Unconscious Time Management Systems

time-management-20070522.jpgEvery single human being is using some kind of time management system, whether they are aware of it nor not.

The above statement is one of the core principles of Time Management 2.0, and I think I am on firm ground in saying that everyone who comes to this blog is using some kind of system at this very moment.

At some point in the average day, we consider a mental or written list of actions that we’d like to complete, and make some decisions about the amount of time we have at our disposal. We know intuitively that we must make choices, and in the average day we are unlikely to get “everything” done, unless we define “everything” to be the same as “nothing” or “close to nothing.”

The habits that we use to make these choices, execute them, and think about them afterwards comprise the elements of our time management system.

I have surmised from anecdotal evidence that most users develop their systems as teenagers. That they do so without guidance can be a problem. The problem comes when their life commitments overwhelm their systems, and they don’t know how to respond.

This can happen slowly, such as the case of a steady increase in job responsiblities. Or, it can happen suddenly with a big life change, such as a promotion, or getting married. Iin either case there is a palpable feeling of being overwhelmed and burdened. Some will bury their heads, others will complain and a few will try to escape their obligations by retreating in some way.

And perhaps most will simply take time away from other things such as their job, their family or their leisure-time, in order to get the most important things done.

In essence, they only have one way to do things, and often believe that the answer to the problem is to buckle down and do more of what they always do.

The “more” often takes the form of making decisions to procrastinate less, try harder, be more focused, get serious, apply themselves, etc. These approaches rarely work, because a time management system built for a 19 year old does not work for the same person at age 39 because the system is being mis-applied, rather than because of a character flaw. Feelings of guilt and frustration are the kind of feelings that come from these kinds of unworkable improvements.

When users understand a few basics of Time Management 2.0, however, life becomes much simpler.

  • Basic #1: I am using a time management system that I developed for a prior time in my life
  • Basic #2: I can upgrade my time management system to fit my current commitments and habit-style
  • Basic #3: Once I upgrade, I will only benefit if I manage the system on a continuous basis and revisit my design when the need arises

Users who becomes conscious, in other words, gives themselves a gift of expanded choices, so that they can escape the self-blame and guilt that is often experienced as their lives become increasingly complex.

The Company’s “Guidelines”

istock_000002231792small.jpgI just found a most interesting set of corporate guidelines.

It comes from a marketing company called Sandia, in a document entitled “Being More Productive: Working more effectively will greatly benefit our clients, the agency and yourself.

The document describes 16 ideas for its employees on how to increase productivity, ranging from #16 – “Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7” to #15 – “Prioritize.”

I think the ideas are wonderful, but there is not a single mention of basic Time Management 2.0 ideas, starting with the idea that the user is responsible for their own time management system, and must define, manage and master it for themselves.

In fact, in the document, there is no mention of the user at all.

It made me wonder —  was the article intended to be followed by all employees?  The language seemed to be a bit “mandatory” which I imagine could create all sorts of resentment– it’s very “1.0” in its tone.  The statement that “working more effectively will greatly benefit our clients, the agency and myself” which implies some kind of hierarchy in which my experience is at the bottom of the pile.

I would suggest to Sandia that their model is, on the whole, unsustainable.

The problem is in the assumptions that might be underlying the list, which include the notion that habits are easy to break, and that each employee should be using the same time management system as everyone else.

Research of all kinds shows that ingrained habits are difficult to make and/or break, and each person is different.  Employees  need to know this in order to see why it is they won’t be successful trying to put all these ideas into effect immediately.  Managers also need to know that they cannot evaluate their employees on how well they are implementing the 16 items the day after the list is passed around, or even a year after.

But maybe the biggest problem of all is that the employee seems to be the lowest priority, and a mere tool of the company’s productivity needs.  I don’t know for a fact if Sandia intentionally means to put customers first and employees last, but the way the document is written strongly implies that this is so.

I can’t imagine that the company means to replace a love of customer and company above a concern for self by just stating it in a document.  I think it’s a smarter strategy to speak to employee’s greatest concern when it comes to productivity, which is that it contribute to their peace of mind and other desired emotional states.

The days are gone when employees can be thought of as mere “tools” of a company that exist in order to produce results.  Thinking of them in this way misses the mark, and probably lead the company to think that putting out this list would result in changed behavior.

What employees do need is help to design their own system, and to see that the list of 16 items is a useful set of ideas that they must now work on to make their own.

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Time Management 2.0

hands-up-diverse.JPG

One of the definitions of the Web 2.0 phenomena reads as follows:

A term to generally describe web sites and services where the content is shaped partially or entirely by the users (instead of being read-only and published by a sponsoring company)

The 2Time blog is built on the idea that something similar is happening in the world of time management.  There is a migration underway and its taking us away from time management systems that are defined by others, towards systems that are  owned, defined and improved by users.

As such, it is a revolution of sorts… a shift in the way people view an essential component of their lives that is bringing with it a new level of responsibility, power and freedom.

It’s just like the revolution that Web 2.0 ushered in.  Ownership of key content, relationships and communication channels moved away from companies and towards users in a tremendous shift in power in which information-creation was democratized and individuals came to trust their own judgment, and those of many others, over that of established experts.  It has been a gradual but steady deepening of the “Wisdom of the Crowds.”

