An Uncanny Resemblance

A new set of videos showed up in my feed today entitled “How to Be More Productive.”  They are sponsored by http://howtobemoreproductive.com

What’s remarkable is that their videos have an uncanny reemblance to the 20 videos that we put together here at 2Time Labs: the Top 10 FAQ’s and SAQ’s About Time Management.

Take a look at this video from their site which talks about the fundamentals: Capturing, Emptying, Tossing, Storing, Acting Now, Scheduling and Listing.

Coincidence, perhaps? I signed up for their mailing list and sent an email, but I’m not too optimistic about getting a response.

I imagined that this would happen at some point, and as I expected, I’m feeling a bit flattered!

 

Is It Really Not About Time Management?

Poor, poor old “time management.”

It seems that it’s open season on the concept as writers and bloggers around the world take their turn in saying that whatever time management is, “it” is not about “that.”    What are they saying, and why is it that they have a point… but only a very, very small one?

David Allen weighed in on the issue with an article entitled “Time Management is Not the Issue” in which he argues that “GTD® is not about time management—it’s about how you manage yourself and your choices, within that time.”  He goes on to add that “If it were, just buying and using a calendar (and a good watch) would handle it.”

He concludes by saying: “When I ask people, “What’s the next action?” on big projects they’re procrastinating about, the answer is often, “Find time to….” Well, you won’t ever have time to change your corporate culture, write the book, or lose weight. Until you define the very next action, you don’t know how much time you really need. “Pick a date and email my assistant to set the senior team meeting about changing our culture” only takes two minutes—less time than it took to read this essay.”

I confess, that there are some statements in the above excerpt that are a bit puzzling, so I don’t really understand the point he’s making.  Before I make an attempt, here is what Tony Schwartz author of the Harvard Business Review Article “Manage your Energy, Not Your Time” has to say.

“Unless people intentionally schedule time for more challenging work, they tend not to get to it at all or rush through it at the last minute”

and

“As with all rituals, setting aside a particular time to do it vastly increases the chances of success.”

and

“__ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and
how I actually allocate my time and energy.”

I suspect that the point he’s trying to make (once you get past the misleading headline) is that both time management and energy management are important.

Elisha Goldstein picks up a similar idea by proclaiming that “It’s About Attention Management, Not Time Management.”  She says “What more and more business leaders are finding is instead of doing more things faster, you need to learn how to prioritize your attention and do the most important things really well. So whether you’re trying to be more effective and less stressed at your current job or schooling, or more effective at finding a job because you just got laid off, attention management is the key to being effective in today’s New Business World. In other words, the issue isn’t so much time management, but attention management in work and life.”

According to other authors, they agree that it’s not about time management, but it’s about something more important that they happen to be selling, such as “commitment management,” “time allocation,” “goal management,” “productivity,” “ego management” and “culture change.”

This might be a case of wanting to craft interesting, grabby headlines than gaining true understand –  I can’t tell, but I do wonder.

Many of these authors make the point that time actually cannot be managed.    Time passes, regardless of what we do or don’t do, much in the same way that the planets move around the Solar System without our opinions or actions being taken into account.

On this basis alone, it’s possible to argue that it’s never about time management, period, because it doesn’t exist.

Try to explain that one to your grandparents over a hot cup of  cocoa…

The fact is, the only thing we can manage is our selves, inclusive of our habits, practices and rituals. When we use the term “time management” here at 2Time Labs it’s not because we are committed to studying topics that don’t exist… LOL

Instead, there is a popular understanding of what time management is — which is closer to the definition of self management.  It’s the reason why people describe programs like GTD as time management, no matter how many times David Allen insists that it’s not.

When we manage ourselves, it always has a time impact.  When we manage our spiritual growth, health, weight or emotional well-being, there is also always a time impact to be considered.

While it’s not possible to manage time, it’s also not possible to live in the world and ignore it, which is what some of the gurus are trying to say… “forget about time management, and instead, focus on this thing instead…”

The idea that we should give up something we know in order to get something new makes for good marketing slogans, but it’s hardly a good strategy to lead one’s life.  It’s better to manage multiple aspects concurrently, and not try to drop any one thing in favor of another.

