One of the cornerstones of Stephen Covey's best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, 1990) is time management. Covey has built a multimillion dollar business around selling planners and other organizational aids worldwide. But if keeping one's life in order is the foundation for success, this month's American Demographics exclusive survey reveals that few Americans are destined for greatness.
The survey, conducted by Arlington Heights, Ill.-based market research firm Market Facts' TeleNation, found that the vast majority of Americans (80 percent) identify themselves as â€œrealistic planners,â€? those who plan what they can, but don't get carried away. Only 6 percent of adults consider themselves â€œobsessive planners,â€? those who plan their day minute by minute. Another 7 percent are â€œlife or death planners,â€? those who only plan the most crucial events, and 5 percent of Americans say they never plan a thing. The nationally representative telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted between November 2 and 4, 2001.
Many of us rely on conventional methods to keep track of our lives: 47 percent of adults use a day planner or organizer, 44 percent use a desk calendar, 42 percent make â€œto doâ€? lists and 16 percent use Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). (Numbers add up to more than 100 percent because respondents were allowed to declare more than one method of planning.) But the more common planning methods are much less formal. In fact, 56 percent of Americans say they often keep track of appointments by merely writing them down on a scrap of paper and 50 percent just keep dates in their heads. Thirteen percent say they write notes on their hands to help them remember daily activities.
Perhaps not surprisingly, young adults are most likely to put pen to palm to help them remember what's on their plate (28 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use this method, compared with just 12 percent of those age 55 and over). But young adults are also more likely than their elders to use formal devices, such as day planners and PDAs. Fifty-three percent of adults under the age of 35 use a day planner or organizer, and 22 percent use a PDA, compared with 38 percent and 10 percent of the 55 and older crowd who use day planners and PDAs, respectively. When it comes to keeping track of important dates, older Americans are twice as likely as younger generations to use the tried-and-true desk calendar (51 percent of adults age 55 and older, compared with 24 percent of adults under age 25).
Regardless of their method of time keeping, the American Demographics/Market Facts' TeleNation survey found that, on average, Americans plan their lives 16 days in advance. The youngest adults (age 18 to 24) and oldest groups (55 and older) plan the furthest ahead, averaging 22 days and 21 days, respectively. Adults age 25 to 34 plan a mere 7 days in advance, while those between 35 and 54 plan about two weeks ahead (15 days). How do men and women compare? Overall, women plan for the next 15 days, while men typically know what they're doing for the next 17 â€” even if they don't often show it.
Does all this planning make a difference? Apparently so. Believe it or not, fully half of Americans claim they meet all â€” yes, every single one â€” of their appointments and deadlines. Another 42 percent say they miss a deadline here or there, but overall make their meetings. Six percent admit they miss more appointments than they keep. And 1 percent of respondents admit they never keep their dates.
Those who have the hardest time keeping engagements have a high school education or less. A full 12 percent of those who haven't been to college say that, at most, they meet some or none of their planned events. Traveling south anytime soon? Feel free to be fashionably late. Ten percent of Southerners also say they regularly miss appointments, the most of any region in the country.
If you're going to be late, just make sure that it's not a woman you keep waiting. Women are significantly more likely than men (53 percent versus 47 percent) to meet all of their appointments on time. Hell hath no fury like a woman stood up.
How Do You Plan, Jan?
When it comes to organizing their lives, men are much more likely to try to keep appointments in their heads or write them on their hands than women.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PREFERRED METHODS OF PLANNING AND KEEPING TRACK OF MEETINGS, APPOINTMENTS AND DEADLINES?
|Informal notes written on scraps of paper||53%||58%|
|Keep them in head||55%||46%|
|A day planner or organizer||43%||50%|
|A desk calendar||41%||48%|
|A formal â€œto doâ€? list||38%||45%|
|A Personal Digital Assistant||20%||11%|
|Write on hand||16%||11%|
|Source: American Demographics/Market Facts' TeleNation|