Upcoming Changes to the 2Time blog

You’re likely to notice some changes in the format of this newsletter as I head into the last stages of editing my new book: Perfect Time-Based Productivity. It’s due out in a month or so, but its content is causing me to make some big changes to my blog and also this newsletter / ezine.

The reason is simple: I am determined to honor and share the research findings I uncovered while writing the book, which is the best way to acknowledge the scientists who have worked quietly behind the scenes to further our knowledge.

As you may know, I havea library of over 120 time management research papers, most of which are peer reviewed. However, to complete the book, I had to go much further afield due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field. I saved over 400 papers, and reviewed many others, from fields such as psychology, adult learning, child development, industrial engineering, process management and brain science. Each individual paper I read seemed to contribute a small piece, but not very much by itself. I had to read lots of source documents to pull together a coherent picture.

To my knowledge, the book is the only one that brings together these many points of view. While they all made a contribution, I had to leave a lot of good ideas behind – there was simply no space in the book to include them all. One example is the concept of a “goal intention” – the commitments that lie behind the activities you undertake each day.

These ideas deserve to be aired, shared and debated, using more than anecdotes. For example, in my book I address the fact that “time management” doesn’t exist – and the research behind that assertion. At the same time, there are a number of recent YouTube videos which say the very same thing. The difference is that these videos are based on anecdotes – not one mentions the research that’s actually been done.

It’s a good example of what’s missing in this field – a solid link between people doing actual experiments, academics who have completed studies over the years and professionals who are looking for a solid foundation on which to make real improvements. This foundation needs to be made up of more than a bunch of interesting stories and “just-copy-what-I-do” exhortations.

This is why I’d like to take the blog and ezine on the 2Time Labs website to a new place, distinct from the past in which it’s been more of an all-purpose blog. Now, I’ll be narrowing it’s focus down to be just a source of applied research ideas, inspired by the following websites which I think serve similar goals:

Kathryn Welds – Kathryn Welds Curated Research and Commentary

Eric  Barker – Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Once the book is available to the general public I can relax a bit – there’s no need to repeat its contents and I’ll be free to build on the tapestry of ideas it represents. I will assume (rightly or wrongly) that a blog post reader has already read the book, then build from a common point of understanding to go more in depth, into new territory.

I’m excited about what I can accomplish in this new format, because there are a lot of ideas I’m eager to explore, including one very basic notion – “Does time exist?” (My search for experts willing to speak to this particular has been unsuccessful.)

The 2Time Labs podcast  will follow along the same lines, as I seek out researchers and authors who can move our collective knowledge forward (i.e. and not just repeat the usual anecdotes, stories and lists.)

What if This Isn’t For You?

It’s likely that there are some subscribers who aren’t interested in the depth of time-based productivity. If that’s the case, I have a solution. My subscribers over at my book’s website – http://perfect.mytimedesign.com – are going to also enjoy a revamp. I’ll be creating a new ezine or set of updates that is intended for immediate application, as if you were in one of my classes.

Once again, my book will be a useful starting points, as it includes all the forms I use in my live and online training programs plus summaries of all the core concepts. Anyone who has read it, will find that the website’s mailing list will be an invaluable way to learn how to implement the plans they developed while reading the book.

It’s goal is to be practical and down-to-earth, but based as much as possible on the studies shared in book and on the 2Time Labs website. I’m hoping it will provide some relief for those who want to implement new practices immediately, but want to know that there is something behind it other than the author’s personality.

For Those Who Are Experts – or Aspire to Be Experts

Of course, I’ll still have the website for those who are time advisers (trainers, coaches, consultants, professional organizers) at http://mytimedesign.com. I have also opened up a new content oriented mailing list for those who are bloggers, authors or researchers. It’s a way for me to to give pointers to research that I’m not using – breakthrough content that can be turned into blogs, white papers, podcasts and more. More information on that list can be found here.

