The Power of 1

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One of the main reasons that people fail at time management is… because their system fails.

Too often people try to implement systems that are too complex.  This leads to loss of information, overlooked obligations, and general frustration.  (See “Why complex time management systems fail…“)  It is ironic, that the #1 time management book today preaches a system that is so complex it needs a flow chart to explain it.

Simplest is best

One of the basic Time Management Ninja principles is simplicity.  The simplest solution is usually the best and most efficient.  Simplicity is the key to stressless, efficient, and effortless time management.

To that end… you should have only 1 of each type of tool in your toolbox.

At a time management seminar, we asked the participants to bring with them all the tools they currently use.  Every calendar.  Every todo list. Every address book.  Etc.

It was amazing.  One employee had a pile of stuff.  A full-sized desk calendar, a PDA, a yellow pad of paper, and his cell phone.  He also brought a printout of his online calendar.

I asked him how he knew which calendar to look at in the morning.  He said it usually depended on where he was… at his desk, at home, etc.  He was quick to admit that he often missed appointments because they were written on one calendar, but not the others.  (Does this happen to you?)

The Power of 1

Having only 1 of each tool in your system avoids many time management pitfalls:

  • Having to look in multiple locations for information
  • Duplicate entires and synchronization issues
  • Forgotten or neglected tools
  • Excess and wasted effort to stay organized

Here are the tools that you should have 1 and only 1 of in your system:

- One Address Book – You don’t want to be at work and realize that your doctor’s # is in your home address book.  I recommend a computerized address book that syncs across your computer and phone.  (I currently use an iPhone).  Electronic address books usually trump paper-based ones because they can hold literally thousands of entires, are easily updated/sync’ed, and can be instantly searched.

- One Calendar – It amazes me how many people still maintain 1, 2, even 3 or 4 calendars.  One at work, one at home, one on the fridge for the family.  If this is your setup, inevitably the calendars get out of sync and things are missed becuase they are on one calendar but not another.  Go with one calendar, even if it is paper based.  For family situations it is usually best to have an electronic version that syncs with everyone.

- One Todo List – This is a tricky one that involves much discipline.  Most people keep multiple lists and then tend to write new todos down wherever it is convenient.  (Post-its, random pieces of paper, etc).  If you don’t want to have lost tasks, stick to one list.

- One Notebook – Keeping notes is another area that challenges many people.  It is hard to take all of your notes in one place.  I recommend a single capture notebook such as a Moleskine notebook. (affiliate link)  Some prefer to take their notes on a computer, but I am not convinced this is the most efficient method yet.

Keeping your toolset to 1 of each tool will streamline your time management efforts, resulting in greater efficiency and reduced stress.

What are your experiences keeping your time management tools to a minimum?  Please share your story below.

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

  • Andrew Cameron

    One word: Agree! (ok that was 3 words :) )

  • Andrew Cameron

    One word: Agree! (ok that was 3 words :) )

  • Stormbringer

    If we share our time management tools and story, do we have to keep it to a minimum? Never mind.Carrying a pocket notebook has been indispensible for me. Once I got into the habit, I would write down random thoughts, Weblog ideas, “to do” things and so forth. Then I transfer them to master lists and so forth. Can’t do the expensive Moleskine, I like Field Notes. Or even that mini composition book thing for a dollar at Walley World.If people can get the entire family to agree to use an online calendar, things can be great. Or appoint someone to be in charge of the calendar and be the family general secretary. I use an online calendar and sync it with a desktop calendar (my choice is Mozilla’s Sunbird, or it’s e-mail add-on, Lightning).I double my work on the address book by making dual entries. Yes, one is online, but systems go down. Whatever you do, back the thing up!

  • Stormbringer

    If we share our time management tools and story, do we have to keep it to a minimum? Never mind.Carrying a pocket notebook has been indispensible for me. Once I got into the habit, I would write down random thoughts, Weblog ideas, “to do” things and so forth. Then I transfer them to master lists and so forth. Can’t do the expensive Moleskine, I like Field Notes. Or even that mini composition book thing for a dollar at Walley World.If people can get the entire family to agree to use an online calendar, things can be great. Or appoint someone to be in charge of the calendar and be the family general secretary. I use an online calendar and sync it with a desktop calendar (my choice is Mozilla’s Sunbird, or it’s e-mail add-on, Lightning).I double my work on the address book by making dual entries. Yes, one is online, but systems go down. Whatever you do, back the thing up!

