18 March 2015

Guest Post by Tim Edwards PART 1 - Time management systems in the 1980’s

The Filofax was certainly an aspirational “must-have” in the mid-1980’s, leading to it becoming (usually in jest) one of the status symbols of the “yuppie” (“Young UPpwardly mobile Professional” or, in America, the “Young Urban Professional”).


However, time management systems and training quickly became a serious competitor to the Filofax (and other brands) in business circles around the world.

The typical Filofax was used as a standalone binder of punched inserts. Although there were many serious users, its contents were often little more than a weekly diary, address and phone/fax/telex numbers, expenses pages and assorted pre-printed (and rarely referred to) reference sheets such as a Chambers spell-checker, post-war wine vintages and international radio station frequencies!

A time management system was perceived by many as a better option. It was still based on a ring binder but promised to be your “results tool”; helping you use your valuable time effectively, plan your schedule and encouraging you to concentrate on your goals and projects. This would free-up more time for leisure activities and a balanced lifestyle. (Like we all have today, right?)

There were (and still are) several different systems produced around the world. I haven’t space to cover the American-based systems here but names such as Franklin, DayRunner and Pro-Planner by Day-Timer are well known. In Europe (but sold around the world), two Danish systems were the leaders. Time Manager (TMI) was created in 1975 by Claus Møller as “the world’s first results tool”. It still claims more than 400,000 people world-wide use Time Manager as their daily planner.


Time/System with the slogan “Right things in the right time” came along in 1981. It claims to be the market leader in Europe and that more than a million people have used the system as their planning tool. It is still printed in 10 different languages.


Me? I was a Time Manager devotee from 1987. I never attended the two-day TMI course (my company was too frugal) but I devoured the contents of the three booklets that came with my vinyl binder, colourful dividers and assorted punched pages.

Each of the different systems really deserves a post of its own. For now, let’s just ask, what makes a time management set-up different to a standard Filofax?

Taking Time Manager as an example, central to its system is splitting every aspect of life into “key areas” and setting goals for each. With Time Manager, you have nine key areas – typically six for business and three for your personal life. A tenth tab is reserved for “bright ideas” that might come along at any time of the day or night!

Even today, nearly thirty years on, every aspect of my life, business and personal filing systems and entries into apps like Evernote and Informant are still indexed and tagged according to my key areas! These have changed over the years as my life has change. Running a small business, my current key areas are: -

Still using up 30 year old leaves!
“The Christmas Tree Principle” is an important way that you’re encouraged to look at your life with Time Manager. The tree trunk is you and the overall goals you’ve set yourself for your private and business life. The branches are your key areas on which to concentrate your efforts to reach your goals. The twigs are the major groups of tasks or projects and the pine needles are all your individual activities.

The idea is to avoid what Time Manager calls “flapsi hapsi” where you’re just surrounded by hundreds of to-dos (the needles) with no overview or clear priorities!


The other big attraction for me has always been the emphasis on long (annual and monthly), medium (weekly) and short-term (daily) planning and the relationship between each. In all systems, you are encouraged to look ahead, get fixed dates such as birthdays, tax returns and summer holidays written down first.

You must plan monthly and particularly the week ahead before the end of the previous week (typically Friday afternoon), setting tasks and deadlines and allocating time to achieve them. Time management binders typically open out so that monthly, weekly and daily pages can all be viewed simultaneously. Try doing that with a modern app!

A third player came along in the UK from 1984. James Noon was a member of the directing staff at Henley Management College and wrote a book called ‘Time for Success’. James ran a number of workshops on time management at the college and these became very popular.

He formed a joint venture company, called Business Time Systems in the UK with International Thomson Publishing. He bought this venture out in 1986 and at the same time he took a distribution license for the Danish Time/System product in the UK, which he combined with his ‘A’ Time ideas and training.

In 1992 he launched his own planning system designing specifically for his book 'A' Time- The busy Manager's Action Plan for Effective Self Management.


Like Time Manager and Time/System, ‘A’ Time became very popular around the world (Europe, USA, Japan, Africa and South Korea). James states that he sold 750,000 books and that (literally) thousands of managers were trained in his system.

Again, this system deserves a post of its own! Has anyone pictures of an original ‘A’ Time system or pages?

Where did Filofax feature in all this? In a nutshell - it didn’t! With massive sales in the mid-1980’s, it was already a hugely successful company. Profits in 1986, for example, were £1.4 million on sales of £6.7 million. It was only when the company turned heavily loss-making following a collapse in demand in 1989 that the new owners (Transwood Earl) started looking into other products – such as different sized organisers (A5, M2, Deskfax etc) and different markets.

Entering the time management sector didn’t come until the late 1990’s, by which time Filofax was owned by USA’s Day Runner and when paper based time management systems had been largely superseded by electronic PDAs such as the Psion organiser and desktop/ laptop packages. I used the “Time Manager for Windows” programme from about 1993 and packages such as Microsoft Outlook for Windows were well established by 1997.

Tomorrow, I’ll delve a bit into the origins of Filofax Time Management, its’ products and short-lived existence together with a look at the final catalogue from 2006.


Copyrights to all material acknowledged - Tim Edwards, Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire UK

25 comments:

  1. Very interesting reading. Thanks for this article!

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  2. Thanks Tim, this was very interesting and timely for me. I was definitely feeling a bit 'flapsi hapsi' at the beginning of this year with a change in job roles at work, plus a couple of new elephant-size personal goals, and a lot of little bright ideas popping up! I have been getting things done, but not always confident they were the right things. I knew I wanted to clarify something like my 'key areas', but looking at GTD and 7 Habits concepts didn't help that much. I like the idea of 9 key areas plus area 10 for ideas. That seems like a reasonable number, and seeing your real life example helped me to make my own list that just might work for keeping things in balance...

