Is your time management system too big?

iStock_000008203287XSmall- Bloat

This is Part 3 in a 3 part series. See also Part 1 and Part 2.

In the previous posts, we discussed two potential impacts from a poorly designed or implemented time management system: Leak and Creep.

Leak was the loss of information from your system, usually due to inadequate tools to capture it.

Creep was the tendency to add more and more tools to your system.

Today, I want to talk about a third potential impact…Bloat.

Is your time management system too much?

As it sounds, a bloated time management system is one that has grown in size or complexity to the point that it is cumbersome to use effectively.  Its awkwardness arises from either too many tools or processes that are excessively complex.

Symptoms of a bloated time management system:

  • Too many tools – Too many tools can be a result of Creep.  Redundant tools reduce efficiency and create duplication/sync issues for your information.
  • Too much complexity – If your system has too many moving parts you will not be able to keep up with it.  It will slow you down, and parts of it will be forgotten.  Ever find the “other list” that you made and then forgot?
  • Too big to be used effectively – This can be a literal thing.  I know people who are great with a dayplanner, but it is so big that they only carry it with them sometimes.  Your time management system has to be with you…always.  No exceptions.
  • Wrong tools for the job – You wouldn’t use a hammer to fix a screw, and you wouldn’t use a blank spiral bound notebook for your calendar.  These examples are extreme, but you would be amazed what tools people will try to misuse in their systems.  Ensure that the tools you select are right for the job.

Too much to handle…


A bloated time management system simply has too much in it.  It can be a result of Creep run amok, but it can be systemic or develop on its own.  Bloat can also come from “not defining” your time management system.  While Creep stems from a system with poorly defined boundaries, Bloat often derives from a time management system with no boundaries.

“Oh, I don’t have that note because I wrote it on my other pad that is at home.”  Or, “I missed that appointment because it was written down somewhere I didn’t look.”

Bloat often results in increased Life Friction, and added stress.  But, in general the problem with Bloat is that is brings unnecessary complexity.  Where did I put that piece of information?  Where is that other tool?  Bloat slows you down and reduces your productivity.

How to avoid bloat…

  • Stick to the simpest solution – The simplest solution is the most effective.  Complex systems are often more work than results.  If your time management solution requires a flowchart, it may be too complex!
  • Have a clearly defined boundary – “Defining your system” is an important exercise.  Write down what is “in” your system and what is not.  It will help you stick to the tools in your arsenal and not pick up whatever is at hand.
  • Adhere to “the Power of 1″ – The most effective system has 1 tool for each job.  (See “The Power of 1.“)
  • Avoid systems that have too many tools – This is a easy one.  Don’t succumb to using systems or toolsets that just have too many moving parts.  Stick to what works, not the all-in-one solution to the universe.

Is your time management system too bloated or unwieldy?  Share your story in the comments.

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