A Wonderful Experience: Presenting at the ICD Conference

I just got back from the Chicago after presenting a session and a workshop at the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) 2012 Conference. The ICD is an international organization of Professional Organizers, and while I was there, I presented “Baby Steps 101/201: Radically Reducing your Clients’ Time Clutter.” It was an affirming, expanding and amazing experience. More to come on this in future posts.

Next NewHabits Class on January 26th

I have taken a short break from my strategic planning efforts for 2012 to let you know that I am offering the NewHabits Foundations program on January 26th here in Kingston, Jamaica.

For details about the program, which will include a new module on Email Overload, simply visit http://newhabitsja.info

P.S. There are some big changes coming to 2Time Labs in 2012, with a sharpening of focus on research, and a consolidation of coaching activity in an entirely different website.  Stay tuned…

By the

Helping Clients Solve Time Management Problems

Recently, I have been thinking about making the 2Time methods available to consultants, coaches and trainers, or anyone who wants to use them to diagnose a client’s time management skills.

In the NewHabits program (and MyTimeDesign 1.0.Plus) I have devised several charts that participants have been using to discover their current time management profile and belt level.  The charts include an analysis of each of the 11 fundamentals.

Only after developing them did I realize… they could also be used with someone in a one-on-one coaching session.

I actually tested this approach with 2 clients — a lawyer and an accountant — and found that it saved a great deal of time, and provided them with instant insight to the habits that they needed to start working on.  Now that I have been submitting proposals to speak at conferences of Professional Organizers, I can immediately see where  they also could use these tools to do the same thing… save themselves and their clients a great deal of time by zeroing in on the habits they need to change in a systematic way.

The process would be simple, and more or less mirror the path I take in my training programs.

Step 1: Define a few key terms
Step 2: Teach one fundamental at a time, and help the client to score him/herself, and make a note of the habits to be changed.  Repeat this step for all 7 fundamentals
Step 3: List all the habits to be changed
Step 4: Schedule the habit-changes on a calendar
Step 5: Craft a fool-proof habit-support system

I might be overly ambitious, but I think that a skilled coach can take a smart client through the 7-fundamental version of this learning in a matter of 4-5 sessions of one hour each, as long as the client is willing to do some work on  their own.

A full one day class covering the same material takes at least 7 hours, and that includes the time to do the “homework,” so I think that my estimate might be an accurate one.

I know that most professional organizers focus their efforts on physical de-cluttering, and that a few also venture into the area of time management.  Maybe with the right tools, I could empower many more to expand the work they do, and provide some unique insight to their clients, with the help of an easy-to-use turn-key system.

On a side note, I have noticed that  when a consultant lacks a systematic process in time management, they are forced to use a fairly random bunch of anecdotes, personal practices and rules of thumb, without having a structured method to ensure that all the important bases are covered.  This kind of approach is hard to sustain with a smart client who asks lots of questions, and can’t understand why they should follow anyone else’s habit pattern, even if it’s written up in a best-seller.

With a thorough analysis of the 7 fundamentals that makes room for all levels of skill, they should be able to coach everyone from the novice employee to the most seasoned executive.

If you are interested in following the next steps I take towards getting this train-the-trainer program going, Let me know via email using the Contact form in the main menu at top.

Until then, let me know what you think about the idea in general.  Would it work?  Does it need additional content to make it easy to use?  Drop me a comment with your thoughts.

Billing and Balancing

I am contemplating the creation of a new workshop for those professionals such as lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and doctors who live (or die) on billable hours.

My experience tells me that they are swamped by intense time demands, and that most are using new technology in a way that leaves their lives unbalanced.  They indulge in extreme smartphone abuse, and find themselves so stressed that their lives, health and relationships are barely being held together by the threads of their good intentions.

But it’s not as if they are succeeding at work either.  They find themselves falling behind in their invoices to clients, time tracking and paperwork, and finding the right document at the moment at which it’s needed is a hit or miss affair that might involve minutes and even hours of valuable professional time.

