Checking Your Clients’ Temporal IQ

One of the signs of a consultant’s maturity in time-based productivity is their shift away from giving one-size-fits-all advice.

However, that leaves them wondering how to systematize the analysis that’s needed to give a client practical, custom solutions.

In this article for the Jamaica Gleaner, I argued that the idea of someones’ Temporal IQ can be useful, but only if it’s based on actual visible behavior (rather than invisible personality or cultural traits.)

Why You Must Boost Your Temporal Intelligence Quotient

We may laugh along with our leaders about our personal productivity and constant overwhelm, but those who have worked in developed countries know that top organizations take time seriously. It’s no coincidence. Corporate success relies on individuals who execute brilliantly, never run late and don’t forget to do their tasks.

But here in Jamaica, we are perplexed. We want the crime-free, growth opportunities that occur in a strong economy built on high-performing companies. Yet, when pressured, we continually excuse the fact that we are individually slack. For example, almost no-one complained when every meeting of the 2017 Jamaican Parliament started late.

Instead, tardiness is met with a joke. The brave few who insist on timeliness are sidelined as “anal” as boards, teams, and cabinets, tolerate behaviors that keep us mediocre. When this vibe is amplified across society, contributing to mayhem and murder, we scratch our heads: “What’s wrong with THOSE people?”


They are simply echoing low standards we all indulge in, even when we know we’d have to give them up if we ever migrated to a developed country.

Imagine – a Jamaican?

A few years ago at a U.S. Conference, I listened in agony as the top organizer explained why they needed to check my credentials twice before inviting me to speak. “We just had to ask”, she shared, “is he for real? Who would imagine that someone in Jamaica knows something about time management?”

Unfortunately, we have collectively earned this suspicion. Our economy hasn’t grown since the 1960’s – a case study for stagnation, resistant even to above-average outside investment. In terms of our macro-productivity, we fight to stay a step above last place among countries in the hemisphere.

But the conference organizer was no economist. She was talking about the lack of “micro-productivity” visitors see upon landing…”Jamaica Time.” It’s why they book two different taxis from their hotel to the airport, “just in case.”

We can rescue our reputation with a focus on a locally defined Temporal Intelligence Quotient (TemQ). It would help us understand the extremes: the Bolt-like performance seen in the world’s best companies versus our sloppy, everyday mediocrity. It could also provide us with universal targets to aim for, whether we happen to be an individual workman, CEO or Supreme Court judge.

For example, our Prime Minister could declare an “Arrive on Time Week.” Such a challenge would push us to discover and practice industrial engineering techniques needed everywhere in our economy to meet Vision 2030 and the productivity problems it describes.

Until then, how can your company use TemQ right away? Here are three suggestions.

Step 1 – Establish Time Usage Outcomes

Professionals with high TemQ set clear intentions for each hour of the day. A high percentage of their plans are effective, which means that they:

– use mobile, digital planning tools.

– create a daily schedule which includes travel and recovery times.

– insert buffer periods for interruptions and other unexpected events.

– track their time usage to effect improvements.

By contrast, individuals with low TemQ are hapless creatures of random impulses and miscues. They are often seen as a very busy but produce little of value as they bounce from one fascinating, “shiny object” to another.

Step 2 – Highlight Errors in Task Execution

As a professional climbs the corporate ladder and adds more to-dos, their productivity is challenged in new ways. Each increase brings them closer to a recurrence of old symptoms they thought they had overcome, such as forgetting important commitments, seeing tasks too long or missing due dates.

The person with low TemQ won’t even notice these mild issues until they turn into crises. However, their counterparts remain eternally vigilant and see these early signs of trouble.

Step 3 – Develop Meta-Skills

High TemQ individuals don’t panic when such unwanted symptoms pop up. Instead, they realize that they need an upgrade and go about diagnosing their habits, practices, and apps in a systematic way. In other words, they demonstrate the meta-skills needed to build added capacity – the only approach which keeps up with a continuously increasing workload.

Unfortunately, low TemQ professionals get stuck and never improve, slipping into a mindset which partly explains our stagnant productivity. After all, if we aren’t actively expanding our individual TemQ, why should our companies thrive and our economy grow?

Ecuadoreans had a similar challenge, estimating that lateness costs them 4.3% of their GDP. In response, they launched a national tardiness campaign.

The good news is that, unlike our Intelligence Quotient (IQ), we can all easily begin to improve our TemQ with practical improvements. There’s no reason for us to continue joking about a matter which has sharp life-or-death consequences. It’s time to invest, on a personal level, in the productive Jamaica we want to become.



Coming Soon – The Audiobook version of Perfect Time-Based Productivity

This is just a heads up… I am nearing the final completion of the audio version of my book, Perfect Time-Based Productivity.

The graphic at left is a bit misleading as it shows the first edition cover, rather than the second.

It’s taken a lot longer than I thought to complete, but the end product should provide anyone who delivers training, coaching or consulting in time management with a powerful resource. Of course, it will be updated with all the recent ideas in the field, including my switch to using an auto-scheduler.