For Everyone Else

Of course, I’ll continue to update Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest but these are more “by the way” channels than essentials to the direction in which I’m headed. You will receive updates as usual.

You may be someone who decides it’s not for you at all and unsubscribe, which I understand. Thanks for being a reader or subscriber!

Time for a Change of Gears

As you may have noticed, over the past three months I have taken the chance to step away from regular posts to the 2Time Labs website.  While some of that time was spent writing my book (a business fable based on on Time Management 2.0 principles) I also spent some time looking at a new direction I want to pursue in 2012.

2011 was a big year in which I was finally able to clarify and name 2Time Labs as a venue for the best research in Time Management 2.0.  It’s taken 10+ years of thinking and 6+ years of writing to get to the point where I can say that the fundamental principles are robust, and just feel “right.”

While they are no means widespread, the ideas that:
– we each need a unique time management system to be our most productive
– what we are using today is fine… unless it’s not, in which case an upgrade is required
– an upgrade must take into account the system we already have developed and are using
– we should look at best practices from wherever we can find them to discover the most important gaps in our time management skills
– most of us cannot close the gaps in an instant — we need a plan to change habits gradually over time
– habit change is hard, and a supportive environment can be designed to help make the changes stick over the long haul

Here at 2Time Labs I have been living and breathing these concepts in blog posts, audios and videos, and also in MyTimeDesign and NewHabits programs.  They have started to show up in pockets here and there around the Internet and in books, but as a coherent philosophy it remains a well-kept “secret.”

In 2012 I hope to start a brand new phase in which I take Time Management 2.0 out of the lab, and place it in the hands of developers who can use it as an engine for solving tough performance problems such as Inbox Overload, time-stress, Information Overwhelm and chronic disorganization.

Unfortunately, at the moment, I am the only developer using these principles that I am aware of, and I’d like to give you some insight into what you might expect this year.

The first part of the plan is to retain the 2Time Labs website as the best source of time management research in the world. This should be good news for those who love this kind of stuff as the content will clearly be developed with the goal of advancing the thinking in this field.  There are likely to be fewer posts than the 3 per week I am usually able to maintain, and I’m going to try even harder to find others who are doing research in time management to be contributors.

What it also means is that 2Time Labs is likely to become too geeky for some readers who aren’t into all the fine details, data and definitions that  the site needs to get into in order to find and create the best thinking.

They might find it to be a bit boring.

However, the second part of the plan will come as good news to this group, which I hope will become the majority of our visitors.  I’m going to take the rarely used MyTimeDesign.com site and convert it to a place to find immediate assistance in a range of time management-related issues.  You know what they are… the ones that start with “I don’t have time to…”
– work through all my email
– take time off to improve my productivity
– deal with information overload
– balance my life
– get rid of all the clutter
– exercise and lose weight
– have a quality relationship with others I care for
– spiritual stuff
– do all my work on time
– pick up that forgotten hobby
– start a business
– go back to school
– coach my employees
– help someone else improve their time management skills

My intention is to give unique answers to these questions using all the thinking that’s resident in 2Time Labs, including the fundamental principles I listed at the beginning.

Oh, and I should mention…. I want it to be fun!

As a research location, 2Time Labs has been pretty dry… I guess I have been trying to recapture my early days in AT&T Bell Labs!  Maybe it’s just the way research has to be… focused on facts.

I’m shifting some of my time away from done with that — now I want the solutions offered at the new MyTimeDesign to be helpful, easy to learn, engaging and fun-filled.  I plan to devise and offer more simulations / training games, more quizzes and more advice geared towards White, Yellow and Orange Belts (with the occasional bit of Green Belt advice thrown in.)

As you may know, I recently enhanced my online training program, MyTimeDesign 1.1.Plus+ with some powerful simulations, using the very best e-learning techniques that exist.  This is just the beginning, and signal a move away from learning by listening/reading, to learning by playing/doing/experimenting.  You can get a simple idea of what’s coming in the future by checking: http://www.knowledgefactor.com/blog.