It’s not they are dumb people.  All the ones I have met happen to be very, very smart, and possess outstanding credentials.  It’s just that they have crafted habit patterns that cannot handle the number of time demands they now face in their lives.

As a result, they find themselves terminally stuck, with no way out except to leave the profession, which some do.  Most however, stick it out, and while they watch important things (like their exercise programs) fall through the cracks, they wish that things could be better.

I want the program to tackle that problem head-on.  It would be a Saturday program that’s limited to a small number of professionals (maybe 10) so that I can provide individual attention.  I’m aware that someone who bills for their time and is able to upgrade their skills from a White to a Yellow Belt, for example, would be able to increase their earnings by a significant multiple, unlike most employees who work on a fixed salary.

Giving Away Free Gifts as Incentives

I have been toying with the idea of setting up actual award-giving games in my live time management class – NewHabits-NewGoals.  A juicy award might be something like an iPod Shuffle — a nice piece of “techno-candy.”

The problem I have is that the game of achieving a new belt level is one that is based on trust, as I mentioned in my last post, and I imagine that if I give out an iPod Shuffle as a gift, a person could take advantage of this fact and show up for an undeserved gift.

I want the winner to demonstrate measurable (if not visible) growth in the 11 fundamentals of time management, regardless of their starting point.  The winner should be the one who has made the most dramatic changes in a certain time period.

What do you think? Let me know your ideas, either on this blog or privately at http://ReplytoFrancis.info
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Promo Video – Bahamas

I put together a short video to help promote an event I’ll be doing in The Bahamas on January 20th, 2011.

The day includes a seminar I’ll be leading from 9am – 4pm — and the URL for the site is http://timemanagement2011.com

I actually visited Abaco last week for the second time, and got excited about returning in January, and spending some time in Nassau.

Here’s the video — I used some new techniques that I have been observing on other videos… let me know what you think.

NewHabits Programs in Kingston and Port of Spain

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I’ll be offering my live programs in Kingston and Port of Spain this year, on the following dates:

Kingston:  Thursday March 4th

Port of Spain:   Thursday and Friday March 25-26

Both programs include 6 weeks of e-learning that starts right after the class is concluded.  For more information simply click on the above links and you’ll be taken straight into a page with a short video explaining what the classes are all about.

Outside and Slightly Elevated

istock_000006151593xsmall.jpgIn the book Work the System, author Sam Carpenter makes an observation about business systems that I think applies perfectly to time management systems.

Carpenter’s entire book represents a strong plea to business owners to step outside of their companies and manage them from a distance by identifying, understanding, and improving them. He makes the point, using his own experience, that business owners get lost in running their own companies, playing the game of “Whack a Mole” as each problem comes up.

In other words, Carpenter asks them to step out of the addiction of problem solving and into the world of systematic improvement. There’s more of a hint of Deming, Juran, and Taguchi in the air.

The result of this stepping out is a vantage point that’s “outside and slightly elevated.”

Carpenter’s book is an improvement on The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which also advocates the same kind of systemic understanding. But Carpenter doesn’t step over the line to prescribe which systems comprise the typical business.

One of the weaknesses of Gerber’s book is that he does take that step, with mixed results.

The example given in Gerber’s book is that of a bakery, and the examples and system that Gerber describes are those of a typical retail store. Nothing wrong with that — unless you own a consulting firm, like I do. It’s impossible to use his template in whole, and instead users are left on their own, trying to figure out what principles Gerber used to come up with the essential systems. I was forced to do the same, modifying some systems and dropping others in an attempt to create a set of systems that fit my circumstances.

Carpenter doesn’t try to go that far. Instead, he focuses on teaching the principles that everyone can use to build their own systems.  His emphasis on taking a point of view that’s “outside and slightly elevated” is critical to this effort.

