What If Your Clients Want to Schedule Everything?

You may not be a Total Task Scheduler. But what about your clients?

I have an interesting conversation with a client recently about her unwillingness to become a Total Task Scheduler.

She had an interesting observation: even if she never uses the technique, she needs to offer it to her clients who decide that it’s something they want to adopt.

To that end, she is part of my Beta team for a new site I am developing – ScheduleU.org.

It’s a “School for Scheduling Everything” and you may want to understand where this effort is headed. visit the page to sign up for early notification and I will let you know when the site is available in Beta.

The Client’s Journey which Time Management Coaches Must Know

Vector Road Infographic Design Template. Elements are layered separately in vector file.Time management coaching is no easy avocation. Part of the confusion arises because coaches, consultants, professional organizers and trainers sometimes get stuck in a single model… or in the case of the diagram on the right, at a single level.

It’s an infographic lifted from an article I wrote on Medium: What Task Management App Developers Can Do to Catch Up with Pokemon Go.

I invite you to take a look as it explains the behaviors users undertake as they change their behavior to match the volume of time demands they must manage. While the article is targeted towards developers, it has powerful lessons for coaches.

One is that  a coach must strive to be engaging, and the best way to do so is understand the deep principles of gamification.

As you may imagine, a coach who understands these concepts can be very useful to their clients.

Should a Time Adviser Stay Abreast of the Latest Technology?

What are clients coming to expect from their time advisers with respect to technology? Is it changing?

Getting Things Done has been widely touted and praised as a tool agnostic approach. That is, it was designed without any particular app, device, platform or medium in mind, whether it be paper, digital or personal memory-based.

Many consultants, professional organizers, coaches and trainers have taken the same approach, sincerely believing that the best tool for a client is a personal choice that a client needs to make on his/her own. The search for the right app is a personal choice and so is the process.

Recently, this advice has struck me as odd: not in keeping with the times we live in.

While I don’t advocate a return to the days when time management training was done by solution vendors who pushed their own approach (thereby increasing sales of add-on’s) I think there is a new trend emerging. Clients expect their time advisers to be experts, not novices in the business of choosing tools. Many, by taking the tool agnostic approach, have rendered themselves clueless about the choices that exist, ignorant of the process the client must undertake to make a decision.

This is a mistake.

Every single client must make some difficult choices about their evolutionary pathway from the system they currently have to the one they intend to use in the near, middle and distant future. It’s a point I make in Perfect Time-Based Productivity. Why?

Research shows that as the number of time demands (i.e. self-generated tasks) increases, they must evolve their approach. They simply don’t have a choice; and it’s certainly not a matter of taste, style or personality.

Most clients are unaware of this fact. However, as a time adviser, you cannot be.

Even if you prefer to use paper, you must to be able to advise a client who needs to use the best technology available. Or at the very least, you must be able to satisfy a client’s curiosity about their options.

I recommend that my trainees follow these principles, regardless of the outcome:

Principle 1 – One size doesn’t fit all. There is no perfect tool set for every individual. You must take ownership of the need to carve out your own system of skills, practices and tools.

Principle 2 – An individual’s system must match his/her volume of time demands. There is a progression that a user must respect and fit their choices in accordingly. (See the graphic below.)

Principle 3 – Everyone who plans to be working for at least the next five years needs an upgrade path – an understanding of how they will deal with the inevitable increase in time demands. A good time adviser doesn’t give clients a single set of skills, practices and tools to work with. They are continuously preparing them for the future.

Here’s a graphic I just drafted that ties together these principles – (A final version will be completed soon.)

listers vs schedulers

It’s based on a long article I wrote called Learning to Optimize Each Day’s Plan from the Controversy Between Listers and Schedulers [ Research].

A skillful time adviser understands this evolution and can speak to each of the five steps in the graphic with some expertise. It’s an inescapable process in which clients can easily locate their current, past and future state. You can help them understand their upgrade options and how to implement them effectively.