That’s an old idea that perhaps should be put to bed.

Instead, we should adopt the notion that it’s always about time management, and lots of other things as well.  They must all be carefully tended in order to live a productive life.

Pink Shoe Power Follows Time Management 2.0 Principles

Am I a bit excited?  It’s the first time that I have found another website that shares Time Management 2.0 principles.  It’s called Pink Shoe Power.

The authors of the site, Valerie McDougall and Jayne Jennings, describe four time management styles that women might find themselves following, and based their thinking on the following line of thinking:

 

Have you found you’ve spent your time and money trying different time management tools or strategies before that just didn’t work for you? Either because they seemed too hard to keep doing, didn’t feel right or didn’t give you the results you were wanting?

If you’re like most people you’ll be nodding right now! (Can I see you nodding?)

It’s not your fault….

You don’t expect all clothing to fit you and look good…so why should we expect the same of time management tools and strategies?

Many time management systems are flawed for one key reason…they assume that the approach they prescribe is right for everyone, They’re based on the false assumption that with equal effort, everyone will be able to achieve similar outcomes.

THE PROBLEM is one size doesn’t fit all—we are all individuals with different likes and dislikes and importantly, we learn and do things differently. Some people are visual, others kinesthetic, auditory, structural, or creative…. So it’s no surprise that the way you approach time management is NOT the same as everyone else’s.

That’s from the page describing their book by the same name.

While I haven’t read the book I applaud their thinking and once again can only wonder why there aren’t hundreds of sites based on this seemingly obvious premise?  I take it for granted here at 2Time Labs, but this is the only site I have found that clearly and openly shares that premise.

Maybe I’m wrong, but if not, would anyone care to venture a guess?

 

A New GTD Article on Stepcase LifeHack

I have a new article posted up at the Stepcase Lifehack website entitled: “Upgrade Your GTD® Calendar and Keep Up With the Times.”

If you are a GTD afficianado, you may be interested in a couple of other items I have developed that can be used to upgrade your implementation:

a special report entitled The Six Surprising Mistakes that GTD’ers Make

and a teaching video —  Permanently Fixing the Weekly Review

The ideas are offered as enhanced ways to look at GTD, and to solve some of the problems that users often experience in deploying the book’s recommendations effectively.  For some, it requires selective upgrades so that they can handle more demands on their time than GTD seems intended to handle.

 

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.

A Bittersweet Day

It’s been a bittersweet day.

I have been listening to Steven Levy’s book: “In the Plex” and am finding it a fascinating and inspiring read. A part of what has inspired me is the clarity and simplicity of their purpose: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

I felt challenged by it, and how big it is, and I was reminded of the days when I started writing about time management back in 2006. I actually called my first WordPress.com blog an “open-source” site for ideas and thinking about time management as my goal was to find others who were willing to do more than superficial thinking, and share some breakthrough ideas with them. I never intended to earn any revenue, or even teach a class.

I  naively thought it would easy to find others who were thinking along the same lines, and that we’d have fun making time management better. Strangely enough, it’s been easier to find the revenue than find the others who are willing to collaborate!

Yes, there are authors out there, but none has seemed to be willing to engage in questioning  the core ideas that underly their thinking. Some go so far as to say that nothing can be done to improve the systems described in their book!

So, I just kept writing and developing, driven by the idea that something was wrong about the limited options that were available to working people who wanted to get better. I was pissed at the one-size-fits-all credo, fueled to no small degree by the fact that I had recently moved to Jamaica, and become acutely aware of the cultural assumptions that were built into the materials I had read.

It’s all too easy to write a book that you think is for everyone, but is actually only for people just like you, in circumstances that mirror your own. Instead, there are huge differences in the way we manage our time depending on our:

  • profession
  • training
  • experience
  • national culture
  • environment
  • age and stage of life

I was appalled that after doing critical work on my own time management skills back in 1999-2003, that the field had made little or no progress, and offered no assistance to people like me who needed custom help. This emotion got me writing with a vengeance, but I realize looking back that I was actually on a mission, motivated by the kind of help I thought everyone should be able to access.

Now, a few years later, I am more clear on what that is:

To make time management improvements easy for people everywhere, forever.

