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

Why Bother?

Handwritten Cookie RecipeNow and then I ask myself the very same question.


Why bother?

Why bother to offer a new approach to time management?

There are many approaches out there, and it’s not as if they are doing an awful job for those who use them.  Some of the time management systems that I have heard about are:

  • Getting Things Done (GTD®)
  • Covey’s 7 Habits
  • Do It Tomorrow
  • The Mission Control Productivity System
  • Zen to Done
  • GTD Lite
  • The Pomodoro Technique
  • Waking Up Productive
  • The Now Habit
  • Take Back Your Life
  • Getting Organized
  • Time of Your Life
  • TRO
  • The Personal Efficiency Program

… and many, many others.

There are also a growing number of productivity blogs and websites that offer thousands of tips that are all intended to help you improve your time management skills.

There is simply no shortage of ideas.

So…. why?  Why bother?

What really got me thinking was my own experience. While all these systems were good in some areas, there was none that was perfect, and they certainly didn’t encourage their users to experiment with a bunch of different approaches before making a system of their own (sometimes called a “mash-up.”)

In other words, they were closed, rather than open systems. Kinda like Microsoft and Apple vs. anything Open-Source.

The problem was that you and I were probably treating our systems as if they were open-source — building our own individual “mash-ups” by taking a little bit from here and there to craft something that worked for us, but probably wouldn’t work for anyone else.

I wouldn’t recommend, for example, that anyone take my personal time management system and use it for themselves. Today, in October 2010, it’s heavily influenced by my living in Kingston, Jamaica.

If you don’t live in Kingston, Jamaica then you shouldn’t think about copying what I do!!!!

Instead…. you should keep on doing what you’re doing… your own thing… forever… and never let it become named or labeled by anyone else.

I’m passionate about every professional taking control of their current time management skills and working them into a system that fits their lifestyle, regardless of where the original ideas may have come from.

Maybe you’re like me in this respect and just something that isn’t based on blatant lies, and at the end of the day…. works.

After blogging about this topic for four years in over 500 posts,and delivered ideas to thousands of people in live and online programs, receiving lots of feedback in the process,  I have learned a thing of two about what I call “Time Management 2.0.”  Here the things that people have told me that they want:

Want #1Respect
I learned that everyone has a time management system… something they are currently using. It might not be written down anywhere, it might not have a name and they might hesitate to call it a “system” but I have realized that the habits, practices and rituals they use each day do, indeed, accomplish results.

Whatever system you are using deserves some respect for doing its job of bringing you successfully to this moment in time.

I made a mistake early on by not realizing that everyone has a system when I focused on helping them to create their own – as if their current system didn’t exist.  Luckily I got some feedback to say that I needed to understand where most people are, and that helped me to relax as it’s helped me be much more effective as a coach.

Want #2:  Successful, Natural Upgrades

Most people who attempt to implement a new time management system fail.   The reason is simple:   none of them starts with what they know and builds on what they are currently using.

They assume that people just need to know the destination — the new set of habits described in the new system — and can simply ignore the habits, practices and rituals they have now.

When people try to implement entirely new systems all at once, they end up having a tough time, because they try to overlay a whole new system of habits on top of their own.

Guess what happens?

They try to change too many habits all at once, and end up reverting to their former system at the first sign of trouble.

While the change-it-all-at-once approach might work for some, for most it’s a disaster.  A much better idea is to upgrade slowly, or only as quickly as one’s current habit patterns can be effectively and permanently changed.

In productivity programs I taught several years ago I didn’t realize this fact, and saw many well-intentioned people who loved the ideas flounder in trying to do too much too quickly.

Want #3:  Acceptance

At first, when I created a way to help people improve their skills using a belt system, I thought that everyone would be interested in becoming what I called a Black Belt in time management.  I came up with a detailed pathway to get there by upgrading 11 fundamental skills, one at a time.

Somewhere along the way I realized that my mother (who is 70) has no need for a Black Belt in time management.  She just had her hip replaced, and at this stage in her  life she isn’t looking for the kind of skills that a Black Belt employs.

I also met a smart guy at a University here in Jamaica who stopped Karate after getting his Brown Belt at age 11.  He moved to a different city, and had no further opportunity to improve his skills… and he told me that he was happy with what he had accomplished, and had no need to go any further at this time.

Not everyone needs to improve their time management system — it all depends on whether or not what they have is giving them the peace of mind they want in their life right now.

Of course, I didn’t realize any of this when I started my blog.  It’s been one discovery after another!

Want #4:  After-Learning Support

I was so disappointed.  After my live 2 day NewHabits workshops conducted here in the Caribbean were over, some students were reverting to their old habits, just as they did after any other time management program.

I dug a LOT deeper and started to learn a lot about the reasons why people change habits or don’t change habits, even when their motivation is as high as it can be.  I started working on my own habits, using a simple list of habits that I checked off each day.

After a year of tracking my habits I can tell you — habits are HARD to change.  New ones are hard to learn. Old ones are hard to break.

Without help it’s difficult.

The help may take many forms, and the challenge is that people require different systems of support.  For example I may like to work in a virtual team, but you may prefer automated reminders and a live coach.

Creating an optimal, individual set of supports is critical to success.  I offered a handful of supports in early programs, but I learned that only a few students found it useful.  I gave up when I realized that I couldn’t design the perfect support system for each person — it had to be designed by them according to their needs, and what they needed was some help in putting it together.

So here’s “Why…”

Why MyTimeDesign 2.0.Professional?

It’s all about satisfying the need that you and other working professionals have to possess time management skills that meet your goals, regardless of what they are.

Some want to implement  new practices that help them take their system to the next level.

Some want to gain an understanding of the time management system they currently use, so that they can discover how it really works for the first time.  (Many don’t know that their current skills actually do make up a system.)

Some are going through a change in their lives (job, relationships, money, family) in which they need new skills to cope with new demands.

Some don’t want to change anything at all.

Any of these frames of mind are cool — my intention is to find ways to empower you and other people wherever you are at any moment in time.

I don’t want to replace the already existing commercial systems that exist in books programs and websites.

Instead, I want to do something different.  Instead of handing out interesting recipes… I want to teach you how to cook.

Once you know how to cook, you can pick up any recipe you want (or two, or three) and create a hell of an individual recipe that works for you.

A mash-up.  But I can’t help you with your cooking.

I can help you to realize a time management mash-up or system, that is your signature tool for leading a successful life.  When you do that, I’ll know I’ve been successful, and it’s the reason that I’m developing MyTimeDesign 2.0.

And it’s also why I love this quote from The Tao by Lao Tzu:

Go to the people

Learn from them

Love them

Start with what they know

Build on what they have

But of the best teachers

When their work is done

Their task is accomplished

The people will remark

We have done it ourselves.

P.S. As you read this blog, I’d love to hear what else you might want that I haven’t addressed (apart from “instant magical solutions that require no work whatsoever”… I’m all out of those!)

P.P.S. Some readers have been bugging me about hearing details quickly.  If you’d like to get on the Early Notification list (the one that will get _all_ the advanced information about the program and the early bird discounts) then add your name to the list at the “Early” page by clicking here.