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One of the characteristics of poor time managers (and I’m speaking from bitter experience) is a lack of consistency. We start things off and don’t finish them. We bring in new working practices which make a great deal of difference for a short while and then we drift back to the old ways. We are creatures of a thousand and one brilliant ideas and nothing to show for them.

This is very bad news - not just because we don’t produce the goods at the end of the day, but also because all the effort we put in to stopping and starting is wasted. People who produce great results often work extremely hard, but it’s not unknown for poor time managers to be working even harder - but without producing the good results.

In fact one could make an argument about time management being about nothing else other than consistency. It’s consistency that delivers the goods.

One of my favourite sayings at the moment is:

What you haven’t done is the price you paid for what you have done.

Reader Comments (12)

<<It’s consistency that delivers the goods.>.

Here's my dilemma (true for every system I've tried):

When you spend a lifetime reacting to the loudest, entertaining or pressing need, the idea of consistency (sticking with an AF list during periods of discretionary time) is very difficult. With a 18 month toddler, this becomes even more complex. I think this may be due to a depletion of willpower/energy (Mark - you've been through this, so I'm sure you can relate). Yet this is still an excuse. Because I'm not that much better in a coffee shop - without child, family, etc.

Mark - do you recommend always working from the list (during discretionary time)? For example, how soon do you open your list after walking into your house? Right away? What if you have only have 20 minutes before guests arrive? Do you still work from the list? My overall question is, if: "... one of the characteristics of poor time managers is a lack of consistency", would the antedote be to consistently from the list whenever you have discretionary time? My hunch, based on experience, is that when I violate this rule i.e. only work from the list when I feel like it, the entire system/process is less effective.

Curious to hear your thoughts.
January 15, 2012 at 16:48 | Registered Commenteravrum

I think consistency goes much deeper than any particular system. It's more an attitude of mind. An awful lot of people who comment on the website (including myself) tend to jump from system to system, method to method. There's no better way of destroying consistency.

I at least have the excuse that developing time management systems is what I do!

I used to note this inconsistency with people who were involved in network marketing. They were always looking for a better network marketing firm, and whenever they thought they'd found one, they would drop what they were currently involved with and start the new one.

The result of course was that they never made any money out of network marketing.

I used to tell them that it was better to chose one network marketing firm and stick with it no matter what. Even if it went bust (and a lot did), they would learn a huge number of lessons which they would never learn if they flitted from one to another.
January 15, 2012 at 18:01 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Yes: consistency.

As ever, it's the simplest of points which manages to speak right to the heart of the matter.

I fear I have to reluctantly agree with Mark's comment that consistency is an 'attitude of mind'. If only it was easier than that. And sadly, I have to acknowledge that my ease of 'distractability' sits at the other end of the continuum.

Perhaps this taps into Avrum's post several weeks ago when he quoted Merlin Mann on needing to 'care intensely' about what one is doing. On reflection, my default position has become one whereby I allow myself to be too curious about 'how' I am doing things (ie. systems), rather than caring enough about whether those things are getting done. By the very nature and content of this forum, I imagine I am not alone in this position.

It reminds me of a quote I came across not too long ago::

'... It's not the hours you put into work which are important, it's the work you put into the hours.'

So, here's to more consistency in 2012.

And for once, I wonder if there's no point waiting to see what part 'consistency' will play in Mark's Final System, as if one doesn't come to the Final System with an underlying attitude of consistency, then how can the Final System live up to its promise? Although perhaps we can hope that Mark's Final System will promote an internal consistency which nurtures and encourages our own attitude of consistency?
January 15, 2012 at 20:32 | Registered Commenterneumatist
<< In fact one could make an argument about time management being about nothing else other than consistency. It’s consistency that delivers the goods. >>

I don't agree with this. It doesn't tell the whole story. There are several obvious counter-examples:

Consistency in doing nothing will not deliver the goods.

Consistency in doing the "most important" things will not deliver the goods.

Consistency in doing the "most urgent" things will not deliver the goods.
January 15, 2012 at 23:34 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<<There are several obvious counter-examples:
Consistency in doing nothing will not deliver the goods>>

If by "doing nothing" you're referring to an individual who desires leisure over all else, they're getting the goods they're seeking.

<<Consistency in doing the "most important" things will not deliver the goods>>

Really? I'd say this has been true in my life - personal, professional and leisure.

Actually, I'm not sure what you're overall point is. Can you provide a real life example.
January 15, 2012 at 23:58 | Unregistered CommenterAvrum
Yes indeed. Consistency is one of the most important rules of success. I met many people they were not more clever or foxy they did things until hey finished and this made the difference.
January 16, 2012 at 8:25 | Registered CommenterJupiter
Seraphim misses the point. In fact the point here is the same as the earlier article about starting and finishing. If you don't finish stuff, you wasted effort in starting. Therefore, whatever you chose to start, keep on starting it anew until something is accomplished.

It's a different question entirely how to ensure everything is properly worked on. In short:
Working one thing consistently is better than working many things inconsistently and delivering naught. Best is to work many things consistently [though only as many as are necessary] and that is the challenge!
January 16, 2012 at 13:22 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I don't take issue with the importance of consistency. I do take issue with the statement that "successful time management *is* consistency". Consistency is a necessary ingredient, but it's not the only one.
January 16, 2012 at 19:26 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<< "successful time management *is* consistency" >>

I think I'd take issue with that statement too.

What I wrote was that successful time management is _about_ consistency, i.e. producing consistent results.
January 16, 2012 at 21:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< Consistency in doing nothing will not deliver the goods. >>

I suppose that if I said that "speed" was a very important factor in successful action, you'd reply that a speed of 0 mph wouldn't deliver the goods.
January 16, 2012 at 22:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< Consistency in doing the "most urgent" things will not deliver the goods. >>

Actually I have found that prioritizing by urgency alone is not a bad method. It's certainly the most natural method of time management, and has delivered the goods to hundreds of thousands of people, including Julius Caesar and Joan of Arc to name but two. In fact there are many circumstances where no other method is possible.
January 16, 2012 at 22:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<< In fact one could make an argument about time management being ***about*** nothing else other than consistency. >>

I missed the word "about". My apologies.
January 16, 2012 at 23:16 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

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