Never Trust Your Time Management System!

I read an interesting post over at the GTD Help blog, and come up with some different conclusions that are perhaps directly opposed to those in the post below.

Here is the link to the post from the GTD Help blog


Do you REALLY trust your system?As I continue to grow in my use of GTD®, I’m discovering just how important the trust factor with your system can be.  David Allen says that you need to really trust your system for it to work.  You can say you trust it all you want, but that’s irrelevant.  When it comes down to it, a trusted system works and a semi-trusted system doesn’t.

So what does it mean to really trust your system?  I have a few thoughts.

Trust it like a Christian should trust God
You may or may not believe in God, but the point still works.  Andy Stanley gave a great analogy for how a Christian should trust in God.  He held up the stool he was sitting on and said to trust in it.  To trust in the stool means to sit ON it.  Not on the edge.  Not with your feet on the ground a little bit.  On it with your full weight.  You might be nervous at first, but over time you’ll learn to trust the stool completely.

Trust it like you should trust your spouse
If you’ve been married, you can understand this.  Saying you trust your spouse is one thing.  Really trusting your spouse is another.  For a marriage to really work, you need to completely trust in your spouse.

GTD is the same way
If you don’t really trust the system, then you can never have a “mind like water”.  I’ve found that as I’ve learned the system works and I can trust it, anything I put into it is instantly out of my head.  Getting the junk out of your head is the key to focusing on the task at hand, and GTD is a great way to get it done.  Whether you use software, a website, your PDA or just pen and paper, make sure you use a system that you can trust completely.


Here are my thoughts…

1. Distrust Your System!!!

A time management system should never be trusted to produce the same results over time.  Many things change — technology advances from year to year, people undergo life changes such as promotions, having children, getting married etc.  The time management system you developed and used last year might not work this year given a change in jobs.

We need to be vigilant for the times when our systems need to be overhauled, and always be on the lookout for upgrade possibilities.  (If you have ever met someone who designed a time management system in the 1950’s and is still using it, you’ll understand what I mean.)

2.  Make Sure It’s a System You Can Upgrade

I’d say it’s better to make sure that your system has an upgrade path, otherwise be prepared to be stuck in something like Windows 95.  Thankfully, Microsoft tries (and sometimes succeeds) in putting out good upgrades, and it would be weird for them to announce that they have perfected Windows, and as a result no further upgrades will be required.

If your time management system cannot be upgraded, then you have a real problem.

3.  Understand that Your System is Fallible

While the idea of everyone following the same system in the same way is attractive to some, I imagine that most people aren’t interested in trusting any particular system to the point where they believe that it can’t be improved, or is somehow without shortcomings.

The fact is, time management systems are human creations that were invented to fulfill human needs that only exist in this world.  According to Einstein, time doesn’t even exist as an absolute phenomena, much less the systems that we put together made up of habits, practices and rituals in order to try to manage it.

(Turns out, we can’t really even do that…  See my post on the reasons why “time management” is a misnomer.)

A car is also a man-made system and its performance has little to do with how much we trust, or semi-trust it.

Time management systems are no different.

In a nutshell, it’s a vain person who thinks that his/her time management system is perfect.


Mission Control Productivity, FranklinCovey, GTD and Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company (  2Time is not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company, Mission Control Productivity or FranklinCovey.

The Idea I’m Really Excited By – A Smorgasbord!

What the survey I conducted confirmed for me is a hunch I have had that people need a lot more help in implementing their time management improvements.

Only 5% said No to the question: “If you had the right support system, could you make any change you wanted to your time management system?”

Along with the other survey results I shared earlier, it’s clear to me that people are disheartened at their inability to implement the good ideas they find on their own, or learn in training courses.

What people are looking for is a way to take even the most innocuous tip that they find, and reliably put it into play in their lives.  While the tip/idea might have some merit, it’s only those who are able to test them with actual implementation that are likely to be satisfied.

