The Time Management Coaching Mindset

There are many reasons to take the Time Management 2.0 approach when consulting with a client, but once the decision has been made to switch from 0.0 or 1.0, a peculiar obligation falls placed on you, the consultant/coach.

Your focus shifts from trying to get the client to pursue a particular, fixed outcome (typical of the 1.0 approach) to being open to a wide range of outcomes — so wide in fact that it’s impossible to see what he/she will decide to create before you start. That doesn’t mean that you must be a pushover, who will be happy with anything that might take place.

Instead, you need be quite “strict” about certain things in order for your clients to get the maximum value. What are they?

1. They need to understand
As you enter Phases 4 and 5 in particular, you’ll be teaching new ideas and asking them to apply them immediately. They’ll learn from you in one minute, and apply the concepts in a self-evaluation exercise in the next. Needless to say, they need to understand the concept in order to use it effectively, and you must ensure that not only is your teaching sound, but also that their learning actually takes place and that they’re not simply nodding their heads in faux-agreement! The first few times you may feel as if you don’t really know what you’re doing… but that is to be expected as you gain the necessary experience.

2. They need to own their system
Essential to the time management 2.0 approach is that you are not teaching them a foreign system, but trying to enhance what they already have, and are doing. They may not fully accept the idea that they are the architects of their own system, and full owners. If they don’t, then they are likely to go through the motions without being fully responsible for the changes they decide to make. As their coach, you’ll need to be strict on this point.

3. They need to be conservative
As they do their personal evaluations you need to help them to be as conservative as possible. It’s far better to err on the side of caution, and for them to be a little pessimistic about their current capacities. The reason is simple: it will keep them focusing on the right improvements, and not assume that they have mastered a particular habit when, in fact, they haven’t.

These are pretty simple mindsets to master, and will help you be an effective guide as they master the combination of assessment and learning that takes place in Phases 4 and 5.  While they are numbered sequentially, I have discovered that it’s best to do a little teaching before each assessment, and cycle between the two activities.

But How Well Does It Scale?

As a time clutter coach, when you work with a client, you are likely to discover that somewhere in their home-made, self-styled approach to managing their time, they have some unusual practices.

They might not be described in any system that you have ever seen before, and you may have serious doubts about their value now and in the future. How should you approach your client, and what kind of concerns should you have or not have?

First of all, you must be respectful and open. The client is doing the best that they absolutely can, and have implemented a system that has successfully gotten them this far in life. There is some evidence in their experience that something is working, or has worked well.

Also, you need to be open to the idea that they may have discovered some new innovation, or technique that is new in the world (or new to you) and actually works better than any other option. As someone who has been on the receiving end of this kind of comment, I can report that it suck…I have had a number of people tell me that the ideas emerging from 2Time Labs won’t work… without a shred of evidence on their part, and sometimes with lots of research on mine.

Here’s the test that you need to apply in cases like this.

Take a look with them at what is likely to happen if the number of time demands were to dramatically increase. Would that technique still work? Would it continue to provide them peace of mind (or whatever their ultimate goal might be?)

If you are both satisfied that there won’t be a problem, then say nothing more.

If, however, the unusual practice doesn’t scale well, then try to determine what an upgrade would look like, and how much of a modification would be needed.

Here are 2 common examples:

1) Some clients (and in particular those who are smart) attempt to juggle their life’s time demands using their memory. That works well when the number is small, long before they have kids, buy a house, take out loans, double their workload, take care of a sick parents, etc. At some point, it’s best to stop using memory-based techniqes altogether, but some never make the switch. Once they do, however, they can start to use paper or electronic tools and radically improve their productivity.

2) Back in the early 1990’s when email was popularized, it wasn’t a bad idea to store all your email in your Inbox.  That technique is one that worked at a time when your computer announced “You’ve Got Mail!”, and the number of incoming messages per day numbered in the single digits.

Today, the average professional receives 147 messages per day, and for most, that technique simply falls apart as Inboxes devolve into permanent places of storage.  (It’s better to treat it like a kitchen sink – a temporary staging point for further action.)


Time Clutter vs. Time Management, Coaching vs. Consulting

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to be using some terms that I need to define.

Time Clutter, for all intents and purposes, is the outcome of low Time Management skills, which is further defined as a mismatch between one’s skills and one’s volume of demands.

For example, a Yellow Belt professional who has a life that requires Green Belt skills will experience the same symptoms as anyone else who has a mismatch, such as an overloaded Inbox and commitments that fall through the cracks. In other words, they’ll experience time clutter: an inability to manage all their time demands.

It’s quite different from physical clutter, which accumulates in physical space, as the point of accumulation takes place primarily in the mind. Time clutter comes with some costs to peace of mind, reputation and other awful symptoms.

Only an upgrade to one’s time management system will reduce time clutter if the number of time demands remains the same.  An iPad won’t work, and neither will the latest Intel chip, sleeping more hours each night, changing one’s diet, boosting one’s energy or anything that we think should take the place of time management. The challenge, of course, is that this upgrade must take place in the middle of one’s life; this makes it extremely challenge as no timeouts are permitted!

Coaching vs. Consulting
To simplify things a bit on this blog, I’m using the terms coaching and consulting interchangeably.

Wilma: A Learning Simulation for Time Management Consultants and Coaches

If you happened to attend my  2012 teleclass at the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) you may already know who Wilma is.

She’s a fictional Professional Organizer who is looking to expand her practice by adding clients who are looking for expert time clutter consulting.

In the teleclass, I covered the principles she needs to master to on-board a new client, but in this instructional simulation/gamee, you can actually practice making some tough choices as she works with a prickly client.

