Here at 2Time Labs/ MyTimeDesign, we came up with a new way to distinguish the skills that a client moves through as they gain additional skills in time management. To understand how this works, you can think of it in two ways:
1. As a client makes progress, they expand their ability to deal with greater volumes of time demands. They use more refined skills, and experience fewer breakdowns of a basic nature. They seem to accomplish a great deal in the eyes of others. Here at 2Time Labs, we use a ladder borrowed from the Martial Arts belts, just because it’s a hierarchy that’s easy to understand. A client might progress from White, to Yellow, to Orange and then to Green belt levels, for example.
2. To move from one level to another, we impose a high standard: you must achieve a certain level of proficiency in 11 distinct disciplines. We have done our best to establish observable and measurable activities that a novice can use to evaluate their current status and their progress over time. Reaching a new belt becomes quite a much simpler endeavor when what’s needed to improve is clearly laid out in front of you.
Your job, then, as a time clutter coach/consultant is to move your client from one level to the next – assuming that they are in agreement! Regardless of the method you use for measurement, I believe that there are certain broad behaviors that client must learn in order to move up any time management skill ladder. Here’s what they are:
The Memory Phase
The client uses a great deal of personal memory to manage their time, and their tasks. They are using a skill they honed in the education system in a habitual and automatic way, and routinely over-estimate their powers of recall. Unless they live a very simple life, mishaps often occur. At some point, life becomes too complex, the demands upon them become too numerous, or they just get too old to use this technique well.
A few decide to change their methods and move to the next level:
The List Phase
At this point in their development, the client has learned the habit of keeping lists, and knows that their memory is unreliable, even if they still use it from time to time. They use lists of varying length and number.
All goes well until the number of time demands once again increases to the point where their methods are overwhelmed. They find that they must spend a great deal of time scanning their lists, and they must do so frequently in order to make sure that their mental calendar of events is appropriately updated. (They typically only maintain an appointment book that indicates when they have meetings with other people.)
These reviews become increasingly tiresome and even unbearable, and the pressure of having to work with a mental calendar with so many items on it leads to lateness, missed deadlines, time crunches and other problems having to do with poor planning.
A few decide to upgrade their system, and move to the next level:
The Calendar Phase
The client now must incorporate electronic technology, which was optional in prior phases. They use their calendar as a control center for all their major activities and only use lists to support activities that are scheduled e.g. a shopping list, or meeting agenda. They juggle and change their calendar many times a day, which isn’t difficult given that it’s portable and electronic (e.g. on a tablet which offers the best tools today.) They learn how to schedule activities with enough time between them to allow for the unexpected, and they start each week with an ideal calendar that they then modify accordingly.
They also have mastered their Capture Points (i.e. Inboxes of all kinds) and never allow them to decay into permanent places of storage. Instead, they systematically empty these Capture Points so that the items in them never become stale before being removed.
A few decide to upgrade their systems, and are determined that there must be another level… however, here at 2Time Labs we believe it hasn’t been defined. Yet.
While the above phases are good for you to know as a coach/consultant, they aren’t very useful for clients to work with directly. They are simply at too high a level to be operational. At 2Time Labs, we have broken them down into baby steps, and you’ll have to do the same if you decide not to use our system.
That is, you must start with the big phases that clients must traverse, and cut them down into micro-steps that are easy to accomplish. The big benefit is that once you share the steps with clients, they can see a pathway to success, and stay motivated for the duration of a long journey of continuous improvement.
P.S. Here’s a background video on the reasons why one time management system doesn’t fit everyone, a fact that’s known by many professional organizers.