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« Types of Lists I - The "Catch All" List | Main | New Challenge »
Sunday
Jan242016

The Evolution of Time Management Systems

There’s a well-know quote about the evolution of fishing boats:

Every boat is copied from another boat… Let’s reason as follows in the manner of Darwin. It is clear that a very badly made boat will end up at the bottom after one or two voyages, and thus never be copied… One could then say, with complete rigor, that it is the sea herself who fashions the boats, choosing those which function and destroying the others.
-
Alain (Emile Chartier), 1908

It occurred to me that exactly the same could be said about time management systems or methods. The best will naturally rise to the top because the people promoting them will have better time management than those who don’t use them.

“One could then say, with complete rigor, that it is time herself who fashions the methods, choosing those which function and destroying the others

If you want to know what the best time management system is then look at the most successful ones for the authors themselves. Using that criterion I think Getting Things Done (GTD) would still win the prize.

Let’s see if I can topple that with my new, so far unreleased method!

Reader Comments (9)

"The people promoting them will have better time management than those who don’t use them." This should be true on average. The problem is that when we are talking about individuals, their own personalities (e.g. how hardworking or otherwise they are) are also going to affect the ultimate outcome. So if you only look at how things worked out for the author, you might be misled by personal differences.

I think that might have happened here; I think your strategy of "Do It Tomorrow" is objectively better than GTD, even if it didn't work perfectly for you personally.
January 24, 2016 at 13:17 | Unregistered Commenterentirelyuseless
Hey Mark. Good to see you back. I loved Secrets of Productive People, especially about investing the time to build systems to handle low level tasks.

For my job and home, with things coming at me constantly and lots of interruptions, I still like the Super Focus system the best.
January 24, 2016 at 13:55 | Unregistered CommenterSamir
"Using that criterion", I think. "Criteria" is plural.
January 24, 2016 at 15:29 | Unregistered CommenterJohn D
entirelyuseless:

<< I think your strategy of "Do It Tomorrow" is objectively better than GTD, even if it didn't work perfectly for you personally. >>

It's not really a question of whether something is objectively better than something else - the question is what sort of results it produces in real life. GTD is better known than DIT precisely because its inventor used the system himself to make a powerful business.

Anyway, I wrote the blog post not only in order to raise some discussion and controversy, but also to motivate myself!
January 24, 2016 at 15:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
John D:

You are quite right. Thank you for pointing it out. Now corrected.
January 24, 2016 at 15:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<If you want to know what the best time management system is then look at the most successful ones for the authors themselves. Using that criterion I think Getting Things Done (GTD) would still win the prize.>>

How do you know that David Allen still uses GTD? By that measure, wouldn't Covey's Weekly Planning win? I think his son's, or at least Sean Covey, still promote the system? And that system pre-dates Allen's by a decade or so.

<<The best will naturally rise to the top because the people promoting them will have better time management than those who don’t use them.>>

Evidence of this? Because I don't see this playing out in real life i.e. amongst my successful family/friends/clients/colleagues... very few, if any, that follow any system per se.

In other words "the best", might be simply unknown (just people doing what they're doing without publishing their system), or not focused on in the author's writing or work (I'm thinking of Cal Newport's Deep Thinking system). Maybe what's most popular - like pop music - is actually junk?
January 24, 2016 at 17:08 | Registered Commenteravrum
avrum:

<< How do you know that David Allen still uses GTD? >>

I don't. But he produced a revised edition last year so I think there's quite a good chance he does.

<< By that measure, wouldn't Covey's Weekly Planning win? I think his son's, or at least Sean Covey, still promote the system? And that system pre-dates Allen's by a decade or so. >>

You can print out my post and put Covey's name instead of Allen's if you like.

<< Evidence of this? Because I don't see this playing out in real life i.e. amongst my successful family/friends/clients/colleagues... very few, if any, that follow any system per se. >>

I'm not talking about people in general who use time management systems, still less about people who don't use time management systems at all. I'm talking about the people who have developed and publicized time management systems. Maybe I didn't express myself clearly enough.
January 24, 2016 at 21:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I wonder whether the best system would be invisible, and therefor not copied.

Whereas the fancy, impractical systems hold people's interest long enough to spread.
January 28, 2016 at 12:27 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Will:

Good point!
January 28, 2016 at 15:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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