It takes about 15 minutes to run through, and you can click here for immediate access.

P.S.  A word of explanation.   This learning simulation is a part of the training content that I’m sharing to prepare attendees of the 2012 ICD Annual Conference in Chicago.  I’ll be leading a workshop called “Baby Steps 201: Radically Reducing Your Clients’ Time Clutter in which organizers will be trained in the principles and finer points of time clutter consulting.

No Such Thing As Basic Time Management

It’s tempting.

Why not just send your employee, client or mentee to a basic time management program?  Nothing fancy, just something to bring them up to speed and relieve you of the burden of having to train them yourself.  You can remember attending a similar session when you were a young employee and how much you learned although, truth be told, you hardly used any of the stuff you were taught.  Ever.

You are trying to be helpful, and efficient, but the odds are great that the basic program you are looking at will do more harm than good.  Why is that?

  1. There is no such thing as basic time management – not any longer.  Instead, the skills needed to manage today’s combination of high volumes and high technology are complex.  Anything claiming to be basic isn’t likely to have been crafted for the Internet age.
  2. Anything basic is likely to claim to be one size that fits all.  Whoever designed the program probably found a single habit pattern that works well for them, and the training might only replicate their peculiar methods.  In today’s age, your employees/clients needs to craft methods that work for them, not for someone else.
  3. The solution that is likely to be offered in a basic program is likely to be static.  That is, it will be presented in a vacuum – as if the students arrived as empty slates and leave as finished products.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They come to class with workable (but probably inadequate) systems that brought them this far.  They leave with some good ideas, but what they are rarely told is that they need to play the reinvention game over and over again in their careers just to keep up.  No program can predict or provide them with enough to last more than a few years and its far better to teach them how to upgrade, than to give them a single static solution hoping it will last.  Teach a man to fish…
  4. They’ll graduate the program believing that change is instantaneous.  A basic program won’t offer the habit change support that’s needed to make real changes take place over several months and years.  After a few months they, like most of their fellow attendees, may well have implemented little that is new and scoff at similar programs in the future.
  5. The worst outcome of all is that they’ll come to see time management skills as basic, no-brain stuff.  They’ll stop being curious about their system, thinking that they have gotten all they can from this kind of training.  Instead, they’ll turn their attention to possessing the latest gadget, spending more time fussing over hot technology than painstakingly developing new habits, practices and rituals; the stuff of which time management is really made of.

So be careful about this particular shortcut; it may just not be worth it.  Seek out instead the right kind of program that might not fit under be “basic” but fits the needs of an employee who must deal effectively in today’s world.


The Phases of Time Management Coaching

If you have the task of helping someone else improve their time management and productivity skills, then it’s useful to know that there are a number of distinct phases that you must take your client or employee through in order to have the greatest possible impact.

Imagine that you are a Professional Organizer, and you have a client who appears to have the need for time management coaching / time clutter consulting.  Here are the steps you need to follow to be effective:

  1. Gauging – during your interactions with the client, you see evidence of a time management problem.   Possible Errors:  noticing the wrong symptoms and thinking they are important, or overlooking the right symptoms altogether (Type I and Type II Errors in scientific parlance.)
  2. Probing – this is a conversation to open up the possibility of working with the client/employee to upgrade his/her current system to something new that would be more effective, and help them meet more of their goals.  Possible Errors:  using language that turns off the client, drawing conclusions that they don’t agree with or don’t follow, ignoring their emotions as you reveal their lack of competence, not pointing out the gap between their workload and their current methods
  3. Contracting – a selling conversation designed to close a new agreement to work together, whether for pay or not.  Possible Errors: failing to demonstrate your competence at time management coaching, not being prepared with the right offer/program, all-or-nothing thinking, poor listening skills, et al.
  4. Co-Diagnosing – as you work with the client/employee you diagnose their current system with them, giving them the tools and distinctions needed for them to draw their own conclusions.  Possible Errors:  treating them like a  patient and handing them your conclusions, not allowing them to draw their own conclusions, telling them what to think rather than showing them how you think
  5. Teaching – in order to do diagnosis well, the client/employee needs new principles and distinctions to work with.  These are taught just before they are needed for proper diagnosis.  Possible Errors: not being skillful in teaching them new distinctions, dealing with theory vs. practice, not alternating Teaching with Co-Diagnosing
  6. Co-Planning – helping the client to lay out the sequence of changes they have decided to make in a timeline that makes sense, focusing on baby steps.  Possible Errors: doing the planning for the client, putting together impossibly optimistic plans that result in failure
  7. Co-Crafting – assembling a habit-changing environment that makes it easy for the client to implement new habits, practices and rituals.  Possible Errors: not crafting a fool-proof environment, over-estimating the client’s will-power, trying to give them a one size to fit all environment
  8. Supporting – playing a key role in the client/employee’s support environment as they make changes to their time management system.  Possible Errors:  assuming that they are good at this when they aren’t, being a weak source of support

Following these 8 Phases can make all the difference between success and failure as the client grapples with the significant challenge of upgrading their system even as they use it each day.  Most coaches aren’t successful when they try to take shortcuts as the 8 Phases listed above are a bit different from other kinds of coaching due to the fact “that time management” is a topic that most clients/employees believe they have already mastered.

The Pitfalls of Lacking Time Management Skills

My latest column in the Jamaica Sunday Gleaner focused on some of the issues we have in companies when we look at others who we believe are lacking in time management skills.

The Pitfalls of Lacking Time Management

One of the sources of their lack of productivity has to do with their inability to enter the flow state. Watch this video that I put together with ideas that run deeper than time management tips – a potentially new fundamental in time management.