Well, strap yourselves in, because another quiet revolution is underway: “Time Management 2.0.” Some say that the Web 2.0 transformation was built on tools that were built over a decade ago, but are only just being exploited to the fullest by millions of people.  The same applies to time management, where this “new” term is actually  describing a phenomena that has always existed.

You and I have already been doing Time Management 2.0.  We sat in time management classes, or read books, nodded our heads in agreement, and afterward, went off to do our own thing.  After all, who could follow the prescriptions of someone who insisted that you label your folders this way or that, or used their new term to describe something you already understood, or who tried to redefine everyday words such as “now.”  We listened to their detailed practices and we knew deep down that we could never change our habits to fit their system.  God bless the few that could, but the rest of us were the dunces in the class who just couldn’t measure up by instantly turning over a new leaf. soapboxderby200701.jpg

Instead, we took a little from here and there and made up our own thing… sometimes it worked, but oftentimes we failed, because we couldn’t quite reverse engineer the recipe they were using.  Nevertheless, it still felt better than the feeling of overwhelm that came from reading the latest “1001 Top Tips for Time Management…”  Doing our own thing at kept put us in charge, and made us experience the success that kids sometimes feel when they also “do their own thing.”

The funny thing is that the experts haven’t noticed that we aren’t quite following the way we should.  The fact is, they sincerely believe that their systems work, and do you know… they are right. They DO work… for them.

The rest of us out here don’t need a different or better or smarter guru.  Instead, we need help to design our own system, and we need help in order to make them work to fit our needs, and our unique habits.

And that’s why “Time Management 2.0” is not a new idea, but a phrase that more accurately describes an already existing reality in a way that might help us all to get what we want at the end.  More productivity. Greater peace of mind.  Less stress.  More time spent doing important things, and less time doing trivia things.

But even these words are misleading, as each person’s interpretation of them is individual, and unique.  Therefore, the time management systems that produce them must be different from person to person as well.

This is where time management 2.0 starts — with me empowering myself to master my own time management system that produces the results I want in my life.  That has got to be a close description of what we all want.

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Rudeness or Poor Time Management Skills

please-don-t-interrupt-me-while-i-m-ignoring-you-posters.jpgIt’s happened to all of us… we are in what we think is a useful conversation, when the person we are talking with, suddenly  switches over to their Blackberry, or cell phone.

In the moment, they  make a decision that the unknown call or email that has just come in is more important than the conversation they are having with us.

We think to ourselves “How rude!” as we get that partial-attention that is now commonplace when the person we are talking with is giving us “just so much” of their attention and no more.

I have been on the giving and receiving end of this poor habit.

I know that when I do it, I trick myself into thinking that I can get away with it, and I know that I don’t intend to be rude, but in that  moment I am engaging in a habit that undermines my productivity as I attempt to multitask my way to greater accomplishment.

One of my clients, a phone company, had executives who had developed a habit of answering their cell phones at any moment, even in mid-sentence.  Another company had a policy of answering their landlines each and every time they rang, and refused to put in place a voicemail system.

The result in each case was very long meetings and a generally frenetic pace, as anything took precedence over the task at hand.   Even the unknown caller.

When an unknown caller or sender of email has that much power over our activities,  it destroys our productivity and peace of mind, as we eventually never really commit to getting anything completed without interruption.

That is the same as having a mindset that the thing we are working on in the moment might be important, but we are always on the look-out for more important things to whisk us away.  Of course, after the switch has taken place,  nothing has changed, as the new task is also only as good as the next interruption.

Those who suffer from this affliction never, ever have enough time go get anything done.

It’s not that they are rude — it’s just a sign of their unconscious ineffectiveness.

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Financial Upheavals and Better Time Management

wall_street.JPGThe recent financial upheavals have many, many people in the US scared about the future.

There is a feeling that things are spiraling out of the control of the average citizen, and that deeper, more chaotic forces have taken over.   They appear to be well outside of the influence of everyday Americans.

At times like this, people often focus on the things they can control, if only to have the experience of being able to influence their immediate world.

In a recent movie (28 Days,) I heard some excellent advice given by a pro-baseball player given to one of the patients in a rehab center.

The essence of his advice was that a pitcher needs to focus on the part of the pitch that he/she can control.  This equates to the sum of the moments that occur before the ball leaves the hand of the pitcher, and includes ensuring that their weight is balanced and that their eyes are looking at the target.

At times like these, people naturally turn to those things over which they have some control.  For example, their money management, relationships, qualifications for work, travel plans and health all come up for scrutiny.

Their time management habits are no exception, as they become more conscious of where they are unhappy with how their daily time is being used.  They look back at a typical day or week and determine that they could have used the time in a much better manner.

They also know deep down that they can’t get control of other aspects of their life if they are not able to manage their time differently.  Taking control of their health, for example, could mean making time for exercise.

It’s at this point that a user would do well to take an inventory of their current time management system.  In the 2Time approach, this is an easy step to take because of how  the 11 fundamentals and the belt system work together.

