The 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