An important part of a good support system would be one that tells them the truth about the size of the challenge they have undertaken. It would radically increase the odds that they could accomplish their goal.

Also, one of the other findings from the survey is that people are more interested in upgrades, than in entirely new systems.

54% said that their systems were in need of continuous improvement, and 20% said that they were interested in  small improvements.  Furthermore, only 16% said that they were not interested in upgrading their time management system at this point in time.

It made me think that people want a way to preserve the progress they have made with their current time management systems, without a need to throw away the practices and habits they are using.  In other words, they don’t want to hear that their current system is crap, and that they need to chuck it all away in order to make an improvement.

This implies that they need a way to understand their current system, to see where it’s working and where it’s not, so that they can make the upgrades that they want.

This is a big one for me.

You may have noticed a change in my thinking on this blog, as reflected in the language I use to describe what Time Management 2.0 is all about.  In my older posts, I wrote a lot about “creating a time management system.”

Built into my first posts was an assumption that has become more important — knowing your current skill level (i.e. your current belt level) is critical to creating a new system.

What I have made much more obvious is the fact that no-one is starting from scratch, or from zero, so it’s more accurate to use the word “upgrade” than “create.”

This small difference has gotten a lot of positive feedback, as I believe that most people are interested in improving their time management systems, and don’t want to be locked into any one system or another.  Instead they want the freedom to sample different approaches, and choose what they like from each.

A smorgasbord.

This is the very opposite of those who insist that following time management system “XYZ” means marching in a military-like lock-step to its prescribed practices.  They insist that it’s adherents must learn to execute each and every step exactly as it’s designed, following the prescription down to the last letter.

I’m sure that this approach works for some people…

I suspect that most people are interested in getting to the point where they make up their own minds, rather than simply following another person’s opinions.

This is how I read the data that I collected in the survey — am I reading too much into it?

A Surprising Convergence

air-jordan-retro-7-18.jpgOne of the surprising results of the survey those who sell commercial time management systems are all starting to sound alike, and make things seem too easy.

Only 24% disagreed with the statement “most commercial time management systems are essentially saying the same things.”

This made me think that there is some convergence happening between the different systems that are sold, whether it be online, in books or in seminars.  Users apparently come to the learning experience expecting to hear the same old thing they have heard before.

Perhaps this is the natural result of the same ideas being shared back and forth.  As far as I can tell, there has been no breakthrough research in this area, for reasons I have written about before.

The other interesting finding is that some 46% said “No” to the question of whether or not teachers of time management tips, lessons and techniques give an accurate picture of how easy/hard implementation will be?  Only 19% agreed.

This one is understandable, I think.

When someone is trying to sell a particular time management system, the idea is to promise the maximum results possible based on a small investment of time, energy and money.  It’s easy to overstate the benefit and understate the cost.

The fact is, changing habits is difficult, slow work.  However, I don’t think there are too many people who are interested in that approach if they have a  choice.  They’d rather purchase some Air Jordans in order to instantly “be like Mike,” rather than spend the hours in the gym that is required.

To me, this explains the fascination with “time management tips.”  It rests on a hope that big improvements will somehow come from implementing one or two easy, effortless tips.

At the same time, only a small number had the experience of being excited about a time management technique they had learned (9%.)  This makes me think that most people are interested in being more productive, but simply ineffective at making the transition.

We All Need More Help

0percentfinancing.jpgIt appears that few people have the discipline that’s necessary to implement any time management system, and that they desperately wish they had it.

Based on the short survey that many visitors to my blog completed last week, here are some of the results that respondents reported:

A whopping 68% blamed their failure to implement some piece of their time management system on themselves.

Only 17% attributed it to a lack of support, and only 13% said it was due to the quality of the ideas they were trying to implement.

That’s a LOT of guilt IMHO.

Furthermore, when asked for more details on the cause, 50% said it was due to a lack of discipline, while 18% said that they simply “lost their commitment.”