But what are the options at each stage?

This is where you need to stay current. Even though you may not be able to know everything, you must stay a step ahead of the average client – indeed, you are expected to do so.

To keep your knowledge of the most recent tools current, I recommend that you check out the following forums.

Quora.com – Follow forums like Personal Productivity Apps, Time Management Software and Productivity Software.

Productivity Stack Exchange – Check out tags like calendar, scheduling and software.

GTD – Discuss Tools & Software – This community occasionally takes a deep dive that illuminates different schools of thought.

Reddit – You can use my subreddit to see the topics I follow which sometimes relate to tools.

If you keep abreast of these groups I believe you will remain reasonably well-informed. One thing you will learn is that it’s a huge mistake for a time adviser to conclude that a client should use one system; that their job is to enforce it at all costs, now and forever. That’s the kind of dogmatism I illustrated in Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure and it has no place in the practice of the modern time adviser.

Instead, I’m inspired by what I learned from being trained by Thomas Leonard of CoachU in the early 1990’s : the best coaches empower their coachees to operate effectively without them for years to come. Helping your clients to see the big picture – their future – and the small skills, practices and tools to be used along the way serves them best.

Finding: Novices and Experts Want Different Kinds of Feedback

businessman and his son pulled his hands in the studioMost coaching programs make a passing reference to the fact that coachees require different kinds of feedback depending on their level of development.

This makes intuitive sense.

You wouldn’t give a beginner the same advice as someone who is an expert. However, that insight focuses mostly on the content of the feedback to be provided. In other words, whereas a novice requires repetition and reminders of the basics, that kind of input would be useless to someone who has more experience.

But what about the way in which the feedback is provided? That much harder question has rarely been addressed by more than anecdotes and stories. A recent paper by Stacey Finkelstein and Ayelet Fishbach sheds some light on this question with some interesting findings.

As they put it, “novices sought and responded to positive feedback, and experts sought and responded to negative feedback.” The reasons were simple – novices were more interested in increasing their motivation to improve, while experts were more interested in making tangible progress.

What does this mean for you as a time adviser?

1. You must do an accurate assessment.
It’s a big mistake to assume that one size coaching fits all, and you must perform a sound diagnosis to determine whether your coachee is a novice or expert. Without this knowledge, you are more likely to make mistakes.

2. You must vary your approach.
As you work with a client, it makes sense to start out giving lots of positive feedback and then change your advice over time to provide more negative feedback. Changing the blend of feedback might come intuitively to some coaches, but all would benefit from making this shift consciously.

I recommend my book and the forms it includes as a tested method for completing your diagnoses. You can also help your clients compare their skills against others who have also done this evaluation – it can reveal immediate opportunities for improvement and habit patterns that are working against their peace of mind.


Sharing: The Secret Behind My New Book

3d cover of perfect bookThe lay-reader may not know, but a coach may figure it out… I actually wrote my book, Perfect Time-Based Productivity, in part, to serve as a guide for time advisers (coaches, consultants, professional organizers and trainers.)

Here’s what I did in a nutshell: I took the training I have been delivering to hundreds of people over 6 years and put it all in the book – everything I could think of. Also, I included more research links than anyone has ever dared (to my knowledge) in a how-to that’s meant for the layperson, not the academic.

The result is that the paperback version, which came a few days ago, is HUGE. At a little more than 400 pages it’s far too much for the casual person who just wants a few random tips.

But it’s just right for the time adviser who wants a solid reference document unlike any other. It gets into topics such as the difference between pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy (the training of children, adults and self-directed adults.) With its 250+ citations and a full index, it gives you the source of each idea from fields such as psychology, management, adult learning and industrial engineering. In other words, it’s far more than the usual time management book filled with tips, tricks and shortcuts based on “anecdata” – one person’s experience condensed into one-size-fits-all rules.

In fact, it starts by asserting that “time cannot be managed.” If you have been following my work you’ll know that the more sophisticated clients and trainees know this fact also. They also happen to be the ones who may be willing to pay you a premium.