In addition, the French and Portuguese versions of the ebook are now available, with the Spanish version to be released soon.


Helping People Grow from Novice to Expert

One of the key tenets of the work here at 2Time Labs is that learners / coachees are not all made equal.

In other words, they vary from each other in important ways. A major factor is their skill in different behaviors.

I just recently released the second edition of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and once again, the following idea is core: adults have wildly different practices for managing time demands. (This fact is documented here.) And it’s not by accident…we are all self-taught.

In keeping with this philosophy, I came across a great article – When Do Novices Become Experts?

The author, David Didau, reinforces the idea that it’s folly to teach, coach or develop content for the Novice in the same way as the Expert. Take a look at the chart he has put together – it will change the way you think about helping clients improve their time-based productivity.

When Do Novices Become Experts

Is it better to schedule your life?

As a time adviser, you may be asked by your clients whether or not it’s better to schedule your life.

Probably the worst answer to give is a Yes or No. It will only take a few minutes for your coachee to Google the question and find lots of supporting evidence which contradicts your advice.

Instead, offer them a more nuanced answer… “It depends.” That’s the essence of the advice I gave to a similar Quora question.

Quora: Is it better to schedule your life?

On Helping Your Client to Schedule Everything

Shortly after I finished Perfect Time-Based Productivity, I decided to offer the most busy, ambitious ones some special assistance.

They needed to master the technique of Total Task Scheduling and there was absolutely no help available to them to fulfill this goal. Other books, blogs and podcasts came out suggesting that the approach benefits people who have a lot of tasks to manage, but there was still little real training, coaching or programs.

It became a bit like the idea of Paradise. Many might be called, but few were actually being chosen. The failure rate seems to be ridiculously high.

Until now, perhaps. I recently wrote a post announcing the launch of Schedule U, an answer to this lack of help. At the moment, it’s the only place I know where real training in Total Task Scheduling is available.

But here, you tell me whether or not your clients would like you to help them with this skill! Click here.

What If Your Clients Want to Schedule Everything?

You may not be a Total Task Scheduler. But what about your clients?

I have an interesting conversation with a client recently about her unwillingness to become a Total Task Scheduler.

She had an interesting observation: even if she never uses the technique, she needs to offer it to her clients who decide that it’s something they want to adopt.

To that end, she is part of my Beta team for a new site I am developing –

It’s a “School for Scheduling Everything” and you may want to understand where this effort is headed. visit the page to sign up for early notification and I will let you know when the site is available in Beta.

The Client’s Journey which Time Management Coaches Must Know

Vector Road Infographic Design Template. Elements are layered separately in vector file.Time management coaching is no easy avocation. Part of the confusion arises because coaches, consultants, professional organizers and trainers sometimes get stuck in a single model… or in the case of the diagram on the right, at a single level.

It’s an infographic lifted from an article I wrote on Medium: What Task Management App Developers Can Do to Catch Up with Pokemon Go.

I invite you to take a look as it explains the behaviors users undertake as they change their behavior to match the volume of time demands they must manage. While the article is targeted towards developers, it has powerful lessons for coaches.

One is that  a coach must strive to be engaging, and the best way to do so is understand the deep principles of gamification.

As you may imagine, a coach who understands these concepts can be very useful to their clients.

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. – 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.

Finding: Novices and Experts Want Different Kinds of Feedback

businessman and his son pulled his hands in the studioMost coaching programs make a passing reference to the fact that coachees require different kinds of feedback depending on their level of development.

This makes intuitive sense.

You wouldn’t give a beginner the same advice as someone who is an expert. However, that insight focuses mostly on the content of the feedback to be provided. In other words, whereas a novice requires repetition and reminders of the basics, that kind of input would be useless to someone who has more experience.

But what about the way in which the feedback is provided? That much harder question has rarely been addressed by more than anecdotes and stories. A recent paper by Stacey Finkelstein and Ayelet Fishbach sheds some light on this question with some interesting findings.

As they put it, “novices sought and responded to positive feedback, and experts sought and responded to negative feedback.” The reasons were simple – novices were more interested in increasing their motivation to improve, while experts were more interested in making tangible progress.

What does this mean for you as a time adviser?

1. You must do an accurate assessment.
It’s a big mistake to assume that one size coaching fits all, and you must perform a sound diagnosis to determine whether your coachee is a novice or expert. Without this knowledge, you are more likely to make mistakes.

2. You must vary your approach.
As you work with a client, it makes sense to start out giving lots of positive feedback and then change your advice over time to provide more negative feedback. Changing the blend of feedback might come intuitively to some coaches, but all would benefit from making this shift consciously.

I recommend my book and the forms it includes as a tested method for completing your diagnoses. You can also help your clients compare their skills against others who have also done this evaluation – it can reveal immediate opportunities for improvement and habit patterns that are working against their peace of mind.