effect is the same as trying to build a skyscraper using construction tips, while being ignorant of the fundamentals. In general, people don’t like the idea of being THAT ignorant, so they focus on the trivial, easy things they can do (like buy a new PDA).

They also blame their own lack of productivity on some gift that they don’t have, claiming that other more productive people are either blessed or naturally effective, or just anal retentive.

Meanwhile, they have less and less of what they want in their lives, and are increasingly less fulfilled and more overwhelmed.

In a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review (July-August 2007), in the article “The Making of an Expert“, Anders Ericsson makes the point that

“New research shows that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill.”

This is an astounding claim.

The research being done on gifted kids is showing that success is a matter of intense practice, coaching, and support from the family. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the research is showing that experts are always made and not born.

He gives some good advice for 2Time users:

“The journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient. The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts.”

This is good and bad news, and probably gives professionals a good idea about how they need to think about the essentials of their craft, as they look to improve themselves.

He goes on to say

“It will take you at least a decade to achieve expertise, and you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in “deliberate” practice but also to help you learn how to coach yourself.”

Ten years of practice! That took me by surprise until I realized how many years I had been working to improve my own productivity. It started with my studying for exams as a 14 year old, I think, when I began to get serous about my CXC and GCE examinations – the determinants of college entry in the Caribbean school system.

This all makes me think that a professional who attempts to improve their system of time management by looking at tips to begin with, is doing themselves a disservice.

The better question to ask is “What are the fundamentals and how can I practice them for the next ten years so that I can be an expert manager?”