While I wrote the book for the educated, learned individual who has left behind the days of “Time Management 101”, I wrote it as if they were all alone, coaching themselves. In my book, I allude to the fact that it’s possible to get help, but I didn’t emphasize it much because my goal was to empower the reader fully. After all, most won’t use a time adviser in the course of their lives, or even meet one.

But here’s the “secret” part of this message: they would actually move much faster with someone else by their side, helping them along. That is, with expert help they’d be able to protect their peace of mind as time demands increase with greater skill. As a time adviser, it places you in a great position to help.

Furthermore, unlike many books of this kind, you have my full permission (upon registration) to use the ideas and forms in all your work with clients, customers and trainees. Right away, at no additional cost.

When you register, you’ll have future access to upgrades, materials. This translates to your being on the cutting edge and always being a step ahead of your clients… all of them… including those who think they know more than you, or thinking they can cleverly Google Search their way to greater productivity. Plus, you’ll have the confidence and comfort of knowing that you aren’t violating copyright by using the materials.

Some more good news: Amazon has discounted the paperback – to my surprise – but I don’t know how long it will last as they don’t advise me either before or after.

So there are two steps involved:

1) purchase the book on Amazon.com (in either Kindle or paperback format.)

2) register your intent to use the materials in your work, then download your forms

Also, it’s gotten some decent reviews, which I’m very encouraged by, and several of your colleagues have endorsed it. Here are some of their kind words, in the next few paragraphs.

“In this age of quick fixes that usually don’t stand the test of time, the foundations in Perfect
Time-Based Productivity will endure because they are based on both research and individuation. Get started immediately on your journey to better productivity!” Janice Russell, Certified Organizer Coach, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization

“Perfect Time-Based Productivity presents the problems we face through a collection of vignettes. Each person will likely feel a kinship to several of the characters met. Francis Wade intertwines these vignettes with large body
of research in the area of time management, and suggestions for implementing best practice. The “cheat sheets” provide the reader with a blueprint assessing one’s current level and charting a course toward a desired future.” Dr.Frank Buck, Frank Buck Consulting, Inc.

“This book shows you how to get more done, faster and easier, than ever before.” Brian Tracy – Author, Unlimited Sales Success

“Francis Wade has written a well-researched, practical book that goes beyond time management to help you boost your personal productivity. Perfect Time-Based Productivity offers a step-by-step method for achieving your goals and attaining the next level of success in your life.” Laura Stack, aka The Productivity Pro® and Author, What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do

“In Perfect Time-Based Productivity, the author doesn’t just deliver winning formula on time-based productivity – he delivers it in a manner that makes it easy to follow and implement. If you’re a time-focused person looking to get more out of the hours of the day, then this book is, well, perfect.” Mike Vardy, Author of The Front Nine and Founder of Productivityist


Once again – you can visit the Amazon sales page here and purchase the book.. The link to register as a time adviser is on page 349, in the section just after the Summary.

As you can imagine, the posts I plan to place on this blog in the future will build on the content in the book. Don’t be left behind as we build our skills as time advisers.

New: Tools Now Available for Time Advisers

I have some good news: I recently posted up a revised set of forms covering all 11 time-based productivity fundamentals.  This is the first time they are being made available to the public, which of course includes all time advisers.

While the general public will see them as a way to start diagnosing their skills immediately, as a time adviser I hope you see something else: an opportunity.

To my knowledge, they are the first complete set of diagnostic tools for time-based productivity behaviors. Also, the fact that they are being offered to the public means that you also have full access.

What does “full” mean?

It means that you can start using them immediately with your clients. All I ask is that you register, and adhere to the Creative Commons License that governs its use. Now, I can’t require that you register – it’s just a matter of honor in which I am trusting that most people will – even though a few may not.

It will be their loss, however, as there are resources I plan to make available to time advisers who are registered. Being registered means that you are not a dabbler, but are serious about being successful in this particular niche.

