In the book Work the System, author Sam Carpenter makes an observation about business systems that I think applies perfectly to time management systems.
Carpenter’s entire book represents a strong plea to business owners to step outside of their companies and manage them from a distance by identifying, understanding, and improving them. He makes the point, using his own experience, that business owners get lost in running their own companies, playing the game of “Whack a Mole” as each problem comes up.
In other words, Carpenter asks them to step out of the addiction of problem solving and into the world of systematic improvement. There’s more of a hint of Deming, Juran, and Taguchi in the air.
The result of this stepping out is a vantage point that’s “outside and slightly elevated.”
Carpenter’s book is an improvement on The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which also advocates the same kind of systemic understanding. But Carpenter doesn’t step over the line to prescribe which systems comprise the typical business.
One of the weaknesses of Gerber’s book is that he does take that step, with mixed results.
The example given in Gerber’s book is that of a bakery, and the examples and system that Gerber describes are those of a typical retail store. Nothing wrong with that — unless you own a consulting firm, like I do. It’s impossible to use his template in whole, and instead users are left on their own, trying to figure out what principles Gerber used to come up with the essential systems. I was forced to do the same, modifying some systems and dropping others in an attempt to create a set of systems that fit my circumstances.
Carpenter doesn’t try to go that far. Instead, he focuses on teaching the principles that everyone can use to build their own systems. His emphasis on taking a point of view that’s “outside and slightly elevated” is critical to this effort.
It’s also critical to building good time management systems.
When I tried to apply Covey, GTD®, DayTimer, and other systems when I moved to Jamaica, I found that none of them applied. Like Gerber, they just went too far in trying to tell me which words to use, which files to create, which tools to use, etc.
Time Management 2.0 echoes Carpenter’s point of view: you must create, own, manage, and understand your own systems in order to effectively improve them. To do so, professionals must step outside of their day-to-day frenzy and ask themselves the following questions with respect to their time management systems that echo those from Carpenter’s book:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- What are the principles I should use in my time management system?
- What practices and habits do I need to implement?
These are critical questions in the Time Management 2.0 approach, and they’re essential to producing a true breakthrough in time management for each professional, regardless of his or her job, industry, age, or country of residence.
Time Management 1.0 supposed that there could be a “one size fits all” approach to time management. I believe that the failure of so many people to implement prepackaged time management programs is due, in part, to the fact that new habits are hard to implement. I also think that when they’re prescribed by a guru who hasn’t taken the “outside and slightly elevated” point of view of an individual professional’s life, it’s impossible for most.
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