Discovering this mission made up the sweet part of the day!

The bitter part came when I heard that Eli Goldratt had passed away that morning. He is best known for his Theory of Constraints, and his book: The Goal, which I read as a graduate student at Cornell, during my first summer at AT&T Bell Labs.

I literally could not put the book down, as it offered a compelling glimpse of the real world of manufacturing that my professors had been unable to approximate, in spite of numerous opportunities. I got more from reading that book than most of what I had learned in class.  In fact, I re-read The Goal recently in preparation for writing my own book – using his powerful business fable as my inspiration and role model.

And now he’s gone, but he left behind a host of admirers who helped make his books some of the most popular in the business-world. I can only hope that my book does something similar, and makes a contribution to accomplishing the mission I have set for the work here at 2Time.

To that end, today I set some big, hairy audacious goals:

  1. To offer the very best on-line time management training made possible by the latest technology.
  2. To enable coaches and trainers anywhere in the world to use Time Management 2.0 principles in their work with clients
  3. To give every working professional the idea that they can upgrade the way they manage their time whenever they want, regardless of changes in work, personal life or technology.
  4. To develop the 2Time site be the best single source for time management research, ideas and breakthrough thinking gleaned from all corners of the world.
  5. To find and work with the best minds in time management, and have fun coming up with new stuff!

As I read the tributes to his live and work, I suspect that Eli Goldratt would support these wholeheartedly.

Migrating from a List to a Schedule

I have been doing a little research on some of the popular time management systems described in books and blogs, and most of them tell their users to do two things:

1) keep lots of lists

2) keep a minimum schedule of appointments

In 2Time, this thinking is the equivalent of telling people that they should give up on ever earning Orange Belts in time management, because Orange Belts have found ways to make the transition effectively, and are able to handle more time demands as a result.

What they do is simple:  they remove time demands from places like their email Inbox and their paper pads, and they immediately put them in their schedule.  Yellow Belts (who are below Orange Belts) add them to lists.

Let’s slow the action down a bit to see why it’s easier to work with a schedule than a list when one is trying to manage a high number of time demands.

When a Yellow Belt decides to take an action in the future, they simply add the item to a list.  However, when they do so, they are also simultaneously and mentally recording the following:

  • how long the task takes – they make an estimate
  • when they believe the task will start and end
  • what else might be pre-scheduled for that time-slot, and they determine this by scanning their memory
  • a decision not to schedule anything for the same projected time period

As you can learn in my free program – MyTimeDesign 1.0.Free – and on this website, this is not a problem for low numbers of time demands.  It’s quite a bit of mental activity, but it’s inescapable if you decide to add this information to a list.  At some point, you must account for the difference between doing simple tasks like picking up the milk and complex projects such as finishing the annual marketing strategy.

Some Yellow Belts have pretty long lists, which means that they carry around mental schedules that are quite hard to remember.  The way they compensate is by scanning their lists frequently.  They need to check their entire list when they do a review, which might be completed at the start of a week or the start of a day.

Once again, it depends on how many time demands are added  to the list and how fast.  Those that find themselves adding 10 items each morning, might very well have to check the entire list just after lunch in order to rejigger their mental schedule.

Some have gone a step further, and put together lists that correspond to time-spans.  They might have a Today List, or a Tomorrow List or a Next Week List.  This helps a bit, but they still force one to remember the timing of each item on the list.

As an example, take a look at the following list made by someone on Monday morning for work that can be done at his/her desk:

As you glance at the list, you may notice yourself  quickly making an estimate of how much time it will take to complete the entire set of items.  Some may think it will take a week, while others may believe that it should be done by lunch-time.

There is no right answer, of course, but notice that if you were to start the week you’d be carrying around these estimates in your memory.

You could improve things by making a list of tasks for each day, like this:

These could be separated into three lists, but the principle would be the same.  Here the user has accounted for the time realities by dividing the list into separate parts.

However, they are still keeping a mental schedule of each day.

Here is what the original task list would look like in an Orange-Belt schedule:

There are some apparent advantages to be gained from navigating the next three days with this kind of schedule.

