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Why Should a Time Management Coach Use Baby Steps?

It's no accident that I'm leading a Post-Conference Workshop at the ICD conference in Chicago called "Baby Steps - Radically Reducing Your Clients' Time Clutter." The name comes from an overt attempt on our part here at 2Time Labs to bring modern thinking that's backed by research to the way time management is taught or coached.

Most time management teaching follows the "tell them and leave them" approach. Learning the content is deemed to be the most important activity, and the materials are presented in a way that dumps a lot of new ideas on the learner or coachee.

The results are typically poor, according to research by by Therese Macan. For the most part, people end up doing whatever they were doing before the course began.

Before the work of Albert Bandura, managers and coaches would focus on building in elaborate systems of carrots and sticks in order to get the trainee to exhibit the right behavior. Bandura showed that much more is happening in the typical learning environment than simple external stimuli, and that one way to help the learner to change is to

  1. break down the change into small steps
  2. help them grow confidence in mastering increasingly more tasks
  3. showing them models that are successful

In other words, use baby steps.

The problem with the popular approaches to teaching time management is that the materials are presented in massive chunks. This leads the trainee to think that they are a failure when, a month later, they realize that they have implemented little or nothing new.

The solution that we have taken based on our experience of seeing a lot of failures is that a coach/consultant / trainer / professional organizer should help build what Bandura calls "self-efficacy" (a sense of confidence in your ability) in two ways:

  1. teaching clients how to re-design their time management systems starting from their current set-up in a way that uses baby steps; alternating new learning with immediate design activity to build the trainee's sense of mastery
  2. helping clients to make plans for implementation that are based on small steps to be taken over time, and offering supportive mechanisms so that they can see role models in action, and get help when confidence dips
Our experience and our hope is that this approach builds self-efficacy in ways that increase the odds of the learner's success. This means that you, the trainer/coach can not only experience greater success via making a bigger difference, but you can also build your business or career.