Upgrade, Don’t Replace Your Time Management System

In the past week, I had a revelation that’s led me to abandon the idea that people could create and implement their own time management systems.

Now, it’s clear to me that the word “create” is a poor one to use, simply because no one creates a time management system from scratch (except teenagers).

Instead,  we all have time management systems that have worked for us to a point, and then failed because of some change in our environment.

For example, I just read a tongue-in-cheek article claiming that people who don’t have kids have no reason to lack time for anything.

Obviously, the author feels that having kids  is major life change that introduces a slew of new time demands, often resulting in feelings of being overwhelmed.

It may feel to overburdened parents as if there is absolutely no time management taking place, but that’s actually not the case. It’s more accurate to say that their system is being overtaken by the reality of having a newborn.

If that’s the case, then we make a terrible mistake by trying to learn a new time management system as if nothing already exists. We might be unaware of our system, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is in place.

Conducting an upgrade to a house is a very different activity from building a new house from the ground up.  A critical new activity comes into play — surveying what currently exists in order to gain an in-depth understanding of how we must work with it, work around it, and use it.

To make anything better, it’s critical to understand what currently exists. This is a basic principle of continuous improvement that seems to be obscured by almost all the time management approaches that I’ve ever seen.

This leads me to think that the vast majority can only upgrade their time management systems, and that only a few people have the discipline (and luck) to be able to replace an already existing system with another.

It just seems as if it’s too tall a change to ask most people to make — and a possible recipe for failure.