It’s also critical to building good time management systems.

When I tried to apply Covey, GTD®, DayTimer, and other systems when I moved to Jamaica, I found that none of them applied.  Like Gerber, they just went too far in trying to tell me which words to use, which files to create, which tools to use, etc.

Time Management 2.0 echoes Carpenter’s point of view: you must create, own, manage, and understand your own systems in order to effectively improve them. To do so, professionals must step outside of their day-to-day frenzy and ask themselves the following questions with respect to their time management systems that echo those from Carpenter’s book:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • What are the principles I should use in my time management system?
  • What practices and habits do I need to implement?

These are critical questions in the Time Management 2.0 approach, and they’re essential to producing a true breakthrough in time management for each professional, regardless of his or her job, industry, age, or country of residence.

Time Management 1.0 supposed that there could be a “one size fits all” approach to time management. I believe that the failure of so many people to implement prepackaged time management programs is due, in part, to the fact that new habits are hard to implement. I also think that when they’re prescribed by a guru who hasn’t taken the “outside and slightly elevated” point of view of an individual professional’s life, it’s impossible for most.

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Mission Control Productivity, FranklinCovey, GTD and Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company (davidco.com.)  2Time is not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company, Mission Control Productivity or FranklinCovey.

First to Receive a Yellow Belt…. Receives Orange

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Michael Zajac completed my NewHabits-NewGoals 2-day workshop back in January 2008.

He recently returned to Australia from Kingston, Jamaica, but not without a newly minted Orange Belt in hand.

He was the first participant in the NewHabits programs to receive both the Yellow and Orange Belts over an 18 month period, passing both tests with flying colours.

Before he returned home, however, he sat down with me for a 34 minute interview to explain his motivations for going so far so quickly.

Click here to be taken to the podcast page for my interview with Michael Zajak on his growing time management  expertise.

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Learning Time Management is Like Learning a Language

I came across an article on Tim Ferris’ blog on the topic of Why Language Classes Don’t Work:  How to Cut Classes and Double Your Learning Rate.

I found it interesting because it parallels my experience in time management courses to some degree.

He makes the following points about problems that he has encountered in language learning classes:

1. Teachers are viewed as saviors when materials are actually the determining factor.

I have found this to be true in my courses.  The “teacher” is only there to provide a foil for  the materials, and when the materials are badly conceived (as most are) then no matter how good the student is, the new habits are impossible to learn.

Poor course materials in time management that focus on a single set of new habits never work for more than a few students, and the teacher can’t make up for this problem.

2. Classes move as slowly as the slowest student. 

In poorly designed classes, when a student cannot understand why a new habit is important, a great deal of time is wasted showing him/her why it’s necessary.  Better classes are focused on each student developing systems that work for them, and no-one else.  It’s not important to learn the higher skills if they are not at the point of immediate use.

The best classes help students develop and use their skills at a pace that works for them

3. Conversation can be learned but not taught. (read:  Time management can be learned but not taught.)

Because time management is built on a collection of personal habits, changing them is entirely up the individual’s willingness, and requires continuous practice to turn a new technique into a habit that can stick.  In other words, there’s more to be  gained from repetitive trial and error than there is from any explanation or theory.  All a good time management class does is point students in the correct direction, and shows them what they need to teach themselves.

4. Teachers are often prescriptive instead of descriptive. 

A good teacher of time management never tells  a student what they should do, but merely points out the advantages and disadvantages of certain choices.  In MyTimeDesign, for example, a student has the choice at every stage of which skill-level to adapt in each discipline.

For example, we need not putt like Tiger Woods to have a golf game that we are satisfied with.  Yet, there are many time management systems that will warn students that they MUST follow “the system” according to the way it’s designed, down to the naming of folders, the colour of the tabs on their diary and the names they use for everyday items.

When the user’s needs are placed at the center of a time management program, these 4 traps are much easier to avoid.