Low Adoption Rate of Time Management Techniques

I came across the following post from the Success Making Machine website that refers to a podcast by David Allen in which he describes the low adoption rate of time management.  It’s titled (in part) David Allen on GTD®’s Low Adoption Rate.

In the podcast, Allen admits that there’s a very low adoptation rate of people who start with GTD and end up using it. They include:

Not easy to get started- Try to put yourself in an environment where the GTD language is spoken.

Getting more dimensions– Keep learning. Keep rereading. One answer he gives is GTD connect.
High level issues (20,000 & 30,000 & 40,000- feet)- if you don’t address your high level goals “your system will become flat”.

Here is the actual quote: “My first book sold over 1 million copies in 28 languages.. I have never had one piece of feedback that anything in … GTD is inaccurate, or that didn’t work.  I have had a zillion people tell me – It works… I don’t work it.”

This is pretty interesting to me.

I think that all prescribed time management systems have a fatal flaw — they are built on the assumption that users are able to apply the ideas in the way that the author intended.  This is quite different from the notion that users are actually developing their own time management systems, using bits and pieces of systems, in a haphazard manner.  The results are therefore unpredictable.

However, even those users that desire to follow someone else’s system are no more successful, and it’s not because GTD, Covey and other systems don’t work. As Allen imples, he has never had anyone tell him that there is anything wrong with his system.

The problem in this case is the major problem — people have a hard time creating new habits, and when the habits are foreign to their everyday practices, it gets even harder.

Allen and others offer users and readers entire systems of habits, and they have a hard time changing their behavior for the same reasons that they don’t follow their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight.

They simply have an inadequate approach to implementing new habits.

The latest research on quitting habits such as smoking advocates a level of self-knowledge that people don’t have. To be effective, they must be come to know and understand how they change habits.

In others words, they need a custom set of supports that will ensure that the new habit gets created.

Without this knowledge, it’s an uphill battle.

I have tried to understand what I need to include in the mix to get my habits to change, and while I haven’t made tremendous progress, I have used a simple Habit Tracker to implement the same new habits each day.

This has worked wonders for me, as I start each day by going through the list and ticking off each of the habits I did in the last 24 hours.

I have also used RealAge.com to help me change my eating habits.  Two years ago, I did the test and discovered I had a real age of 33.  That was when I was 41.

Now, I have a real age of 30.3.

Talk about motivation — I am doing all the things I know I should do in terms of eating, flossing etc. just because it’s kinda cool to see my real ageactually go down based on the changes I am making in my life.

So, I now know 2 important things about what it takes for me to change a habit.  I need some kind of daily or regular tracking mechanism, and I also need a measurable goal that I believe I can change over time.

I believe that each person’s “habit changing blueprint” is different, and that there is no way to implement the new habits that a changed time management system requires  without being able to alter the underlying habits.

GTD and others systems would benefit if they also taught this all-important skill.


P.S.  The Habit Tracker I now use was adapted from the form developed by Productivity501.com.  The picture at left is just an example.