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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.

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