Being Careful as a Trainer

People who pick up a book or program in time management are often quick to claim it as their guiding light. They’ll tell you that “they are following the ACME System of Time Management by W.E. Coyote” with a sense of pride.

As a trainer, what you know is that they are actually fooling themselves.

Watch the video below to find out why they need to own their time management system, then come back to continue reading.

As a trainer, it’s tough to help them see the light, especially when they attribute superhuman tendencies to the author/creator of the approach they “use.”

But you should persevere, so that when the guru finally runs out of steam, they don’t simply go looking for a new one. Instead, they should return their attention to their current habits, practices and rituals and start their new journey of improvement with an new understanding of how they work.

Below the video on YouTube, I added the following description.

People get confused when they attempt to improve their time management skills. They pick up a book, or take a program that lays out a set of practices for them to follow, and then they tell others that they are “using that system.”They more often fail than not because of how difficult it is to adopt anyone else’s habit pattern. This is especially true for complex systems like the ones we use to manage our time, and not so true for simple ones like brushing our teeth each morning.

It’s a much better idea to tell the truth – you aren’t “using” someone else’ system, you are using your own. You may borrow ideas, concepts and teaching from someone else, but at the end of the day, and long after the book or program has lost its relevance, you’ll be using YOUR program.

You need to appreciate the fact discovered by recent research: we ALL have developed our own intricate time management systems by the time we reach our early twenties (if we are fully functioning adults.) When we don’t understand this, we ignore an important rule of andragogy (the science of adult learning): adults come to a learning opportunity with some skills already in place. They are not like kids, in other words, who come to school like blank slates.

Given that you have your own system when you pick up a book or program, you need to be careful – and change it slowly, or else you’ll have a very hard time trying to put in place some habits that someone else uses.

So – Is it my productivity system or theirs? It’s YOURS!


On Coaching Project Managers and Their Teams

My research website for Time Management 2.0, 2Time Labs, recently received  an honor – it was nominated as one of the top Project Management websites in the category of time management.

It strengthened my desire to do further research in the area of project management as a way of rooting out one of the causes of project failure: poor individual time management skills by team members.

What I’m interested in knowing is whether or not there is anyone who specializes in working on the time management skills of individual project team members. I’d love to learn a thing or two from consultants or coaches who work with teams in this specialty.

Use this link to send me a message:



Video: Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

There are a lot of time management programs and books that will argue that their solution will fit every single person on the planet.

Actually, that’s not quite true… some will tell you that you are free to keep some parts and throw away others. But as you turn the last page or walk out of the training you realize… they never told you what to keep… or what you can discard.

That’s like telling you that you are free to jail-break your iPhone, but you’ll get no help whatsoever from the manufacturer… AND you’ll void your warranty… good luck!

Obviously, Apple doesn’t want you to customize anything inside the case, and that’s why they provide no assistance. The same applies to most books and programs in time management. They expect you to implement everything, and to do so right away.

As an adviser in time management you have a problem. How do you resolve it? Watch this video as I discuss the problem.

How to Put Together Effective Time Management Training

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently, a training designer from an engineering company contacted me to ask: “Do you have any tips for designing a time management training session?” I gave her a few, and pointed her in the direction of the 2Time Labs website, but with it’s 500+ posts, it was bit like outing a match with a fire-hose. She didn’t have 5 years to put the intervention together, she had 5 days.

Since then, I have decided that I should be more helpful, condensing some of my answers into a single post that can help anyone in a similar position, particularly if they haven’t written a book or published 500 articles.

Learning Outcomes (the company’s)
Before you start your research it’s a good idea to figure out what success looks like to your “client.” Companies don’t ask for stuff, individuals do, and if your boss is the one holding your feet to the fire find out what goals he/she has in mind. Then, work to meet the expectations, and if necessary, to lower them. Use updated, recent data to show them that magical cures are unlikely.

One thing they may not say, but believe me… It’s there: “Please don’t embarrass me with a session that wastes people time with stuff they already know that generates a bunch of complaints that make me look bad.” This unspoken outcome your boss has buried in his/her subconscious is often the most important. Move it to the top of your list.

Here are some of the things they might actually tell you they want, if you ask the right questions.

1. “Something Short”
If your company expects a one hour session over lunch, plan to deliver a pithy combination of tips, tricks and shortcuts. If you can do a short survey before, figure out what people know, and put in some stuff that captures the imagination by focusing on what might be new. Focus on contemporary topics like life balance and smartphone abuse that have generated a surprising number of interesting statistics. Lead your audience to use this teaser as motivation to get more training. Don’t expect to change more than the occasional participant’s behavior.

2. “Take an Easy Shortcut – Copy a Solution from a Program/ Book”
In this case you are literally copying the content from a published book, or even an existing program. Gaining the appropriate permission from the owners is a must; you don’t want to violate copyright law.

What you can expect from this approach is a single set of behaviors defined in great detail – down to the name of the folders to keep. They are easy to put in a  lecture format, because all you’re doing is telling people what they should be doing in excruciating, unalterable detail.

If you get lucky, you’ll find that your employees already are using similar behaviors, making the learning curve a short one. In most cases, however, expect them to have an uphill battle to change their behaviors… But in every case, you can improve the odds of success with some after-program support.

