When searching online for information about time management skill improvement, I came across an interesting UK based company that claims it can improve any person’s ability to manage time. What made this company approach stand out for me was their personalization process. As an industrial engineer with over thirty years of experience in improving manufacturing systems and supply chains, I was taught from the very beginning to manage time, resources, and budgets. I never intentionally applied them to everyday life, the skills I learned and applied at work filtered into everyday life as my subconscious needed them to make managing my life easier.
Not everyone is an industrial engineer, or a time management specialist, or even capable of managing their lives like an ongoing project. Most of us take bits of living tips and clump them together, utilizing them within our natural routines of operation. Which means that laziness and forgetfulness are an only personal disregard for others and ourselves, it is not a natural state; it is a state that is reached when life is not challenging us, or we chose to close down.
99% of the working population, and specifically includes home management as well as self-employment or employees; all need to manage time on a daily basis. Managing the simplest concepts such as remembering dates that are important to others, such as birthdays and anniversaries to organizing a ten-day vacation, and preparing home cooking to prepare the children for school. Just by applying organizational skills and managing time efficiently at home, is a great start to arranging the way we approach every task and schedule in life. On a personal note, while life can seem chaotic, organizing it into “boxes” and schedules makes it easier to clean up the clutter.
Now let’s take a look at UK based MBM; makingbusinessmatter.com a company that claims to improve your time management skills in 7 easy steps and offers a “challenge” which is a 7-week course that will improve your time management skills in a way that suits you. (What is termed a “bespoke” system) This will become abundantly clear after reading this article.
What is the seven-week MBM system?
It is a generic set of exercises that quantifies our approach to life. The state that making a pattern of action, or what is termed a “behavior” become a habit is a process that requires us to perform it 21 times. Once we perform any action 21 times, it becomes ingrained in our minds, and we will perform the action the learned way from then on. They state that if you want to be able to perform any activity 21 times, you should consider appointing a friend or family member to act as referee, watching to see you do perform the specific activity as planned.
As with any system, MBM has quantified and defined every stage to make it easier to understand and follow. They have set for their “time management skills” 4 types of learner and 7 hurdles. Here is the challenge as laid out on their site. (MBM Link)
So, what is the MBM Challenge?
The challenge is a system that will enhance your time management skills. It is not a list of tips or shortcuts; it is a fully developed system that will take your natural time management abilities and enhance them, teaching you to focus what you already have, making it better. In short, everyone has time management skills and issues, what separates one person’s seeming super-human ability to manage many functions on a daily level is merely their natural ability to focus and manage every stage of the day in an organized fashion.
For instance, two single mums’, one manages to hold down a highly professional career, sometimes working overtime, while managing her home, cooking, cleaning and organizing her children’s daily activities as well as meet friends, relax and enjoy life. The other mother cannot manage to hold down a simple part-time job, rushes about flustered, leaves piles of dirty clothes and dishes unattended, and constantly needs time to “chill out” while screaming at her children to stop running around the kitchen throwing pieces of Lego all over the place. What is the difference between the two? Its how we think, how we organize our minds to handle processes. We all have natural abilities; the challenge is a way to enhance our capabilities so that we can manage our lives more competently.
Everyone is Unique
You do not need to be jealous of people that seem to succeed in managing their daily 24 hours. Neither be envious of time management guru’s. There is no one correct system that is applicable for all. True time management is a personalized approach to handling daily tasks, so it is how we organize our minds, not the processes around us. Time management is not about spreadsheets and tasks; it is about how we think and how we approach spreadsheets and tasks. You can make up as many spreadsheets as you desire, if you don’t remember to look at them, or don’t remember to fill them out properly they will only add to the clutter. Everyone is unique, which means that you must adapt the way you think to improve your time management capabilities.
It seems that the most common phrase we hear is “I don’t have time to…” This is perhaps most found in fitness-related issues, where people don’t have time to care for their physical wellbeing. They don’t have time to go to a gym; they don’t have time to go for a walk. This approach is infective since it gives the mind an immediate excuse to blame a person’s inability to perform or remember since they don’t have time. However, if you manage your time properly, you will find you have a lot of time to do a lot of things. Its all a matter of approach. The challenge that MBM provides divides people into 4 categories, each category uses different approaches to learning skills, and each relies on different excuses for not learning.