This is a far cry from the days when you’d buy a time management or productivity book, and have someone tell you “Here’s what I do, that you don’t, that you should.”

Instead, you’ll be able to discover what you don’t know, or aren’t doing, in engaging virtual environments.  Once you have figured this out, I want to make it fun to take the next step ; to create habit-changing plans that  have a super-high chance for success.  And… if I can use that word again… I want it to be fun!

Thanks for being my partner on this journey – it’s an exciting time and we’ll all benefit.

Francis

P.S. At the moment, I believe that the first topic I’ll focus on will be a meta-issue…. how do you help someone else improve their skills?  Stay tuned!

Why I’m Inspired by CK Prahalad

A long time ago when I was a young consultant at AT&T Bell Labs I remember reading and then advocating the ideas of CK Prahalad, the recently deceased professor, thought leader and management consultant.

He shared some of his interviews before his death in Strategy and Business, on the topic of thought leadership and the source of new ideas.  Not surprisingly, it echoed some of the 2Time Labs discoveries around building competence slowly, via deliberate practice.  He also says:

I was very keen to write. I found writing was the best way to clarify my own thinking. When you talk you can be vague, and the English language can be delightfully vague. When you sit down to write, you see whether you can express your ideas clearly or not. That habit has stayed with me. When I think I have an interesting idea, I try to write it down for myself first.

…it takes time to develop a new idea. If you are a writer, like me, then what you write on any given day may be only a fragment of what you know or what you believe, because you may not be ready to write down everything you have to say. There are breakthroughs, but they happen over a long period of time.

To me, the problems of greatest interest are things that you cannot explain with the current prevailing theory.

In developing all of these ideas, I learned not to start with the methodology, but with the problem. A lot of times, research tends to start with the methodology. I prefer to start with a problem that’s of interest and apply whatever methodology is appropriate.

Every one of my research projects started the same way: recognizing that the established theory did not explain a certain phenomenon. We had to stay constantly focused on weak signals. Each weak signal was a contradictory phenomenon that was not happening across the board. You could very easily say, “Dismiss it, this is an outlier, so we don’t have to worry about it.” But the outliers and weak signals were the places to find a different way to think about the problem.

If you look historically at the strategy literature, starting with Alfred D. Chandler Jr.’s Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise [MIT Press, 1962], the most powerful ideas did not come out of multiple examples. They came out of single-industry studies and single case studies. Big impactful ideas are conceptual breakthroughs, not descriptions of common patterns. You can’t define the “next practice” with lots of examples. Because, by definition, it is not yet happening.

For example, with the “Twenty Hubs and No HQ” article [which described a proposed structure for multinational companies], we didn’t prove the value of this system through examples, because we didn’t have examples. But we laid out a logic about how it might work, connecting the dots, showing a new pattern. I believe that conceptual breakthroughs come when you see a new pattern. And you use stories or companies’ work as examples and illustrations of the concept, not as proof of good practice. In The New Age of Innovation, for instance, I write about Aravind’s remarkable cataract surgery practice, but I use it as an example, not as proof. I never say, “Because of Aravind’s example, we know this should work.” Current practices, however successful they are, may not be robust enough to stand the test of time.

Of course, we all invented our own terms. Indeed, the biggest impediment in the growth and strategy literature is that, unlike in the financial literature, there are no standardized terms. There is no organizing thesis and principle. My bottom of the pyramid becomes someone else’s “base of the pyramid.” What’s the difference? There’s not even agreement about appropriate units of analysis. Is it one person? A team? A division? What is the fundamental building block of HR?

Over the next year, I came to the conclusion that it would be very easy to stay on course and keep mining these ideas and writing more about them — but then I was likely to write a mediocre next book. I think many writers fall into that trap. So in the late 1990s I started looking for the next big idea.

