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RETHINKING TIME MANAGEMENT

 

By Francis Wade

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

In the past few weeks, I have been giving some serious thought to what is missing in most time management programs. I now think it’s pretty simple — most people love the ideas they hear in the seminar/book/website, and there seems to be some convergence of ideas in all the systems that I am aware of.

From a 2Time point of view, they are covering more and more of the fundamentals of time management, and presenting complete systems that make sense.  This kind of cross-fertilization is a good thing, and I certainly have benefited from ideas presented in a variety of places, starting with those learned in graduate school.

However, good ideas are not enough.

While everyone might leave a seminar, close the book or click out of a website and love what they have read,  the typical reader would still end up failing to implement what they learned.

The reason?

One piece of the puzzle is that they don’t understand that they are working to change a complex system of habits that they are already using, and not starting from a blank canvas, which is what the gurus seem to assume.  They compare learning their systems to learning a martial art, an analogy I happen to like, and use.

However, learning a new time management system is a bit like having a green belt in karate and then deciding to learn judo.  The very little I know about the martial arts suggests that there are more than a few habits that would have to be un-learned to make the transition.  Someone who is making the transition could hardly be expected to do so by simply reading a judo book.

In like manner, it’s easier to learn a new language when you it’s your very first language.  Un-learning the habits of pronunciation and grammar take some time, and only a few adults are able to speak a second language like a native without years of practice.

The key to both transitions is the practice, support and the community that’s required.

The same applies to those who learn new time management techniques.  There are lots of sources of good ideas… but how do I get the practice I need to become a master?

My new hypothesis is simple: more people would be successful in upgrading their time management systems if they had the post-learning support that is required to make the transition to higher levels of mastery.

Left on their own, there are a few who are able to generate the discipline that’s needed to develop and master complex skills.  Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway” comes to mind.  An executive teaches himself survival, navigation and sailing skills in order to escape from a desert island.

Most of us would have probably not made it off the island, however, and a LOT of us would not have learned the survival skills to last a month!

Luckily for us, technology is changing rapidly, and it’s becoming easier and less costly to construct the kind of communities needed to support us in learning new time management skills.  The cost, energy and time to do the following are plummeting:

  • find people of like mind and commitment
  • get coaching quickly
  • discover insights and shortcuts on implementing new habits
  • set up automatic tracking mechanisms that don’t require personal effort (e.g. a trainer that calls you at 5:00 am each morning to come to the gym)
  • create leverage using incentive$
  • put together plans for gradual change over time that are realistic, and don’t require miracles
  • use the best new ideas as soon as they are discovered
  • develop back-up plans
  • join teams with people who are at a similar stage of development, and won’t let you quick
  • assistance in setting up new rituals
  • have chances to connect with higher goals, life-purpose and whatever higher power they happen to believe in

Anyone who is familiar with what it takes to break or create new habits will recognize some of the results of the latest research embedded in the above list.  With the internet, these are much easier to set up.

My thinking is that one of the versions of my next custom program, MyTimeDesign 2.0, will provide this kind of support to anyone who wants it.

So, what do you think?  Is this a hypothesis that makes sense?

Francis Wade is a management consultant based in Kingston, Jamaica. He blogs at The 2Time Management System

 

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