In my book, I have mentioned the fact there are time advisers who are willing to work with clients using the Perfect Time-Based Productivity approach. As I have mentioned in the past, I don’t plan to work with two or three individual clients per year – I’m not talking about myself. There is a group that has received the BabySteps training and a few stand out in terms of their use of the materials.

Perhaps there may be readers of the book who are interested in getting direct assistance, which I expect would be drawn from the ranks of registered time advisers. Make sure to register by visiting the following page.

However, the first step is to head over to download the complete set of forms here.

Coaching a CEO in Time Management Skills

mark horstmanMark Hortsman’s website, Manager-Tools.com, is one of the best resources on the Internet for managers of all levels. It’s always an entertaining listen as he shares his ideas with his audience.

In this interview with him, I got a chance to ask him to shed some light on how time-starved CEO’s should manage their time. Tune in to this podcast and listen to the advice he gives – it’s not for everyone, but it does apply to those who are at the top of our best companies.

Click here to access my interview with Mark Horstman and don’t forget to rate the podcast on iTunes and leave a message.

P.S. Should I bring him back for an interview on coaching top executives on their time-based productivity skills? If you think so, let me know in the comments below.

Learning from a Courageous Researcher

As Time Advisers, we can’t know everything about time-based productivity. At the same time, our clients look to us to provide more than trivial tips, tricks and top ten lists of shortcuts they can find for themselves using a Google search.

We need coaching and processes that are so full of “inside” information, our clients thank us. One way to gain that information is through research, and here’s an outstanding example.

In the absence of current, easy-to-find research in time-based productivity, Dr. Melinda Wilson created her own first-hand information by tackling one productivity technique per week for a year, and then writing up her findings in plain English. I interviewed her at the end of her courageous effort. As time advisers, we should all be grateful.

Here’s a Researcher Who Spent a Year Tackling One Productivity Technique Per Week.

Why I’m Creating a New Realm of Time Management Advice

iStock_000012062331XSmallThe profession of time advising  is becoming a tough one to succeed in, due to some big trends underway that nothing in our past has prepared us for. Here’s my adjustment to what I see as the inevitable.

People pay time advisers (consultants, coaches, professional organizers and trainers) to help them in the uphill task of creating behavior changes that stick: ones that won’t fade over time or fall apart when the first crisis hits.

Presumably, the reason we’re hired is that clients cannot do the job on their own. In response to their call for help we have traditionally responded in one way: by telling them exactly *what* to do. Almost all the time management books, coaching and training programs focus on one thing – providing people with detailed descriptions of a single, new habit pattern. And, truth be told, we do a pretty good job of giving this to them. At the end of our work, they’d pass a multiple choice quiz easily, agreeing that everything they learned “makes sense.”

Our preoccupation with figuring out the *what* – the right things to do – is also why they fail. As they leave our training and coaching sessions with proud new lists of stuff to do differently, that moment marks the start of a familiar failure sequence.

The reason is simple. From that moment, they know *what* they need to do differently, but they are as weak at implementing it as they were before they met us. In other words, we have given them fish, and then failed to teach them *how* to fish.

To make things even worse for our industry, you may have noticed two macro trends that are unavoidable.

Trend #1 – the messages telling people *what* they need to do are all sounding the same.

There’s a remarkable convergence taking place between authors, trainers and coaches. To the customer, the advice coming at them from all sources is saying the same thing, with only minor variations. These variations might be important and distinct to us, the experts, but to our customers they aren’t.

As they go looking for solutions they can find  95% of most gurus’ advice by reading a book, browsing a few blog posts and listening to a decent podcast.

It’s hard to escape the fact that very little innovation is taking place in the time advice industry due, in part, to the paucity of academic research being conducted.

The most popular book in this genre, Getting Things Done®, was written in 2001, and its author, David Allen, hasn’t offered an update to his methodology or essential ideas. Instead he argues that in his methodology, the choice of technology doesn’t matter much. In addition, he’s never clearly said that there’s any need to upgrade his thinking, to produce a version 2.0.