When asked about their success rate in implementing new techniques,  only 10% reported that they had never failed while 12% said that they had rarely failed.

To sum it all up, the message seems to be that “there’s a lot of failure, the blame is almost all mine and it’s because I’m not disciplined enough to follow through on my commitments.”

I’m also bearing in mind that the kind of people who would come to my blog to answer a time management survey are likely to be the most disciplined and motivated in society, as shown by the response to this question: ” Are you the kind of person who is always looking to take at least one aspect of your life to the next level?”

Some 59% Strongly Agreed,  while those who Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed with the statement totaled exactly 0%!


A Study of Caribbean Time Management

negril01.jpgAs I have often said, my inspiration for this blog comes from a move I made from Hollywood, Florida, USA to live here in Jamaica.

If you are from outside the Caribbean,  you probably have an impression that the whole idea of living in the Caribbean is that time isn’t an issue at all… “No Problem, Man!”

The fact is that tourists to our region absolutely, definitely want a laid-back stress-less experience.  They want to feel as if time, deadlines and schedules simply don’t matter.

However, there is an irony that I recently explored in a time management course I led in the Bahamas.

Tourists want the experience of being laid-back, but they don’t sloppy execution while they have that experience.

In other words, their time management might go to hell for the 10 days they are on vacation, but they want the restaurant to open up on time, and to have everything on the menu available, and to be fully staffed.

The don’t want to hear that the restaurant is closed because half the staff is stoned, and sitting on a beach somewhere.

This paradox is one that lies at the heart of the Caribbean tourist product, and many visitors are willing to tolerate a bit of slack execution, but not a whole lot.

To put it in 2Time terms, they don’t want to find out that the whole bunch of white belts are running around behind the scenes ruining things for everyone.

With that in mind, I have been tackling the unique challenges we have here in the Caribbean when it comes to time management.

To be honest, this is the kind of stuff  that’s not normally shared far and wide, and some people would rather that I not address issues like the impact that 400 years of slavery has had on our people’s time management.

Nevertheless, I imagine that some would find the article and/or the podcast pretty interesting, as it does give a peek inside a culture that is typically hidden from the world.  While Bob Marley and others have done a great job sharing some aspects of Jamaican culture in particular, many of the hot button issues are things that don’t make it into the music.

Click here to be taken to the article and the podcast “The Problem of Caribbean Time.”


Musings from the Drawing Board


Talk about a work-in-progress.  Long before my recent survey, I thought that the original problem that people had was that the quality of the available time management ideas was simply not good enough.

Based on the results of the survey, I am now quite convinced that the challenges that people have in upgrading their time management systems have nothing to do with the quality of the ideas they have learned from books, courses, websites, etc.  Instead, it has a great deal to do with what happens once they learn the ideas.

Once the Period of Learning is over, there is a Honeymoon Phase during which people are able to sustain what they have learned.  After a while, a few are able to continue making progress, while others fall off into continuing their old habits.

Here at the 2Time blog I have been able to create a set of flexible ideas that can help a professional to grow from one point to another in their career.  No longer do they need to be stuck at any particular point, or in any system that someone else has created.

That turns out to have been a useful start.

It has been useful to the handful of people who are strong enough to take an idea and run with them.

Most people, however, don’t have that skill.  Instead, the survey results showed that they find themselves in a peculiar place at the end of the book, course or whatever learning method they used.  They have learned some new ideas, and are often turned on by them.  (See the HoneyMoon Phase in the graph above.)

It turns out to be the phase just before the greatest failure for most people, in which they revert to the old habits that they have been using for years.

What can be done to help more learners overcome the failure rate, which I estimate to be as high as 90%?

This is why I’m now at the drawing board, looking for ways to fill the gap.  I am hoping that if I design the MyTimeDesign 2.0 program from the survey results, that it will help.

Tune in for more of the actual survey results.