Thought Partners

business_team.jpgI am on the search for thought partners for this whole field of time management.

Interestingly, I finally found some research in the area of time management, but it hardly is a fount of new ideas. Instead, it is an empirical study of whether or not time management provides any benefit to the user, in very broad terms.

While this may seem like a common-sense question, I imagine that the author, Brigitte Claessens, who did this research for her thesis, was forced to answer such a basic question because there was so little scholarship on the question to begin with.

While I hope to contact her to find out where the cutting edge of the research might be, I wonder why there isn’t at least an online forum to discuss the ideas at the heart of time management. If it does exist, please let me know!

Advanced Scheduling Skills

appt-calendar.jpgI have been experimenting with a new skill that I think that I will include as a new habit. It only makes sense, however, for 2Time users at or above the Orange Belt level – those who have begun to use their schedule to manage their time demands.

It comes from the observation that we all need to recuperate from intense efforts, much in the same way that runners must recover from long runs or intense sprints.

Therefore, as the logic goes, the working day can be set up as a set of intervals alternating between intense effort and recovery activity. Continue reading “Advanced Scheduling Skills”

Outlook Enhancements — Wishing and Wanting

ist2_3187220_working_hard.jpgOne of the things that I wished Outlook would do intelligently is to link the contents of a time slots with the next logical time slot.

For example, I wish I could assign individual time demands to a particular kind of time slot, such as time that I spent at home. It would be able to understand that if an item were to be dismissed from the list of reminders, that it could be “forwarded” to the next appropriate time slot automatically. At the moment, the user has to reschedule every single time demand that has not been completed individually, instead of in bulk.

In other words, Outlook should understand that scheduled items that are not completed need special, intelligent handling and a greater choice of options. Continue reading “Outlook Enhancements — Wishing and Wanting”

Email: A Different Animal

inbox-email.jpgEmail is a problem for everyone who is concerned with being productive. It is a new medium and there is virtually no-one with 20 years of email experience.

Only recently have best practices begun to be developed for this difficult source of information. In the absence of these best practices, users end up with in-boxes of thousands of emails, not knowing what to do about this problem that only increases with each passing month.

Here are the current best practices:

  • Keep an empty in-box by processing every item
  • Allow email to come into the in-box only at specific, planned times of day
  • When faced with hundreds or thousands of backlogged email, copy them from the in-box to another folder and start with a fresh in-box
  • Touch email only once

These are fine principles, and I happen to follow them as much as I can each day. It is better, however, to also understand why the in-box is such a problem.

The problem can be understood at the level of the fundamentals, rather than just as a matter of practices. A decision to accept incoming items into an in-box is an open invitation to receive everything from spam, to pictures, music, requests, replies, FYI’s — and confusing mixes of all the above and more. Unfortunately, they don’t come tagged as such. Instead, they are unclear and sometimes intentionally misleading in terms of their time demand on the recipient.

The first few moments after receiving an email and reading it are spent deciding what the next action should be. In other words, a massive Emptying action has begun (to use the 2Time terms). This is the point at which I find myself getting stuck.

Some are easy – they are immediately deleted. Others contain important information which must be stripped from the email and stored in a safe place for future retrieval.
These are the easy emails to deal with. In terms of the 2Time fundamentals, the first are Tossed while the second are Stored and Tossed.

The vast majority of email, however, is more complex. Some represent actions that need to be immediately Listed or Scheduled. The most troublesome present dilemmas – the next action is not immediately apparent and requires some thought.

And here is the decision that kills most people: emails that are important but need further thought are left in the in-box, “so they don’t get forgotten”. This is not a problem when there are 1-2 such emails per day. However, increase that number to 10 emails per day requiring a few days of thought each, and in no time chaos ensues.

That initial, innocent practice ends up drowning the user who has no idea how to change course. The result is one we can all recognize in other people. There are some professionals who are simply incapable of responding to all their email. More often than not, important things fall through the cracks. They are not ill-intentioned… it’s just that their habits are ill-suited for the volume of time demands coming at them via email.

The solution is an upgrade of several practices, and then implementation of Warning and Reviewing practices to prevent breakdowns and to help evolve the system continuously.
Also, the following practices must be upgraded:

  • Listing – a folder or category must be created to be able to store all items that are under consideration (a Thinking About List) and items that are awaiting further action or information by others (a Waiting For List).
  • Scheduling – for these lists to work, however, they are best accompanied by scheduled times at which these lists are processed. Furthermore, these scheduled need to have alarms to ensure that they are indeed processed.