This perfectly encapsulates the reason why I share ideas here at 2Time Labs.  When I worked at AT&T Bell Labs, we published Technical Memorandums and Internal Memorandums in order to disseminate ideas, get feedback and bring some order to jumbles of ideas.  That’s apparently what Prahalad used to do also.

What he says about “weak signals” is quite important to the work we do also.  There’s not a whole lot of evidence for many of the popular theories in time management, but there are certain patterns that can be seen, and they go well beyond today’s cliches.  Time Management 2.0 is made up of such patterns, and there is scant evidence of their truth… at the moment.  Emerging research by experts such as Dezhi Wu is confirming these patterns, but it might be a while before they are accepted as everyday, obvious truth.

I love the warning at the end, and in fact, the article revived an idea I have had for some time that connects the dots between strategic planning and time management.  In our firm, we have been showing our clients how to craft 30 year strategies and it’s something I haven’t written much about since Amie Devero, a former partner of Framework Consulting, made note of the technique in her book, Powered by Principle.

All in all, I was deeply inspired by his example — and his passing was a great loss.

 

Curious? I Have Upgraded My About Page

I am amazed to say that one of the most popular pages of my website is the About page that describes who I am, what 2Time Labs is all about and also offers a definition of Time Management 2.0.

To be honest, when I developed the page I thought no0one would read it.  Apparently, I was quite wrong about that so I have updated the page, added some pictures to my bio and put in some new information that reflects the latest happenings in my life, and the 2Time Labs website.  It’s a little slice of what makes me “tick.”

Click this link to be taken to the About page, or Click here to be taken to my updated bio.

 

 

More Than a New Tag-Line

I have a new tag-line at my site:  “The World’s Best Resource for Time Management 2.0

It struck me a few days ago as I was looking around for resources to recommend for a class I’m teaching, that I had nowhere on the Internet to point them to better than my own site.  I don’t mean to brag, but the fact is I seem to be aggressively hunting down, processing and writing about the topic of time management at a pretty hot pace, perhaps as fast as any PhD student might do in the early phases of their research.

It’s not that I have all the ideas, even though I do have a long list of items that I want to address in new posts.  Instead, in the past few months I have found myself delving into the academic research and finding some good/bad news.  There’s some good thinking, but the bad news is that there has been little or no momentum or continuity of thought in the field.  It’s as if one or two papers are written by an author in a 3 year period, only to have them go off to do something completely different and unrelated immediately after publication.

It’s too bad, but I am determined to have this site become the single best source of time management research, wherever and whenever it’s been done in the world.

But I just don’t want a lot of depth for it’s own sake.  My eye is actually on the conversion of good ideas into upgraded habits that better the lives of working professionals around the world.  My mission is to solve the problem of unnecessary time-stress once and for all, and to bring the kind of peace of mind that we all want, in spite of having full lives, busy jobs and active families.  Fully committed, but balanced.

One thing you won’t find here… tired ideas that are repeated on hundreds of sites, buttressed by worn out cliches and superficial thinking.  There are lots of “top 10 tips for time management” floating around that say nothing new, leading many to think that they have already heard every useful message on the topic, and that there’s no need to continue listening.

All I can say is “stay tuned,” as there’s a great deal of work for us all to do to stay ahead of the increasing demands on our time, new technology and inevitable life changes.  It’s a time to pay more attention, not less, to this important aspect of our lives.

Perfect Time Management

perfect-cover-v1.jpgI have come up with a working title for my book — “Perfect Time Management.

Where did that particular name come from?

I have been scratching my head for a few weeks thinking about this as I work on it, trying to imagine what the ultimate and ideal result might be for someone who reads the book.

I finally decided that a user who takes the steps to design their own system would design one that is “perfect.”

It can’t be bought off the shelf and be copied from others, any more than a dream home or a custom hot-rod can come from anywhere else other than the mind of the creator.

However, like a home or a car, it must follow certain design principles or it just might not work.  Hence the need for a certain kind of guidance, but not a prescription on what the system should look like.

