A Public Fight Between the Gurus

boxing-gloves.jpgA bit-based fight has opened up between the productivity gurus, Tim Ferris of 4 Hour Work Week (4HWW) fame and Mark Hurst, author of the book “Bit Literacy.”

It all started with  an article in Entrepreneur Magazine written by Lena West entitled Escaping Email Overload.  In the article, Hurst had a few critical words to say about the 4HWW approach, which Tim took exception to his blog post entitled Time Management Guru-itis:  Mark Hurst vs. David Allen and Tim Ferriss.

Hurst replied to Ferris’s post with one of his own, entitled “My Take on the 4 Hour Work-Week“.

While I don’t encourage anyone to get caught up in the gossipy side of the argument, I think that there is an underlying tension that is useful to distinguish.

When a guru (of any kind) describes a system for others to follow, it often becomes something that they start to identify with, and therefore grow to defend against criticism.  If you have ever seen someone react to a dent on their car as if it were a broken leg, then you might know what I am talking about.  The human tendency is for our concept of ourselves to gradually include our successes, our possessions and also our ideas.  We will sometimes resort to killing other people when the threat grows to be too great.

The problem is that each approach has merits, and none of them is complete.  None of them were created with the intention to be the end all and be all, final answer to every question.  They each describe a particular approach that works for the guru in question.

It is a fact that there is no-one on the planet other than the creator of each approach who is using it the way it is designed, down to the last habit.  Instead, users are taking a bit from here and a bit from there to fashion time management systems of their own.

This makes the squabble unfortunate, because what people want is help to design unique systems that work for them, and they could be helped greatly by getting some assistance in understanding the underlying principles behind the recommendations that the gurus make.

For example, Tim Ferris recommends a particular approach to responding to email that involved checking it twice per day (to choose a random example.)

Users want to know…. “Why?” What’s the logic behind the recommendation?  How can I use that logic to craft my own approach that works for me?

Part of the criticism that he actually received in the mix of posts and comments came from people who just don’t understand why  he makes that recommendation.  Some think the motive is to cut the raw number of email that is sent.  Others think that it has to do with cutting the total time spent processing email.

Both are useful goals, and I have my own ideas about why I would make such a recommendation (which I do) but it’s clear that users are struggling to apply the idea in their own lives ina way that works for them.

As the argument continues, the burden still remains on the user to dig behind the words on the page, or in the blog, to find the underlying principle, or fundamental, that underlies the specific recommendation or approach that the guru advocates.  Once these fundamentals are understood, it’s not so hard to assemble a unique system that works.