The 4 categories of Learners
Learner A: ‘I’m just too busy for all of this’ as mentioned above, the classic, I don’t have time to learn how to manage my time more efficiently. Most of the population fall into this category, they think that learning how to think is a waste of time, and continue to rely on tips and cheats. Tips and cheat codes are great for software games, they are not useful for managing real life, and you cannot restart the game or get an extra life, every second that goes by is a second in your life gone.
Learner B: ‘I’m doing most of this anyway’ this is a classic example of the know it all’s. The people that have done it all, seen it all and know better than anyone else. These are the ones that fear change. They have not done anything, all they have done is read up about what others have done, maybe adopting a few techniques. They do not change the way they manage time; they just push away any interference with what they are doing and continue to focus on one thing only and disregard the rest.
Learner C: ‘I can do all of this, I know I can’ these are the ones that read up the “quick tip” sites and buy all the gadgets that make actions easier to do. These are the lazy ones trying to find a quick fix that will allow them to speed through life without actually experiencing it. After they have bought the gadget or used the tip once, they end up putting it aside and continuing to manage their time as they did before.
Learner D: ‘I can do this; Slowly and Steady’ these are the engineers of life, they know how to manage most tasks. They are academic and intelligent and will build their own system. They fall back on many sources and adapt each source to suit a specific need. They will succeed in integrating a better time management system into their lives gradually, making sure that they get it right, slowly but surely.
A Time Management Master
Becoming a student and mastering time is not about being Doctor Who’s next apprentice in the Tardis, it’s about learning how to:
- Balance your work, home and relaxation time with greater success.
- Increase your chances of improving your professional standing at work and in life.
- Allow you to balance your physical and mental health by organizing your daily activities.
A Mental Sponge
One of the interesting facts of improving life is reading. Reading up about every time management tip and how to improve life blogs and videos. While some are repetitive, they do contain truth, and after reading or watching someone else’s tips, we do incorporate some of them into our lives. It is quite often when we find ourselves in a specific situation, and suddenly a memory of a tip pops into our minds, and we say “hey, I watched how to deal with this” or “hey, I read about this” and then apply the “fix” or tip to improve our success. Becoming a mental sponge is one step in increasing our knowledge base. It is not the only step, and you must not stop here.
Tips & Tricks
What MBM doesn’t discount are tips and tricks. They state that having a toolbox of tips and tricks, the same way MacGyver would tackle a situation using whatever could be found is a useful way to tackle specific situations.
Tips and Tricks are not replacements for a complete system. What MBM suggests is taking their 7-week course and building up a complete system and not a string of ideas and tips that can be called upon whenever the situation necessitates. Dealing with life through a system is the only way to succeed, similar to how an army would approach a campaign, a chef approaches the management of a restaurant and in fact how any successful person manages their lives.
The 7 hurdles
This hurdle is about capturing information. It relies on your ability to either remember, write down or collect information. It is where entry points converge with your daily life. Entry points are situations or items that capture your attention and force you to spend time collecting information. These include e-mail inbox, a shopping note of items, or memory.
‘Healthy Capturing,’ is when you don’t rely on your memory. Instead of relying on your memory, which can fail in certain situations, such as forgetting an item in a lost of times to be bought when going shopping. MB suggests you commit everything to either written or electronic form. Freeing your mind from cluttering up with things to remember.
The listing stage comes after capturing; it is when you write down everything you need to remember for a specific task or activity. When you write something down, you perform two actions; you commit the item to your subconscious memory which frees up your conscious memory. In the case of the shopping list, it means that you do not need to remember what you need actively, you use the list to navigate your buying. While doing this, you will find that you do remember everything, which fortifies the speed you actively search for each item.
‘Healthy Listing’ is when you make lists for everything, freeing up as much conscious memory for managing other operations.
Emptying is when you free up your mind from tasks on a scheduled basis. The e-mail inbox is s classic example of a capture point that requires frequent handling. However, you have to schedule your inbox frequency to fit into all your other tasks.
