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.


A Foundation for Sound Time Management Coaching

Most professionals didn’t learn their time management in a class or from a book. Instead, they pulled off a remarkable feat when, at some point in their young adulthood, they created their own system. Any successes in life, were due in part to this remarkable, brilliant, solo act.

This fact is just one that a time management coach must use to shape his/her understanding of the art and science of time management. Here are some of the other incontrovertible facts that I’ll be using in future posts:

  • Fact #1 – each professional has developed a unique system
  • Fact #2 – most professionals did this without any outside assistance or guidance
  • Fact #3 – professionals experience gaps in their systems when the volume of time demands grows to the point where some tasks are left incomplete, or late. Although these gaps exist, there are aspects of their systems that work quite well.
  • Fact#4 – these gaps can be filled by upgraded practices that evolve into new habits
  • Fact #5 – habit change is quite a difficult undertaking, and is best tackled in small steps, with lots of support
  • Fact #6 – most managers and professional coaches, authors and trainers focus on giving “clients” either a blizzard of disjoint tips, or a rigid system of fixed habits

These 6 facts form the basis or foundation for all time management 2.0 coaching. They provide a realistic starting point for anyone who wants to improve the time management performance of someone else as it gives a background against which a coach can be effective.

The truth is that if you’re a time management coach, your intention is to change individual behavior in a complex area of life that happens to be evolving rapidly due to increasing demands, and new technology. Given your commitment, and the business environment in 2012, you must start from a place of solid, empirical facts in order to give powerful advice that makes a difference.  Otherwise, you might very well end up just throwing tips at the client, hoping that something sticks.

Leave me a comment below, if you’d like me to clear up any point that I have made above, or even if you have a different point of view… or maybe just want to say “Hi!  I’m a reader!”

As a Coach: Why You Need to Toss Away the Tips

As a time management coach, you probably have been perplexed about what kind of advice you should aim to provide a client who doesn’t know that they have a time management problem.  Sometimes a client comes to us for specific advice in this area, but most happen to think that they just need more time (or less work) rather than greater skills.

Before we even start working with a client, it’s a good idea to have the right orientation as a coach, and to have the right approach in place to begin with.  Here are the three most popular.

Lotsa Tips (Time Management < 1.0)

Most coaches who dabble in time management focus on giving out tips:  lists of short, snappy things that a client should do differently.

They are often disjoint and disparate, with little or no connection to each other; the end result is that the client is quickly overwhelmed with bits and pieces of ideas that are impossible to implement in any coordinated fashion. As cool as they might be, (“Just buy an iPad!”) they are not essential to the client’s progress.

Most websites and time management books that you may find as a coach boil down to this kind of content.

Fixed Systems (Time Management 1.0)

There are a handful of books and programs that go a step further and advocate a single, fixed set of habits, practices and rituals.  They represent a vast improvement over the “Lotsa Tips” approach.

However, they fail spectacularly when the client is not already using a method that’s close to the one you’re advocating.  The problem with this approach is that it ignores the client’s current patterns, and further assumes that one-size-fits-all.  Many clients struggle to give up what they have been doing for several years, and fail to adopt new habits readily.  It’s not because they are stupid — most human beings find it very challenging to let go of old habits while learning new ones.

Also, clients have very different needs that depend on a number of factors and when you only have a single pattern or fixed system to offer them, the chances of success are low.

Flexible Systems (Time Management 2.0)

The vast majority of clients need to learn the skill of developing their own system.  As their skilled coach, you can start by giving them an understanding of where they are today, help them see the gaps, and teach them how to gradually take action to close the gap with new habits.

To do this effectively, you do need a sound system of continuous improvement to teach them, and you can take a look at the approach we use here at 2Time Labs and MyTimeDesign by taking these steps:

1. Download the e-book from ChangeThis.com entitled “The New Time Management:  Focus on the Fundamentals and Toss Away the Tips.”

2.  For much more information on the ideas included in this book, visit the 2Time Labs website and search our archives.