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    1. Thanks Ingrid - "Elephant tasks" and breaking them down into bite-sized chunks to be tackled a bite every day, is another Time Manager concept.

      Identifying and sticking to Key Areas has, without doubt, been the most effective time management tool that I've ever used. It's amazing how everything in your life (and I mean everything!) can fit into one of your key areas. So, for example, "Me" might include medical, diet, fitness, hobbies, spiritual, reading, personal development etc.

      There's a lot of similarities between the different systems. You can always mix and match. Good luck!

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  3. I *love* the phrase 'flapsi-hapsi'!
    Great article!

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    1. For more on this delightfully Danish phrase see:
      http://shop.timemanager.com/shop/uk/cms-7.html

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  4. Love this article and I am looking forward to your update! Flapsi Hapsi is a lovely phrase and I feel as though this is what I've been suffering for way too long! Time to hoover up those needles and get some momentum going, I will look into the 9 + 1 key areas and see if that makes more sense. Thanks for taking the time to do this, and love your pen too - is it a Waterman??

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    1. Gosh! That fountain pen must be 25 years old now! It's a Parker Duofold with an 18ct gold left-hander nib. I must use it more - writes better than a Frixion anyday!

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    2. Yes you should, it's beautiful! I'm going to have a look for one myself :)

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  5. Excellent overview, Tim!

    About 4 years ago, I was looking around for some time management oriented pages for my binder and stumbled across Time/System. After contacting the US office, they sent me a bunch of sample pages to review. Thought they were very nicely done. Ordered the A5 starter kit which comes with a simple binder and a very nice storage box with hinged lid full of various types of planning pages as well as diary, contacts, etc.

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  6. Thank you for a excellent guest post, Tim.
    I've been feeling a bit flapsi-hapsi recently, but I know that getting my Filofax back up to date will help with that. Looking forward to your other posts in 'Tim week' here :)

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  7. Tim, thanks for a great post. I typed a more detailed comment, but it disappeared...... I have some original ‘A’ Time pages, plus the pink version of FF TM when they took over AT and some original TS pages. I tried the email address you gave in an earlier post but it keeps bouncing back. Let me know and I’ll send you the link to my dropbox. Excuse if I've double posted - the comments box on this site is playing up.

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    1. Yes, please! 'A' Time crops up again in our story and there may still be time to include a photo! Timatwestwoodlodgedotcodotuk will take attachments.

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  8. I love this! Planners should definitely focus on time management again. I don't focus so much on time, however, I focus more on 'stuff' management- to-dos, projects, etc. Thanks for this post, Tim, I hope it gets lots more people interested in using their planners for actual time management, and not just decorating!

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    1. Brilliant! "Stuff Management" describes much more accurately where most of us are at! Trying to process/prioritise/ deal with/ delay/ delegate/ignore/ bin more "stuff" each day than there is new "stuff" landing on our desks - or more usually - in our "in" box!

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    2. Well said!.....

      Agree 110%.....

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  9. Thanks, Tim for a great read. Now where do I get those yuppy badges?!

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    1. Believe it or not - eBay! 29 sold. More than 10 currently available!

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/YUPPIES-DO-IT-WITH-A-FILOFAX-RETRO-EIGHTIES-BADGE-BUTTON-PIN-1inch-25mm-diam-/251076371546?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item3a7551645a

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  10. Excellent article, I really enjoyed this.

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  11. Great article Tim.

    With apologies if this was covered elsewhere...The A5 TMI seems to have 6 holes, do you know if they are the same spacing as FF?

    Looking forward to the other posts

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    1. Ah! I wondered if anyone would spot the six holes! Time Manager A5 of course has 4 holes, spaced as Filofax Personal/ TMI Original but without the centre holes. This is NOT the same spacing as Filofax A5.

      In 2012 I fitted a 13mm ring mechanism to an A5 Flex to produce a portable A5 ring-bound planner. I had to use a Krause ring mechanism and this was from an early Time Manager Compact so I needed 6 holed paper. All I had to do was pass the pages through a punch to add the centre holes!
      See http://philofaxy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/guest-post-in-search-of-ultimate.html

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  12. My goodness - this all brings back memories. I still have a couple of Time/System binders (one 'compact'? and an A5)

    Back in the mid 80s Time/System offered free places on their two-day courses to training managers to sample (and then hopefully book). They didn't know quite what to make of me - I think I was the first teacher that had attended one of the courses! I do have fond memories of the course though and of it being very useful. Needless to say, education budgets at the time didn't run to that level of training expertise.

    I still use a TMI 'satellite' wallet (forerunner to Filofax Flex), although I no longer use the TMI 18 month diary, as I never particularly liked the layout or the paper stock they used.

    I recall that there was another company at the time offering something similar called bps (or maybe bpsi?) - business planning systems ? I used some of their forms for a while and I know that they also had a network of consultants offering training, as I did some work with one of them for a while.

    I still maintain that more people would use the TMI and/or Time/System stationery if it were cheaper and better promoted.

    Best Wishes,
    David

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  13. David - are you thinking of IPPS? International Paper Planning Systems Has also been around since the 1980s. I didn't include them only due to lack of space. They still exist. www.ipps.co.uk

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  14. Tim - that doesn't look familiar at all. I'm fairly convinced that the name was 'bps' which was deliberately in lower case. The A5 system and stationery had the same 6 ring spacing as the Time/System binders. For a couple of years, I mixed and matched forms from different providers to get the best set-up. I'm kicking myself, because it was only last year that I threw out a couple of years' worth of notes etc., which included some of their time management forms.

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  15. Thanks, Tim. This is a great post - not sure how I missed it until now.

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