Designing Your Own Time Management System


Individual time management systems are notoriously difficult to implement.

Most professionals are never taught how to manage their time, and cobble together a home-grown system based on whatever software they find on their computers when they get their first jobs. They know little of best practices or universal principle, and get by making lists when they have to, but mostly operate without standard processes.

They do learn, however, how to complain about not having enough time, having too much to do and being stressed by how much the job is demanding of them. Everyone they know who cares about their job has the same complaint, so they find themselves in good company.

The Caribbean manager is no different in this regard. They, like others, look at what other people who accomplish much more than they do with a sense of amazement. These hyper-productive people seem to be using magical methods to get the job done.

In an attempt to close the gap, they may place themselves in a time management course, or pick up a book on time management. Unfortunately, the results are temporary.

The reason is simple: no two people are alike, yet the guru behind any time management approach is advocating a single approach for everyone.

While it is a good bet that the approach works for the guru, it is doubtful that it works for more than a handful of people.

Some of the reasons for this are obvious.

People are different, and the habits they currently use vary tremendously also. Some of the factors include:

  • the availability of the internet
  • choices of software
  • availability of PDA’s
  • whether their jobs involve travel or not
  • the degree of variability they face in an average day
  • their personal level of discipline
  • their preference for evening or morning activity
  • how close their old habits conform to the new ones being taught
  • whether they are more right or left brained, or more of an NT or SP, or their sign is a Leo or Sagittarius, or DiSC, or Black or white, or whatever system of classification they use to differentiate human beings

Certainly, a time management system designed in North America, with its virtually perfect supplies of electricity, water and relatively low crime is a different animal from the best Caribbean manager’s style of time management.

The fact is, the vast majority of professionals are unable to shoehorn themselves into “foreign” time management systems that other people have designed for very long. They fall back into their habits quickly, and are often no better for having taken the course 6 months after the fact.

The lucky few need only make some small changes to fit into the new system, and they are the success stories touted in public.

To further complicate matters, any given system that is adopted can only be relied upon to work temporarily. A time management system is a little like a diet – it must change over time, to accommodate changing goals and different goals.

A time management system for a single individual will be different depending on an individual’s

  • career phase (including retirement)
  • age
  • level of responsibility
  • kind of job
  • work environment
  • country
  • mobility
  • use of, and access to new technology

We in Framework believe that professionals do not benefit from being taught a single system for the reasons outlined above.

Instead, the program we are developing has as its cornerstone the requirement that the user of a good time management system must also be its master designer. They need to be able to make decisions as to how they change their system when, for example, a new version of Microsoft Outlook is adopted by their company, and they find out that it removes some capabilities that they used to enjoy.

In our course we plan to teach people how to design a time management system, by giving them insights into the nature of the problem they face, and a menu of choices that they must make to complete the system. They will start with their current set of habits, and by taking care not to be too ambitious about their capabilities, the system they will design will be one that suits them.

We will also help them to migrate to future systems and to look for the creation of tools that can be added into the system they have designed.

To this, they will need to understand the principles behind the need to manage the flood of demands on their time that they now face, and how it impacts them as Caribbean professionals.