That’s astounding, given that everything else in our lives is changing so quickly, but it’s in line with the trend… in the mind of the consumer of time management improvement opportunities, there’s not much new stuff being said, and the experts are more or less repeating themselves.

Trend #2 – these messages telling people *what* they need to do are now available for free, or at a very low cost.

A used copy of Getting Things Done is available today from Amazon from $2.80. If a customer isn’t willing to spend the money, it’s not a problem – the same advice is available for free on lots of other places on the Internet, and from hundreds of smart people in online communities who are willing to share their experience at no cost whatsoever.

I expect this trend to continue, and expand. I suspect you do also. Learning *what* you need to do has never been easier, or cheaper. What are the implication for you as a coach, trainer, consultant, author or professional organizer? If all you do is focus on telling clients *what* they need to do, you are going to become irrelevant.

As time advisers… should we kill ourselves now?

Not yet – because most people, even when the advice is given to them freely, are still failing. A knowledge of *what* to do differently is necessary but hardly sufficient.

As time advisers, it’s time for us to pivot.

As you probably know, I have been going writing about the need to use androgogy (the principles of adult learning) in our work. Without rehashing the topic, I’ll summarize: it focuses a great deal on *how* people learn.

If you think I’m out to convert time advisers to students of *how* then… you are right. If you can see the opportunity that exists for those of us who become experts in this area, then you get double credit.

There are lots of ways to take advantage of this gap, in order to serve clients at more profound levels. As for me, I hope to release the online version of my live Baby Steps training for Time Advisers in 2014 that focuses on training time advisers to build their client’s capacity for change… the *how* that clients so desperately need to stop failing.

But, ultimately, here’s what I really want to create – a rich teaching and learning online space that I call a “Realm.” What follows is a short explanation, and a link.

If you took my survey (now open until Dec 31, 2013) you could tell that I have become deeply interested in the problems that clients face, in the way that THEY see them (vs. the way WE as experts see them.) I call them “symptoms” or “challenges.”

I’m sure that you have been in situations where a prospect who is being buried by email tells you that they are, nevertheless, “quite good at time management, Thank-You-Very-Much.” They don’t make the link between the effect (email overwhelm) and the cause (weak time management skills.) Given enough time, we can explain the connection for them, but at the end of the day we are simply outnumbered… we can’t make a dent in the overall scale of the problem via our chosen medium: coaching or training sessions.

Writing a book would help, except that it wouldn’t be read. Someone who has a “little problem with email” doesn’t want to read a whole book on time management in order to solve it. The future looks bleak: check out some of the literature on the different learning styles of Boomers vs. Gen X’ers vs. Gen Y’ers vs. Millenials. Attention spans are contracting dramatically. Customers are impatient of longwinded solutions.

This “Realm” would give learners a way to find out the *what* as quickly as possible, in whatever depth they desire. Ideally, and almost right away, they could move into learning the *how* either on their own, or with the help of specific tools, fellow travellers or professional time advisers.

But let me not try to explain the entire vision here. If you are interested, read my recent post: I Have a Dream… for Time Management over at my book’s website. It’s all about the “Realm” and why I have been inspired by the volume of learning that’s taking place in online realms surrounding The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter.

I hope to define some of this “Realm” but it’s not something I can do alone. It would need all of us who have some interest in helping to make time management learning and teaching easy, which just happens to be a part of the Mission of 2Time Labs.

What do you think? If you have a quick comment, question or answer leave it here. For a deeper, more prolonged discussion, pop into forums I created for this topic on my book’s website and look for the Time Adviser topic: http://perfect.mytimedesign.com/forums. I want this forum to become our place to connect in future.

If this topic resonates with you as a time adviser, jump in to this new conversation and let’s all work on it together.


Note: GTD® and Getting Things Done® are the registered trademarks of David Allen Company