‘Healthy Emptying’ is about setting the frequency to tasks. It is about finding a harmony between all actions, just like music. You would not find harmony in discord of sounds; however, when you listen to music you enjoy, you find that time flows better, which is the same with emptying. Applying a frequency, a cord to every activity, you will create a symphony of actions that work harmoniously together. It is imperative to find the time to perform each task without having to be under pressure with any one of them.
Deleting is about getting rid of unnecessary, time-consuming actions. For instance, reading your e-mails. You wouldn’t spend time reading the spam messages since you know they are rubbish. However, there are many more emails with rubbish in your inbox and knowing which ones to open and which ones to delete is up to you. Don’t delete everything, be selective, and don’t rely on the premise that if something is important, it will come back. You must also delegate tasks that you don’t need to perform. For instance, in a house chore such as washing dishes, if you are part of a family, you should delegate the role of placing items in the dishwasher or washing dishes by hand to a junior member of the household. Everyone should pull his or her weight in the home.
‘Healthy Deleting’ is about organizing your activities by either deleting them or delegating them. You know what you must do, and you know what tasks you can give to subordinates or peers. One of the biggest time-consuming ways of living is “micro-management,” and it is extremely ineffective. Healthy deleting is about deleting micro-management.
All supply chain and inventory specialists know that store is 50% of any productions systems success. Knowing where everything is placed and gaining easy access to it is critical in any operation. The same with knowledge and information, creating a labeled storage system, categorizing everything will speed up a lot of time-wasting activity.
‘Healthy Storing’ is when you arrange your home, your work, your computer with a categorized and labeled system. It speeds up the seek and select process, freeing up lots of wasted time from trying to find something. Arranging your kitchen pantry, or arranging your clothes in drawers. Storing is about knowing where everything is and making sure you always put back from where you took.
Scheduling is when you start to organize your time by blocking it. In other words, keep an active and updated calendar of activities, preferably color coded. Just like the ‘healthy storing’ system, arrange your calendar with a color code for time schedule. For instance, medical appointments can be in red, education in yellow, business appointments in blue, personal dates in pink, national holidays and religious festivals in purple. Even if you don’t color code, you should block out every time and date with a place and description in your calendar and include alarms. By color coding, you get to see at a glance the scheduled time category.
‘Healthy Scheduling’ is organizing and recording your activities by blocking out time so that you do not overlap or find yourself having to complete more than one task at any given time. Risk management comes into play here, since there will be moments where you are forced to deal with more than one activity at the same time. Handling emergencies are about deciding what is more important and dealing with it first.
Acting is about getting the job done. Now you have managed to organize how you think and organize your schedule; it is time to quantify how much time you need for every action. The key to successful scheduling is knowing how much time every activity takes. Always include extra time for contingency plans that might come into place, such as dealing with an emergency or handling to a boss or child that calls you when you are in the middle of something else.
‘Healthy Acting’ is the final and key hurdle in MBM’s guide to time management. This is what all your other hurdles have been leading you up to, and this is the reason that you want to manage time efficiently since this is the time-consuming part of life.
The core of MBM’s time management system
The 7 hurdles come together on a map, and MBM presents it:
You don’t have to remember the map; it just shows you how the 7 hurdles mesh together. In reality, after you start to experiment with the hurdles, starting to map out your life by using them. You will start to act in accordance with their model, and find that as time goes by, you will have more and more time to manage everything.
There is one issue that has to be discussed, and that is speed.
Everyone acts and thinks of different speeds. Some will drive fast, knowing where they want to go to and how to get there, while other will drive slowly, taking extra precautions. The time it takes for one person can be so different from another. This does not mean that the faster person manages time better than the other. It means that each person must manage their own time efficiently. This is why MBM’s ultimate guide to improving time management skills is truly excellent. It is adaptable to every individual and only arranges how each person thinks and acts within their own personal time frame. This is why the “slow and steady” approach is best, slow is relative, time is relative, and each person can learn how to manage their time efficiently in relation to their speed.
Do you remember the term “bespoke” which means a personalized system adapted to your specific requirements? Well, this is exactly what the MBM time management skills challenge is all about. It is about adapting the 7 hurdles to make your own time management skill set. Improving your life management by improving the way you manage your time.