Take this shortcut if you must, but fully expect a high number of outright failures.

3. Do the Right Thing: Redefine Success

With enough time to prepare, plus at least an  8 hour training day accompanied with  mid-term post-training support, you can put a big dent in your learner’s performance. Just don’t expect them all to be looking and acting the same at the end, like a host of happy Oompa Loompas.

Instead, hold as your intended outcome a future in which each person is continually upgrading their individual methods at a realistic speed. To achieve this, your training needs to start in a different place.

Assume that you’re going to start with a mix of skill levels and  you need to engage beginners as well as experts in worthwhile learning activity. Start by giving each person a self-assessment (while showing them how to repeat this task in the future.)

Then, help them determine whether or not they need an immediate upgrade based on their current workload. Trust them to know whether the stuff falling through the cracks is episodic, or symptomatic.

With a decent diagnostic tool, and the teaching that’s required to use it well, they should be able to see the performance gaps  themselves. When they instinctively rush to close them with unrealistic promises, show them how to make a change plan that’s built on baby-steps rather than divine intervention.

While you’re at it, reveal the secret  of how to “Change Anything” using a holistic habit-change plan. Teach them how to make sure they succeed with the right support.

At the end of your training day, don’t expect instant changes. Instead, have each person leave with a plan to grow their capacity over time to a level that they desire, with a high degree of motivation.

It’s likely that they will make some immediate changes, but don’t expect them to all make the same ones. Offer the kind of post-class support that bears fruit in months rather than days, and convince your boss that true and permanent behavior change is more desirable than a bag of fun-filled tips and tricks.

He/she may notice that you get lower scores on the post-class smiley-sheets, but you should feel confident that you did the right thing. So did your company when it made the decision to put you on this very challenging assignment.

If you happen to be the person programming the training (as opposed to the one actually delivering it in a classroom) you may want to read my article How to Program a Time-Based Productivity Intervention.

N.B. For more detailed information on the approach I have laid out above, get a copy of my book: Perfect Time-Based Productivity which outlines the steps you can follow, plus the forms you can use in your training. Also, if you would like to purchase a copy of my personal training materials (slides, videos, simulations) plus gain access to live class recordings, contact me at


Getting a Nasty Letter as a Time Management Coach

You are a smart time management coach or consultant who has read a number of books and uses bits and pieces from your favorites in your consulting practice. Your practice grows as you work very hard on your overall approach, and your skills.

You begin to get some national attention in the press and happily announce to your fans online that you are appearing on the Today Show in a month’s time. Shortly before your appearance you receive a letter in the mail from a law firm.

One of the companies that you admire has just sent you a cease and desist letter. Apparently, they believe that you have been using their stuff, violating their copyrights and making money using their content.

You can’t argue with the letter – you have indeed used their specific, copyrighted language in your business. You just didn’t know that you couldn’t and you never imagined that they’d have a problem with it.

Or, perhaps, you gave up on using that company’s ideas in your business from the very beginning. You decided not to enter the time management business at all, or stopped it from growing to the point where anyone would notice.

Or, even rarer, you took your own time and money and developed your own methods, and now you find yourself wanting to protect them however you can.  If they ever get used by some unwitting soul, you stand ready to send your own cease and desist letters.

One of my intentions here at MyTimeDesign is to be as transparent as possible around the rights that I grant consultants, coaches, trainers and professional organizers, who interact with my materials. My intention is to give as much access as possible, and craft a situation that allows more content to be created. In other words, I want to keep alive the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Ideas Come and Go Freely

From the very beginning, I have tried to keep the flow of ideas as smooth as possible. I don’t know there they come from, I don’t own them, and I find that when I give them away here at MyTimeDesign or 2Time Labs, more come. In any case, it’s not possible to copyright ideas, so my commitment to keeping the flow of ideas going, is just a logical outcome of the way copyright laws are set up.

Renaming Sources

The one place I do have a problem is using language from this site or 2Time Labs and saying that you wrote it. This is an issue of honesty for me, and it’s also a violation of copyright law.

The same applies to specific infographics that I use, and also the language on forms. Anyone can use the underlying ideas behind to create their own forms that do the same thing, but not the actual form itself.

What if you don’t have the time to put together your own forms and infographics? You attended one of my programs for time clutter consultants and are wondering if you can use what you want.

Well, you can. When you take a program of mine you are given the opportunity to acquire the rights to use the materials in a few different ways. It’s easy to understand and I explain it more in the actual program.

As a reader of this website, however, understand that you can use freely any of the ideas that you want in your work.

For a summary of some of these ideas, see my video:  Time Management Consultants: What Content Should I Use?

Giving Your Clients New Options with their Calendar

Lifehack just published an article I wrote entitled “The Evolution of the Calendar: How to Use a Calendar Today.” It’s a new take on the future of calendar management that might have a profound impact on the way your clients manage their schedules.

Read it and see why what your client considers their calendar to be is undergoing a massive change and why you, as their coach, need to be aware of it so that you can anticipate the changes that are coming, driven by new technology and real-time cloud storage.

Here’s the article: The Evolution of the Calendar.