Edgy Idea #1 – The term “time management system” doesn’t mean what it used to!
Others say: “A time management system is simply a bunch of tips that you learn in a class”
Time Management 2.0 says: “The modern professional’s time management system consists of quality hardware, software and internet services combined with a personalized habit pattern.”
What is a Time Management System?
There’s no denying that the thing that we call a “time management system” has radically changed.
Back in the good old days, people didn’t have “systems” – they simply had diaries that they used to manage appointments and keep a few phone numbers. They were simple tools, designed for a time when lives were not nearly as hectic as they are today.
Fast forward to today, and it’s not too hard to see that time demands have increased rapidly, and so have communication channels. While some people strenuously avoid Twitter, Facebook, cell-phones and even email, most of us are users of these and other technologies that are busy receiving messages and time demands 24 hours a day.
To deal with today’s massive information flows, you and I have hobbled together our own “systems” — mostly without knowing it. They encompass much more than the simple appointment diaries of old. Today they include:
• mobile gadgets for internet access (smartphones)
• portable devices for information storage, retrieval and manipulation (PDA’s)
• cell phones for voice and text messaging
• batteries and chargers
• software for email and time management (e.g. Outlook and Lotus Notes)
• web services for email and time management (e.g. GMail and Yahoo)
• paper pads, some of which have special uses
• digital voice recorders
Plus there are devices that combine two or more of the items listed above, such as the most recent smartphones.
These are the physical tools we include in today’s modern time management systems, and you probably use one or more of these items to help manage your time. However, while they are a part of every person’s system, they are only a small part of the picture.
Habits, Practices and Rituals
In addition to the physical objects listed above, a time management system must include our personal habits, practices and rituals; those activities that we repeat without thinking. We build them into our neuro-muscular systems via hundreds or thousands of repetitions, starting at an age when we first developed a concern for using our time wisely.
Most of us didn’t pick up new habits with a conscious intention to enhance our time management systems, any more than a child who learns to brush his teeth is concerned about hygiene. We started to do them because others were doing them, they worked for us, and we just never stopped.
For example, if someone tells you to call them later and then gives you their phone number, you immediately look for a pen and a piece of paper, as is your custom. That habit makes up an important part of your system.
So, time management systems consist of a blend of physical “tools,” plus the habits and practices that we teach ourselves.
Therefore, it’s not too easy to imagine that no two time management systems are the same. Even if two people sit in the same training or read the same book, they still assemble their own unique systems based on what they have learned in the past, from trial and error.
Most, however, have used no help whatsoever, and built a system without being conscious of what they are doing. It’s not until they bump into a website like this one, or a program or book, that they realize that they actually have a system that is a key component of their success.
Knowing that you have a system that functions at some level is important, especially when you are tempted or forced to make a change, such as any one of the following:
• your company switches from Microsoft Outlook to Lotus Notes
• your trusted Palm PDA breaks and it’s no longer being manufactured
• your multi-tabbed DayTimer diary is lost on an airplane
• a new Blackberry comes along that has some enticing new features
• an iPhone is given to you by your boss as a wonderful Christmas present, and as a strong hint to become more organized
• you buy a book that speaks to some new practices, but makes no mention of hardware or software
• your online calendar is corrupted and you decide to try a new service instead
• you wake up one day to the 10,000 messages in your email Inbox and decide to trash all of them with a single hit of the delete button
Most people make (or suffer) changes like these to their time management systems, and do so blindly. At the end of it all, they might still not know that by changing their tools they have forced themselves into new habits, and therefore made a deep alteration to their time management systems.
In Time Management 2.0, professionals see the system in its entirety, and understand that simple-looking tweaks could lead to lost messages, late arrivals at meeting and increasing feelings of overwhelm. They appreciate the delicate interplay between the elements of their system and make changes slowly, and carefully, treating their productivity as the #1 priority.
You might see them turn down the gift of an Android, experiment with some new habits daily, and measure key aspects of their system, such as the average number of items in their Inbox. They know that they have a system, and they are careful to manage it as the key resource that it is to their success.
Here are the links to all the pages in this report: