As a discipline, time management is a disaster because when it comes to Time there are four kinds of people:

  1. The innate. These people have a built-in sense for time and tasks, eg. they palpably feel the need to do something without a calendar reminder prompting them, or have a mental view of what is to be done with the highest priorities looming. Most people do not have this.
  2. Those to whom it is obvious that one should be managing time. While Innates possess directly applicable skills, these Obviously's only have a time conscience. However, it is the next best thing as they consequently augment themselves with calendars, todo lists, etc. and seem like Innates to everyone else.
  3. Those for whom time is not a problem. While they occasionally suffer from time crunches, they muddle through and life in general is fine for them.
  4. The "time-aholics". Notoriously sleep-deprived, late, or unreliable, they chronically suffer from time crunches and are forced to make trade-offs that routinely negatively impact their lives.

Of these groups, the Obviously's will cobble together solutions as they can. Most time management sales pitches seem tailored for this group, while the time-aholics would actually benefit the most. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get anyone, time-aholic or not, to admit that they have a problem.

Recovering time-aholics use programs like Franklin-Covey, however unlike Alcoholics Anonymous there aren't chapters in every city to help keep to it. Or they down-shift, and massively reduce their time commitments while also trying to learn tool-use from the Obviously's.

Time management programs and tools break down into four discrete elements:

  1. Calendar Reminders. These delegate a task to the future. Unfortunately, most calendars do not make it easy to keep track of these tasks in terms of pulling them forward, ie. some tasks cannot be time-moved, while others can be completed when you have some unexpected downtime.
  2. Log. A simple description of what happened. This will save your bacon when you get audited or get senile.
  3. Prioritized tasks. This is well supported, eg. most todo lists allow re-ordering. Personally, for me the cognitive-load minimizing solution is to have just two buckets: Must Get Done Today, and Yeah Maybe.
  4. Budgeting. Where tasks are allocated time, and it's left to the individual to break things down into consumable chunks. Planning is difficult to teach, and people fall off this wagon all the time.

Do you know any time-aholics?