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.
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.