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« Caffeine Consumption Update | Main | Auditing Your Time Management »

Inspiration from the BBC

I have often said that it is structure that controls our actions - and that given different structures we will act in different ways.

So here are two different ways in which I act:

  • When I get a rental DVD from it tends to lie around for a long time before I watch it. I seldom if ever get up to my monthly maximum.
  • When I download a TV programme from BBC iPlayer it gets watched promptly.

Why the difference?

Amazon has no time limit and there is no penalty for not returning a DVD. As long as I continue to pay my monthly subscription they are perfectly happy!

The BBC iPlayer site has programmes available for 7 days after they are broadcast. If you download a programme you can keep it for 30 days before it is deleted automatically. But once you start watching it, it is deleted automatically after only 7 days.

So the result of the BBC’s system is that I never fail to watch the downloads.

My question is: could this 7-30-7 pattern be adapted into a time management system?

Any suggestions as to how that could work?

Reader Comments (3)

Hello Mark,

I am wondering if a 7-12-30 system would work, especially for projects that don't have a deadline and that have been sitting on your mind for a long time. At the beginning of a month select a few of those projects that you may want to do that month. Either get them from a list you have or make them up on the spot.

For each of those projects you now have 30 days to start on it. When you actually start with a project, the clock starts ticking and the project gets a deadline 7 days from now. Put this in your calendar. When the deadline passes, stop working.

When within those 30 days you have *not* started working on a project, that project gets banned for 12 months. There are two ways to look at this:

1. You force yourself to either do this project within a month or live another year without the benefits of having done it. So if you really *do* want to see it done, you had better act soon.

2. You allow yourself the freedom not to think about this project for the rest of the year. So this project that you "really should get around to doing sometime" now only drains your energy for a maximum of one month a year instead of being an all year round brain drain for the rest of your life.

Note: I have not tried this so use this tip at your own risk. :-)
March 2, 2008 at 22:31 | Unregistered CommenterMaurits van Rees
Hi, Maurits

Thanks for the suggestions. I have been thinking on much the same lines. It certainly seems that it would work best on what David Allen calls "someday/maybe" projects.

I'm wondering how the initial 7 days' period would work. Perhaps 7 days (max) on a "possibles" list, followed by 30 days (max) as a "probable" followed by 7 days on the "active" list.

So it might go something like this. Any bright idea, suggestion, impulse, or decision to make which enters your mind and isn't part of your immediate work is written down on the Possibles List. The items are dated so they can be deleted from the list after 7 days.

Any items on the Possibles List can be transferred to the Probables List, which is then valid for 30 days.

As you outline above, any item on the Probables List is transferred to the Active List as soon as you start working on it. If you haven't finished it after 7 days then you have to stop working on it.

The advantage of the initial seven days is that you have a place to put every whim, silly idea or passing fancy that occurs to you, but they are prevented from clogging up the system for a whole month.

Any suggestions for improvements?
March 3, 2008 at 10:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

It occurs to me that one class of project that this might work really well with would be the writing of articles, whether on a blog or otherwise.

I feel an experiment coming on!
March 3, 2008 at 10:22 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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