  • at any point in the next three days, the time demand to work on next has already been pre-planned
  • there is very little that has to be remembered if this schedule is accessible via smartphone, PDA or laptop
  • it’s easy to see when each item will be done, so that when the boss asks when he’ll be able to see the draft email for the VP-IT, you can tell her when you plan to work on it
  • space can be allocated for important items like lunch, breakfast and time each morning to plan the day
  • possible problems can immediately be seen:  the activity at 6pm on Monday night – “edit white paper for conference” – looks as if it’s a scheduling problem waiting to happen, with its proximity to the prior task and its placement at the end of the day
  • with this kind of schedule, it’s much easier to say No to anyone who wants something done during the next three days.  On a White Belt calendar, these days would appear to be blank, but the fact is, they are filled with important items that don’t involve other people appointments

With the advent of electronic calendars comes a tremendous gain:  this schedule can be easily changed around at will.  When paper calendars were the only ones that were available, this kind of scheduling was onerous. but the software has now become easier to use, allowing us to use a schedule like this to make a plan that is entirely flexible.

With a schedule such as the one described above, there are none of the things that a list requires you to try to remember.

This is a fairly simple example, with only a handful of time demands, but you can imagine what happens when that numbers grows.  Someone who is stuck with Yellow Belt skills is forced to review frequently, and remember a lot about each item.  It’s a lot of work that can quickly become overwhelming.

Some of the books I have read argue against this kind of scheduling because they say that it’s too cumbersome to change a schedule on the fly.  That point of view needs an upgrade… it WAS too cumbersome, but today’s software has made things much easier, and there is evidence that college kids who never had to make lists on paper are doing  this kind of scheduling on their mobile devices with ease.  I can speak from experience – I once experimented by reverting to lists after using schedules for some time, with disastrous results.  (Here’s an article the describes how How Smartphones are Transforming the Mobile Lifestyles of College Students and you can search for the Survey of Students’ Technology Use for Time Management.)

And the fact is, new technology is making it easier every day.

I have used Orange Belt scheduling techniques for years and found it be a powerful tool that requires important habit changes, but is well worth the effort.  It’s a scalable habit that can accommodate way more time demands than lists ever can, and its much closer to the project management best practice of laying out activities in time using a similar tool:  Gantt Charts.

Many years ago, they made the switch from running projects using lists, and were immediately able to complete larger and more complex projects.  Now that the tools are readily available, it’s time for professionals to upgrade their personal practices so that they can avoid the experience of overwhelm, even as they handle more each day.

P.S. If what I’m saying is accurate, it points to a few possible new industries…

Email This Post Email This Post

Time Management Hype Against the Facts Webinar

This week, I’m conducting a free webinar on  the topic of “Time Management Hype Against the Facts.”  It starts at 8pm EST.

Registration is free, but space is limited: http://mytimedesign.com/wordpress/webinar1-signup

During the  webinar I plan to look at 5 ways in which the hype around time management systems has produced a backlash that has prevented users from getting what they want.  I’ll also show how I have tried to build MyTimeDesign around the facts, and how anyone can do the same as they upgrade or craft their time management system.

Once again, you can register here: http://mytimedesign.com/wordpress/webinar1-signup

Email This Post Email This Post

Vid – Why Most People Fail

Here is a brief video I did that explains why most people fail in their efforts to implement new time management systems.

I posted an article with some similar ideas over at the Stepcase Lifehack website, and I received a comment from a user who called the idea of upgrading rather than replacing a “gentler approach.”

Wow.

GTDer Audio and Videos

If reading isn’t your thing, then my e-book for GTD®ers need not be the point at which you give up and go no further.

Once you download the book, you can also gain access to the full audio version plus a six-part video series hosted here on Vimeo: http://www.vimeo.com/groups/6mistakes

Not to be a tease, but you do need to download the e-book to get the password (at the moment). As you might expect, it’s free.

 

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.

Scoring 100% in Time Management

istock_000004921432xsmall.jpgAn article I wrote over at Stepcase Lifehack received a nice thank-you comment.

Scoring 100% in Time Management is all about implementing time management systems and mistakenly thinking that we can implement ALL of the habits and practices built into the approach.

This is a mistake in our thinking that produces stress, and it causes too many people to abandon GTD® and other systems too early.

 

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.