A Powerful Index of All Productivity Techniques

Several years ago, I stumbled across Dr. Melanie Wilson’s blog in which she was in the middle of a one year effort to personally test one new productivity technique per week. It was an impressive feat.

Fortunately. she has documented her findings in a book – A Year of Living Productively.

Her book was released in December and happens to mention the work we have done here at 2Time Labs. More to the point, if you’re a productivity coach, consultant, trainer or professional organizer, this is an indispensable resource.

In each chapter, she outlines her personal experience of each, summarizing the conditions in which the use of the tool in question would be ideal. This should save the time adviser hundreds of hours, plus bring them to a level of expertise that allows them to take care of client questions and concerns about alternate methods.

Don’t miss getting a copy of  this one-of-a-kind  resource for your shelf or reader.

“Basic” Time Management Training? No such thing!

One of the dilemmas facing trainers, coaches, professional organizers and consultants in time management is that they try hard to be experts, only offering simple or basic training in the field. It’s often a wholehearted attempt to simplify things for their learners.

However, this attempt often backfires for reasons I explain in the article I wrote for the Jamaica Gleaner. It’s right in line with this quote from my book:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the article which was first published in the Jamaica Gleaner.

As a manager, you may advise a subordinate: “You need a basic time management program.” While this advice is probably well-intended, it turns out to be flawed. Today, a more nuanced picture has emerged.

Your intent might be pure. Many employees who once appeared to be capable and reliable have fallen into rough times. Even though they remain motivated, they look harried, are behind in their email and keep missing deadlines. Their reputation has taken a hit so you want to help.

But they still have to complete the new project you assigned them, in addition to their other responsibilities. None of it can be delegated—it’s all important.

Yet, their sense of overwhelm remains real. Maybe, you think, “They don’t understand the basics of time management.”

While this line of thinking sounds logical, it happens to be incorrect. Here are the reasons why.

  1. They are adults, not kids

In the world of adult learning, there’s a known fact: teaching adults differs from teaching children. Why? In most cases, it’s because the adult already possesses some capacity, prior practice, plus a motivation to solve everyday problems.

In this context, teaching Jamaicans Latin isn’t the same as teaching us patois. We all chafe and resist when someone tries to force us to learn something we think we already know.

With respect to time management, my local research shows that you and your employees are similar to other experienced adults around the world.

To illustrate: you were taught the concept of time at age eight or nine. Shortly after, you taught yourself how to create “time demands” – your own internal, individual commitments to complete actions in the future. You stored each one in memory to prevent it from being lost or forgotten.

Over time, you evolved, having learned the superior nature of paper or digital storage over brain cells. But regardless of your efficacy, you became a functioning adult with many successful time management habits. After all, they are responsible for positive results at school, work, and family.

However, you suspect that your subordinates have not kept up with the volume of their work and suffer from some weak habits or tools… the question is, “Which ones?” Only nuanced (not basic) training can help them uncover and close these gaps.

  1.      They need personal diagnostic skills

Instead of being instructed to engage in specific behaviours (the stuff of basic programmes) adults need to learn how to analyse and improve the habit patterns they are currently using: the same ones they have been honing since their teenage years.

In the second edition of my book, Perfect Time Based Productivity, I condensed the actions required to guide this transformation into four steps, known as ETaPS.

The first step is to E*valuate your current skills. Unlike other trivial behaviours, this takes more than completing a two-minute quiz from a magazine.

Unfortunately, empirical data from local classes reveals that the combination of habits, practices, and apps you employ today are complex. For example, everyone in your office may rely on Outlook, but there’s a unique way they use the program. Over time, you each developed routines which are idiosyncratic. Understanding them enough to make changes takes some study.

Therefore, a sound self-diagnosis starts with a deeper than average knowledge. With it, you can compare yourself against a typical Jamaican, or the very best in the world. This can be a sobering exercise, but the knowledge is priceless and produces a lifetime of steady changes. How fast should you expect to see real improvements?

  1. Instant, magical change won’t happen

A “basic” training which ignores the lingering effect of old behaviours sets learners up for failure. They go to work the next day thinking that everything will change right away.

This is impossible. It took a decade of practice to develop your current skills which don’t change overnight. To help, I recommend the remaining steps of the ETaPS formula.

–          Ta*rget new levels of accomplishment for each skill.

–          P*lan a timeline of changes to reach these new levels in months or years, taking baby steps.

–          S*upport each change so that single behaviours turn into habits. Draw on other people, reminders, and progress tracking to maintain momentum.

The idea is to break a complex, long-term transformation into small, manageable actions.

If you are a manager, help your subordinates see where a personalized plan of improvement provides a way to accomplish their goals. Then, show them how better time management could improve every part of their life:  relationships with significant others, children’s performance at school, work-life balance, health and engagement in their community and family.

Instead of trying to shoehorn them into one-size-fits-all “basic” training, give them the nuanced understanding they need to make consistent, fool-proof changes.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2017, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

 

 

How Do You Help Your Clients Achieve Elite Performance?

Over at the ScheduleU website, I just shared the first post in a series, based on the finding in a Linkedin study. It revealed that only 11% of professionals surveyed complete all the items on their daily To-Do List.

As a trainer/coach, you may instinctively know what this translates into – a lot of failures.

When a client or prospect approaches you with this problem, what is the best way for you to respond? In this opening article, I introduce the first idea of many to be shared in a series of posts.

By the time we are done with this topic, I hope to prove you some solid direction on how to help someone who has the will to be an elite performer in time-based productivity but lacks the necessary skill.

Here is the link to the article:

Becoming like the elite 11% who get all their tasks done each day

Helping Clients to Create New Habits

“Time management” has a bad rap. It’s often held up as the kind of training in which everything sounds good while the teacher is in the classroom, works for a few days and then disappears immediately after. Old behaviors re-assert themselves with a vengeance as the learner’s vision of being more productive are dashed.

As a helping professional you are devastated when this happens. You are, after all, only as successful as your clients new habits. If they fail to change, you have failed.

Your role, therefore, is to do more than provide new insights.

The fact that you can do so is rarely disputed. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule has been clarified by the authors of the original study in this article on Salon:

Third, Gladwell didn’t distinguish between the type of practice that the musicians in our study did — a very specific sort of practice referred to as “deliberate practice” which involves constantly pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, following training activities designed by an expert to develop specific abilities, and using feedback to identify weaknesses and work on them — and any sort of activity that might be labeled “practice.

Note the emphasis (which most people overlook) on the role of the “expert” – someone who knows enough about the field to design “deliberate practice.” In their studies, the authors are adamant about the critical role this person plays.

But how does the expert help the learner develop new habits? According to a study from the University of London, most people get this completely wrong, including the developers of apps. In general, we believe that repetition, timed reminders and recording our progress are important for habit development. The study shows that they aren’t nearly as important as the at of designing events that trigger habitual behavior. I explain the findings in this article on my book’s website.

A time adviser who understands these distinctions can make the kind of long-lasting difference his/her clients desperately want.