Why I started a Beta Community

Recently, I launched a community that may provide a great deal of value for time advisers.

It’s a community for Ultra-Busy people who share a few common characteristics.

These people are highly motivated or driven, and possess a great deal of energy. They take on big commitments which means they…

  • create a lot of tasks i.e. time demands. Why? It’s because they…    
  • have big commitments. Many want to change the world, raise exceptional kids, build powerhouse businesses, excel in a sport. As a result they…    
  • have calendars which they use to schedule almost everything. They know that time is their scarcest resource so they are very aware of how precious it is and how easily it is wasted. So they keep tabs on lots of stuff in their calendars, sometimes their entire life. Therefore, they…    
  • are always making trade-offs between stuff they are passionate about. They realize that “Yes” to something means “No” to a bunch of other things. Including sleep. Due to this inner drive for greatness, they…    
  • therefore have very little “free” time in the conventional sense. They effortlessly program each hour of the day with cool stuff. While others are exhausted just looking at them, they are are excited about their lives and the opportunities that present themselves each day.

We are quite busy in the community I formed looking at these characteristics and defining the needs of people who belong to this cadre. As a time adviser, you may find a home. Find out more here.

How to Help Clients Understand Their Inbox Health

Ever wished you had a tool to help clients see the impact of their poor email habits? Here’s some applied research we conducted at 2Time Labs that might help.

Recently, I just concluded LiveLab 02, the second podcast in the new format at 2Time Labs. In this show, we devise an email health index.

In other words, it’s a quick and dirty way for anyone to gauge the health of their inbox using some key metrics. While most people use a single metric – number of unread messages – I think we could agree that this measure is quite crude. In other words, it masks a number of of key factors.

In this series of three episodes, I work with Dr. Michael Einstein to derive a reasonable way to estimate email health. Use it with your client to provide a useful way to check the health of their inbox and give them sound, objective feedback. Or, use the principles we incorporated to become a better coach in this importnat area that few have mastered.

Click here to listen in.

 

How to Escape the Zeigarnik Effect

The ideas behind the Zeigarnik Effect (explained in my book) are growing in importance. Your clients want to be free of the overwhelm it brings, mostly because they are unaware of how it impacts their peace of mind.

Furthermore, as we add new technology, it can increase the effect without realizing it, causing us to waste time trying to fix the wrong things.

This is where you come in as a consultant, trainer, professional organizer or coach. Time advisers can help clients or trainees avoid this problem. Here’s the article from the Jamaica Gleaner I wrote that may help.

How to Escape the Zeigarnik Effect

Have you ever found yourself unable to fall asleep during a trying time at work? Or distracted in the middle of a conversation or meeting by thoughts about other stuff you still need to do?

If so, you may be a victim of the Zeigarnik Effect. Its exotic name comes from the Russian researcher who discovered it in the 1920’s while observing the behavior of waiters in a restaurant. Their ability to recall pending orders, but not the ones they had just delivered, caught her attention.

The disparity relates to the effect which bears her last name. It’s the nagging feeling you get once you mentally create a “time demand”: an internal, individual commitment to complete an action in the future. Your subconscious, which stores each one for later retrieval, does more than sit back and wait for you to act. Instead, it begins to ping your conscious mind with a stream of reminders.

If this were to take place on rare occasions, it would be a cute phenomenon. However, if you are someone who is ambitious, you may find the reminders increasing until you start to experience a sense of overwhelm. After all, her research states that the way to get rid of the Zeigarnik Effect is to complete the task. For busy people, it’s impossible – they create hundreds. Like everyone else, they can only finish one at a time.

So, is there an escape? Fortunately, there is, according to recent research conducted at Baylor University.

Dr. Michael Scullin and his team compared two bedtime behaviors in laboratory experiments. Before falling asleep, one group of subjects wrote their to-do list for the next few days. The other recorded the tasks they accomplished during that

day. The result? This small change in technique helped the first group fall asleep faster by over 9 minutes. Why did this happen?

To understand the underlying reason, we must visit the University of Florida. Drs. Roy Baumeister and Ed Masicapmo added to Zeigarnik’s research, showing that the effect disappears when a person has a trusted system in place to manage time demands. This makes intuitive sense. There’s no need for your subconscious mind to interfere if it believes that all your tasks are being properly managed.

How does this apply to falling asleep faster? Well, offloading your tasks to a written to-do list is one way to assure your subconscious that you are on top of all your commitments. In other words, it trusts a piece of paper more than your ability to remember. Satisfied, it leaves you alone, allowing you to doze off.

But what if you possess a high IQ, genius-level memory? Can’t that be used? The answer is short but elegant – “Sure… if you happen to be a kid.” While I doubt that any readers of this column are under 12 years old, we should understand why they are an exception. The fact is, they only have a few time demands to recall. Plus, they have teachers, parents, friends, and siblings reminding them what to do.

It’s only later, when they get older, that problems occur. But they aren’t caused by age which is not a factor until their retirement years. Instead, long before then, the challenge is to find a method to cope with the relentless swell in time demands our generation faces.

What else can be used beside paper? Digital devices also work. In addition, some people offload their tasks to other folks, like their children. “Remind me to pick up your cake tomorrow, Junior.”

But the only approach which succeeds in the long term isn’t a single technique or tool but a mindset of continuous improvement, plus specific knowledge of how humans use such tools. Start by getting committed to implementing ongoing upgrades. Then, understand that your choices need to follow a pattern.

While researching the latest edition of my book I found that improvements happen in serial fashion, but they all start with an attempt to use mental reminders. When that technique fails, we graduate to better skills one step at a time, following this sequence.

Level 1 – Memory

Level 2 – Paper Lists of Tasks

Level 3 – Simple Digital Apps

Level 4 – Complex Task Management Apps

Level 5 – Digital Calendars of all Tasks

Level 6 – Administrative Assistants / Autoscheduling Programs

As you look over this list, identify your current level. With this knowledge, you can prepare yourself for the next upgrade – the one that will help you stay abreast of your dreams and aspirations.

However, be aware: the Zeigarnik Effect shows up at any level. It’s a fantastic warning mechanism which lets you know when a change is overdue. Unlike your friends, colleagues and even your conscious mind, it can’t be fooled. It will do its job, preventing you from falling asleep quickly until you wake up to its incessant, nagging call for greater personal productivity.

 

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?”

Nothing.

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 – ScheduleU.org.

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.