It would be “perfect” because  it would match the lives that they live, versus someone else’ life.

My goal is to give readers a way of thinking about their time management systems that will provide a new level of empowering awareness.  The ultimate result I want is that a lot more professionals take charge of this important part of their lives, using the advice of many, but never relinquishing the ultimate responsibility.

Once published, this book will provide the help I was looking for when I started writing about time management 3 years ago, after I was dumbstruck at the books and blogs I read that made the implicit assumption that systems designed in Denver or Cambridge could work here in Kingston.

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Writing a Time Management 2.0 Book

2009 seems to be the right year for me to take the 2Time principles out into the larger world, in the form of a book.

I have two ideas in mind for the book. The first is in the form of a how-to, written as an abstract set of concepts with lots of examples.  The other idea is to write the book as a fable, in which a single person meets up on some kind of guru who teaches him/her how to use the principles in order to bring more peace of mind to his/her life.

As I am writing this I can see a third option, in which the first book is in the form of a fable, and takes a user though Principles 1-7, and the second is an abstract book that takes them through Principles 8-11.

If you have an opinion on which way I should go, please let me know, and be my partner through this process that will hopefully produce a publishable product by early 2010.  I’d love to see an example of a book that I could follow that others have found useful.

A New Name for This Blog

I have been considering coming up with a new name for my blog.

Up until now, I have used the word “system” to describe the 2Time approach, but am starting to think that I have it all wrong.

I have never wanted 2Time to replace GTD®, Covey or any other particular system, but instead to support them and act as an umbrella framework or as an approach that could be used by a user to evaluate every other system that exists, but most importantly their own.  The 2Time approach is looking more like a tool for people who are developing their own time management systems,and my experience tells me that there are very few who are following a system that anyone else designed with anything close to perfection.

The only system they are following perfectly is their own.

2Time is also a way to evolve their time management system from wherever their starting point is, to any point in the future they wish to be.  I see this as a natural next step for someone who wants to create their own system.

In the same way that web 2.0 has come to be about user generated content, I see the next step in time management systems being the creation of user generated systems.  In other words, there is a revolution on the way to what I might call  “Time Management 2.0.”  In much the same way that Web 2.0 has been about user-developed content, I think that the same level of user-determination is coming to personal productivity.

My only surprise is that no-one else is seeing and saying the same message, as it seem obvious to me that it only acknowledges what people are already doing.  They take classes, and read books, and go off to do their own thing.  Sometimes it works out, and sometime it doesn’t, but I plan to keep spreading this message until a light bulb goes off, and becoming the designer of your own system is realized as an obvious thing to do.

Which brings me back to the name of my blog.  Should I call it:
The 2Time Management Approach  (no more claiming to be a system)
2Time Management  (a shorter more spiffy title)
2.0Time Management  (Hmm… maybe I can ditch the zero)

Time Management 2.0  (self-explanatory, and catchy)

The Time Management 2.0 Revolution  (dashing and a bit dangerous)
The 2Time Management Framework (my company is called Framework Consulting so this may be confusing.)

I’d love to hear your opinions on this issue of a new name.  I think the clearer the name, the more easily someone will spend 30 seconds on the site and immediately realize that they need to log off and go design their own time management system  (That might not be a good thing…  😉 )

But it would be a great experience, and if I could leave this work I have started in capable hands, I’d feel on top of the world!

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Questions and Suggestions

I just visited an interesting blog in which the author devotes Fridays to answering questions from his readers.

I’d like to do something similar, and to invite readers to make suggestions and ask questions that I will answer on Fridays, and if I don’t get any questions during the week, I’ll just post up a regular submission.

I believe that  I will also add a form here on the blog with a simple response form so that someone can send me a question or suggestion directly.  In my prior post I introduced a FAQ file that I hope will answer some of the more general questions, so you might want to check that file before sending me your questions.

Thanks in advance!