“Most people who attempt to learn a new time management system fail.”
I can’t prove the above statement with hard facts, but I have a sense that it’s true, based on my personal experience and observations. If success is defined as 100% successful implementation, then that statistic is most certainly true.
On the other hand, perhaps 99% of the people who take a time management program put down the book, or drive back home, agreeing with 100% of the ideas.
So, the million dollar question is: what’s the problem?
Did the time management gurus blind them with their brilliance? Or does it prove that we are all a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings with short attention spans, suffering from various degrees of ADHD?
The problem is not something that’s addressed by the gurus, and it’s actually something that is being ignored by gurus and devotees alike.
It’s a problem in what we think time management IS.
Learning a new time management system is not like learning differential calculus, financial accounting or particle physics. Each of these subject-areas are new to most people, who typically come to them like a blank canvas, and without any homegrown capability whatsoever. Most of us haven’t figured out our own system of computing depreciation before stepping into accounting 101.
Ironically, our ignorance helps.. A new system of thinking is easier to learn when it’s completely fresh to us, and only requires us to be ready, willing and able.
Learning a new approach to time management is much more difficult, because standing in the way of a shiny new system is the one that we are already using.
That’s the same one we first put together when we entered high school, refined when we were in college, adapted when we got our first job, and started suffered with when we got married and found a bunch of stuff falling through the cracks for the first time.
That’s “the time management system we never knew we had.”
(For some of us, calling it a system might be too much of a mental leap, but it’s tough to get through college without having put something in place.)
This “system we never knew we had” is comprised of habits, practices and rituals that have been practiced over the years and are now built into our neuro-muscular systems. In this sense, we are more like smokers trying to quit some dangerous behaviors, than we are mathematicians learning some brand new techniques.
Ask President Obama, or any smoker, and they’ll tell you… quitting is tough.
But time management gurus don’t tell you that changing the habits that make up your current time management system is just as challenging. They don’t get you to appreciate what you are up against as you try to reverse decades of practice, reinforced by some positive results that convinced your subconscious that you had this time management thing beaten.
Not only don’t you know all this, but most people try to learn a new time management system when they KNOW that their system is no longer successful. As you ponder your latest failure, you are driven crazy with desire for the new system being offered that seems to be so logical, sensible and easy to understand.
This only adds to the frustration. It appears to be easy, but isn’t.
Here’s a concept: Forget about learning a new time management system, and instead take a program in “Habit Changing 101.” Discover the unique set of actions you must take to change your ingrained habits so that they stay changed. Figure out the unique blend of goal-setting, community support, backup plans, rewards, punishments, reminders, coaching, etc. that you need to succeed.
Once your special cocktail is figured out, then take any time management program that you want, implement the changes slowly (one habit at a time,) and take enough time to ensure that you won’t lapse into the old habits when the inevitable crises hit.
You may still be failing to implement THEIR system the way it “should” be done, but you’ll be 100% effective at upgrading your own.