  • Claudine Motto

    Loved this post. I find that the more I learn the more I realize keeping it simple is key. Having too many tools, too many gadgets, too many places to capture information is many times a symptom of not sticking with any one “system” or tool long enough for it to become second nature. It can seem easier to try something new than to figure out how to tweak the existing to see if it can really work. Doing this appears to be a long-term fix, but the fix “lives” only until the next imperfection in the system. Your post is a great reminder that it takes discipline and effort to keep things simple. Claudine

  • Claudine Motto

    Loved this post. I find that the more I learn the more I realize keeping it simple is key. Having too many tools, too many gadgets, too many places to capture information is many times a symptom of not sticking with any one “system” or tool long enough for it to become second nature. It can seem easier to try something new than to figure out how to tweak the existing to see if it can really work. Doing this appears to be a long-term fix, but the fix “lives” only until the next imperfection in the system. Your post is a great reminder that it takes discipline and effort to keep things simple. Claudine

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  • John Frum

    I’m a big believer in focus, KISS, reliability and not being enslaved to feature-itis. That’s why, after trying a multitude of notes apps and to do list apps—including all of the most recommended ones—I’m using Notesy to maintain my notes, action lists, and shopping lists. It gets Dropbox integration right, maintaining up-to-the-minute information on the user’s iPad, phone, and computer without requiring user intervention. For efficiency’s sake, I prefer to enter data on my computer whenever possible; because it’s always with me, I want to be able to view it on my phone; and I want to be able to enter, view or edit it on my iPad. Notesy has given me this, more reliably and up-to-date, than any other app(s).

    In keeping further with KISS, combining this app with Mark Forster’s Autofocus system has yielded results beyond any other I’ve ever used. I waste less time fiddling and futzing with software—setting tags and flags, assigning contexts, and so forth—and pondering what my next step should be, and more actually getting things done.

    • TMNinja

      @John Frum John, thanks for sharing.

      I have not used Notesy, but will check it out! :)

  • John Frum

    I’m a big believer in focus, KISS, reliability and not being enslaved to feature-itis. That’s why, after trying a multitude of notes apps and to do list apps—including all of the most recommended ones—I’m using Notesy to maintain my notes, action lists, and shopping lists. It gets Dropbox integration right, maintaining up-to-the-minute information on the user’s iPad, phone, and computer without requiring user intervention. For efficiency’s sake, I prefer to enter data on my computer whenever possible; because it’s always with me, I want to be able to view it on my phone; and I want to be able to enter, view or edit it on my iPad. Notesy has given me this, more reliably and up-to-date, than any other app(s).

    In keeping further with KISS, combining this app with Mark Forster’s Autofocus system has yielded results beyond any other I’ve ever used. I waste less time fiddling and futzing with software—setting tags and flags, assigning contexts, and so forth—and pondering what my next step should be, and more actually getting things done.

  • TMNinja

    @John Frum John, thanks for sharing.

    I have not used Notesy, but will check it out! :)

  • jpwired

    An old post, but I just stumbled across this today. A great read and I definitely agree with the power of 1. I’ve used a pen and paper system for a while, but I’ve ditched it for ONE set of electronic tools (sorry, Plannerisms). I’d be honoured if you could read my views here: http://john.imwired.net/?p=57

  • jpwired

    An old post, but I just stumbled across this today. A great read and I definitely agree with the power of 1. I’ve used a pen and paper system for a while, but I’ve ditched it for ONE set of electronic tools (sorry, Plannerisms). I’d be honoured if you could read my views here: http://john.imwired.net/?p=57

  • antonia

    Duplicates again!

    • TMNinja

      @antonia Thanks for pointing that out. I was not aware of it. Something must have happened once upon a time when the comments database was being updated.

      Will take a look and fix it. Thanks.

  • antonia

    Duplicates again!

  • TMNinja

    @antonia Thanks for pointing that out. I was not aware of it. Something must have happened once upon a time when the comments database was being updated.

    Will take a look and fix it. Thanks.

  • joejordan81

    I am definitely guilty of this, although I am getting better. I’m pretty sure I know the system that requires a flowchart that you mentioned in the post. I definitely got lost in there, particularly when it comes to contexts and project management.

    My current setup is:

    -My CRM is my central point for business and personal task lists and contacts.

    -Google Calendar that includes both business and personal appointments and reminders

    - Cell phone: Other than a place to keep phone numbers, I have mostly eliminated this device from my system since I canceled the data service on it a long time ago and don’t want to sync it manually.

    - Moleskine notebook – I bought my first 3 pack recently and I think I’m sold :) I’m trying to keep all notes and ideas contained here. I use one for my daily schedule and notes and another dedicated to business and it’s working pretty well so far.

    Maybe I’ll add more to this post when I get done defining my system, which I’m working on at this very moment. :)

  • joejordan81

    I am definitely guilty of this, although I am getting better. I’m pretty sure I know the system that requires a flowchart that you mentioned in the post. I definitely got lost in there, particularly when it comes to contexts and project management.

    My current setup is:

    -My CRM is my central point for business and personal task lists and contacts.

    -Google Calendar that includes both business and personal appointments and reminders

    - Cell phone: Other than a place to keep phone numbers, I have mostly eliminated this device from my system since I canceled the data service on it a long time ago and don’t want to sync it manually.

    - Moleskine notebook – I bought my first 3 pack recently and I think I’m sold :) I’m trying to keep all notes and ideas contained here. I use one for my daily schedule and notes and another dedicated to business and it’s working pretty well so far.

    Maybe I’ll add more to this post when I get done defining my system, which I’m working on at this very moment. :)

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  • http://twitter.com/arialee410 M L Madrid

    Thank you for all of your help! I look forward to reading your articles, suggestions! This article is exactly what I needed. I am guilty of having more than 1 calendar and more than 1 todo, etc. I am happy to hear I am not the only one and for once a clear suggestion on what works!!!!

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