Does your time management system keep growing?

Plant Sequence Cutaway

This post is part 2 in a 3 part series (See part 1 here.)

In the last post, we discussed 3 potential impacts from a poorly designed or implemented time management system.  (Leak, Creep, and Bloat).

Today, I want to talk about “Creep.”

Does your time management system keep getting bigger?

I mean this literally, not in a maturing sense.  Does it keep growing more appendages?  More tools that you use and carry around?  More places that you record and track things?  You see where this is headed.

Creep tends to occur when your time management system does not have clearly defined “boundaries.” You do not know which tools are in or outside of your system.  This can lead to using whatever is at hand or constantly adding new tools to your arsenal.

When creep adds more items to your system, it tends to reduce your efficiency.  You end up with multiple tools that do that same thing.  We want to stick to the simplest, yet most effective set of tools.  (See the “Power of 1“)

Why do we constantly try new tools?


Maybe it is the search for the perfect time management tool.  Maybe it is the “grass is always greener” philosophy.  But, we like to try new gadgets and instruments in our time management repertoire.  In other words, we keep switching tools instead of settling down to a tried and true solution that works.

Jumping from tool to tool ensures that you are always on the learning/practice curve of your time management weapons.  It means that you probably never truly master any of the items in your system.

Techies are particularly prone to creep.  They are always trying the newest software or gizmo.  Always searching for the Holy Grail or organizing Nirvana that a new gadget may bring.  Hence, their time management systems are always in flux.  Todos end up scattered across multiple software applications.  Appointments are on multiple Outlook calendars, online sites, etc.  They always have something new, whether it is a new phone or a new software solution.  (A new website that has a free 30 day trial!)

But, non-techies can also exhibit creep.  Many times this stems from not having a clearly defined system.  Instead, they just grab whatever is at hand.  Maybe a legal pad one day, and their dayplanner the next.  And perhaps, a scrap of paper when they do not have either.  Non-techies seem to be prone to having multiple places to record notes and todos.  (And they love Post-its.)

How to avoid creep…

How do we avoid constantly adding new devices to our time management inventory?  Here are a few methods:

  • Define your system – It is important to define what is “in” and “out” of your time management toolbox.  And then stick to it.  Don’t use a pad of paper or Post-it to record notes when you have a capture journal.
  • Avoid new tools for newness sake – Just because there in a new tool, does not mean you need it or that it will increase your productivity.  Resist the shiny new option.  After all, consider there is a time/money cost to learning the new tool.
  • Stick to the rule of “The Power of 1″ – The best solution is usually the simplest one.  Avoid redundancy and complication by having only one tool for each function.  (Read the “Power of 1“)
  • Gadget in/Gadget Out – This one is especially for the Techies out there.  Keep a strict rule that for every new gadget you bring in, you have to retire another one.  Trying a new online service?  Eliminate another. New shiny gadget?  Let another one go on eBay.  This also reduces clutter.

What are your experiences with your system?  Are you guilty of constantly adding new tools?  Does your system seem to grow in size over time?  Please share in the comments.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Scott Cheatham

    Good post..I think sometimes we bog ourselves down by thinking we are missing out on the latest and greatest when in reality we are just creating more complexity instead of simplicity. I did a blog series on this myself…http://ow.ly/169oO Great topic!

  • Scott Cheatham

    Good post..I think sometimes we bog ourselves down by thinking we are missing out on the latest and greatest when in reality we are just creating more complexity instead of simplicity. I did a blog series on this myself…http://ow.ly/169oO Great topic!

  • Stormbringer

    Good stuff. Again.By the way, I should have known that Leak, Creep and Bloat were evil to time management, because they were also my ex-wife’s attorneys.I think that simply seeing the pitfalls that you are showing us helps, too. One problem I have is when I get out of my “simplify and minimalize” mood and see some shiny new toy online. “Oh, look! I can add this to my system and make it even better!” Wrong-O! I should use what you discussed before, because my system will work if I just let it.A “shiny object” new toy for non-techies is the binder clip PDA. Get note cards, put a binder clip on them and carry them around. Slightly better than scraps of paper, but still a creeping complication.It all comes down to you being right again.

  • Stormbringer

    Good stuff. Again.By the way, I should have known that Leak, Creep and Bloat were evil to time management, because they were also my ex-wife’s attorneys.I think that simply seeing the pitfalls that you are showing us helps, too. One problem I have is when I get out of my “simplify and minimalize” mood and see some shiny new toy online. “Oh, look! I can add this to my system and make it even better!” Wrong-O! I should use what you discussed before, because my system will work if I just let it.A “shiny object” new toy for non-techies is the binder clip PDA. Get note cards, put a binder clip on them and carry them around. Slightly better than scraps of paper, but still a creeping complication.It all comes down to you being right again.

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