When used together, they give excellent insight into the gaps that exist in a user’s time management system.  They also provide the user with an opportunity to think about what kind, and volume of time demands they would like their time management system to handle.

If they realize that they want to take charge of their financial future by starting their own business in their spare time, for example, they could decide that their habits would have to change to handle this new challenge.

What is most exciting however, is what might not be mentioned — the fact that they are taking control of their time management system for the first time in their careers.  It dawns on them that they have been using “something” to manage their time that they have ignored for much of their professional lives.

The experience of taking control, for the first time, of something that’s so important is one that’s quite empowering.  Those that benefit the most are those that are determined to come out of the upcoming financial crisis stronger than when it started.

This goal is within everyone’s reach, and requires us to be willing to take advantage of the down-time, instead of merely “hunkering down” and retreating into our shells.

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Where Did the Day Go?

On yesterday’s “Obama post” the article mentions what it’s like to get to the end of a day wondering what the heck just happened.

I didn’t make the connection until now, but it’s exactly what happens when we complete a day without what I called “Awakeness” in this post from last week.

It’s the kind of busy-headedness that we can fall into in which all we are focused on is the task in front of us, at the cost of the bigger picture that really should be a part of our consciousness at all times.

I read an article a few months ago about the power of being able to maintain2 or more opposing thoughts in one’s mind at the same time.  The article can be found here.

It strikes me that this quality of Awakeness has something to do with being able to maintain a focus on the small and big picture at the very same time.  If we were to do so, we would never get to the end of the day and wonder what happened — we would know that happened.

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Blown Off-Track

Hurricanes have a funny way of throwing things off-track, and it certainly has affected my posting to this blog.  Gustav’s effects are still being felt, with roads, houses and bridges all disappearing from its onslaught.

The irony is  that it’s exactly the kind of thing that happens each time a natural disaster hits our shores.  What I have not yet learned is how to effectively deal with this kind of drama, although I suspect that it has something to do with going back to basics.

When my computer crashed the day after the hurricane hit, it brought all my work to a complete halt, and forced me to do a complete re-install when I discovered that my copy of XP Professional had gone bad.

It took me several days to get everything functional, and by then I was dealing with another hurricane – Ike – as I tried to make my way to Puerto Rico for a meeting.

Luckily, I lost only a few non-essential files ( as far as I know so far) and learned a lot about the need to do a good job of “Storing.”  This is the one fundamental I like the least, and have the hardest time implementing, but I was glad that I did a disaster recovery plan some time ago and was able to plug some empty holes.

Thank you Mozy.com (an awesome passive back-up system that saved me from total destruction.)

Yet, I still think that I have a way to go before  I am altogether happy about my productivity after a hurricane.

I just hope that I won’t have to learn that particular lesson this year!

A Time Management System for a LifeTime

One of the goals of 2Time is to help users create time management systems that last a lifetime.

What does that mean?

Most people start to think about time management when they become overwhelmed by some life change, such as getting married, having a child, being promote, being given additional responsibility, adding a new hobby or making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

As they take on new time demands they become acutely aware that their system is out of synch with their needs. Either one of two cases occurs.

Case #1 — Too Much New Stuff

The first mismatch happens when a user finds that their old practices don’t work, and that they simply are not keeping up. Time demands fall through the cracks, and if the job is an “important” one, they may have other people getting upset at their inability to deliver. They might even get upset with themselves, and blame themselves for either being lazy, procrastinating too much or having a bad memory.

Case #2 — Too Much of a System

In the odd case, users may either retire, get demoted or become disabled to some degree, and find themselves with a system that is geared for ten times as many time demands as they have at this moment in time. They might stress themselves out by trying to maintain a time management system they no longer need, with practices that are no longer necessary, but have become habitual.

The Answer

In both cases the answer is the same. Their time management system needs to be re-created to deal with the reality they are now dealing with in their lives. When the 11 fundamentals are known, this is not a difficult task.

A time management system that lasts a lifetime is easy to accomplish when users understand the fundamentals, and have mastered the practice of “Reviewing ” on a regular basis. The result is a flexible approach that allows them to evolve their system whenever their situation changes.

In this way, their time management system lasts a lifetime, as long as they are willing to do the work to make it current.

FAQ’s About 2Time

faq.jpgQ. What is 2Time?

Q. Why does anyone need a new approach to time management?

Q. Does 2Time apply to every professional?

Q. Do I have to abandon the system I am currently using?

Q. Do I have to buy anything?

Q. How is this different from all the other systems and approaches out there?

Q. Is it hard to design your own time management system?

Q. Must I set the goal for myself of getting a Black Belt as soon as I can?

Q. Is it better to be at a higher belt than a lower belt?

Q. Where does the name 2Time come from?


Q. What is 2Time? 2Time is a do-it-yourself approach to time management in which a working professional can define their own time management system to fits their unique circumstances, lifestyle and way of working. Once the system is defined, they can take the next step and improve it over time, starting at whatever point they find themselves now. 2Time provides users a structured belt system for improvement, ranging from White to Black belts, that describe different levels of time management and productivity.Q. Why does anyone need a new approach to time management? Continue reading “FAQ’s About 2Time”