Also, items that require dedicated thinking or meeting time should be scheduled in the calendar immediately. For example:

Tuesday, October 23rd from 2:00 – 2:30 p.m. – Decide on how to respond to email from Mark.

In this way, it is much easier to accomplish the empty in-box. Several habits may have to be upgraded at the same time in order to get to that point, but these upgrades must happen all together for the objective of an empty in-box to be achieved. Once achieved, the higher belt users never allow their in-boxes to hold more than a screenful of items at a time, and they learn to empty it as soon as they can each day.

The essential habit to be broken is one that was learned in childhood – to remember to do stuff, I need to put it where I can see it. In other words, we learn to use the physical presence as a reminder.

Again, this isn’t a problem when the number of items is small. As the number grows, it becomes an impossible practice to maintain, leading to cluttered room, desk and in-box.
Using the practices of Listing and Scheduling are ways to reliably deal with large numbers of time demands – in fact, they are the only ways.

Einstein Quote

einstein12.jpgSubmitted by akalsey on October 11, 2007 – 5:52 p.m.

There’s a story that says Einstein was once asked for his phone number. He walked over to a phone book and started to look it up. When the questioner expressed surprise that someone so smart wouldn’t know his own phone number, Einstein said he didn’t want to clutter his mind with information he could easily look up.

This echoes the idea inherent in 2Time that the mind is a terrible storage device and that the function should be outsourced to more reliable, electronic devices.

2Time and Technology

One of the messages of 2Time is a difficult one – that users who are not technologically savvy are choosing to limit their productivity.

It might not be obvious as to why this is the case, but one of the major reasons has to do with portability. A user who is unable to travel with their schedule from place to place simply is not as effective as one who is not stuck with a desk-based or paper-based system.

They will end up wasting their own time, and that of others, as they take time to consult their schedules, wherever they may be, simply because they are unable to master a PDA or similar device. Continue reading “2Time and Technology”

Learning a Habit I Forgot

I am reading the #1 New York Times Best Seller – The Four Hour Work Week and finding it quite entertaining.

As someone who lives in Jamaica, it would seem that I am living the author’s dream to some extent! More on this later, to be sure.

One immediate benefit this book has brought me is that I realized that I had fallen back into the trap of checking email at all sorts of times during the day. I remember scheduling the times when I used to check email, and I even plan to teach it in the upcoming 2Time Pilot. Continue reading “Learning a Habit I Forgot”

List of 100 Steps to GTD Mastery

I thought that this list, The GTD® Mastery 100 – Checklist for Greatness, was an interesting one, as it uses the idea of a progression of skills from one level to another. The idea of having to work through 100 items is daunting, but it still makes for interesting reading.

I do think, however, that it would benefit from being organized around the 2Time fundamentals.

Add up your score monthly and track in your GTD journal. Work with a coach to get to 90 or above.
The Basics
1. I have read Getting Things Done from front to back.

2. I have a calendar, which is always on hand.

3. I use my calendar for appointments and day-specific items only.

4. I have a physical inbox, which I use daily.

5. I have an email program, set up the way I want it. Continue reading “List of 100 Steps to GTD Mastery”

Changing Habits Slowly

Recently, I did a most interesting test of my personal health on

What made it remarkable is that it gave me back a list of on-the-point recommendations, and it also gave me back an estimate of my “real age”, which I am happy to report is some 8 years younger than my calendar years.

Once I got over my pride at the hard work I have put in over the years, I started looking at all the new things I should be doing, like taking vitamins, sleeping longer and eating more tomato-based products. All in all, it had a list of interesting new habits for me to adopt, and the beauty of the report was that it listed all of them in one single place. Continue reading “Changing Habits Slowly”

Blogs on Productivity

The following blogs on productivity are pretty useful to know:

Personal Productivity Required Reading List: 100 Kick-butt Lifehacking Blogs

Lifehacking is all about finding ways to streamline and improve your life. These bloggers can help you do just that, offering clever tricks and tips for making your everyday life more effective. Check them out for some of the best ingenuity the Internet has to offer. Continue reading “Blogs on Productivity”