FAQ’s About 2Time

faq.jpgQ. What is 2Time?

Q. Why does anyone need a new approach to time management?

Q. Does 2Time apply to every professional?

Q. Do I have to abandon the system I am currently using?

Q. Do I have to buy anything?

Q. How is this different from all the other systems and approaches out there?

Q. Is it hard to design your own time management system?

Q. Must I set the goal for myself of getting a Black Belt as soon as I can?

Q. Is it better to be at a higher belt than a lower belt?

Q. Where does the name 2Time come from?

Q. What is 2Time? 2Time is a do-it-yourself approach to time management in which a working professional can define their own time management system to fits their unique circumstances, lifestyle and way of working. Once the system is defined, they can take the next step and improve it over time, starting at whatever point they find themselves now. 2Time provides users a structured belt system for improvement, ranging from White to Black belts, that describe different levels of time management and productivity.Q. Why does anyone need a new approach to time management? Continue reading “FAQ’s About 2Time”

A Community of Practice

One thing I long for, from my office in Jamaica., is a community of practice in this field of time management.

I remember once when I had the chance to visit the offices of Innovation Associates, the firm started by Peter Senge. They impressed me with their focus on learning, and how seriously they took their commitments.

I briefly wondered this morning what it would be like to be around a group of people committed to growing the 2Time ideas, and to refining them by throwing out what doesn’t work and keeping what does.

I just think it would be a great learning opportunity, and maybe it will come from one of the virtual forums I have created for graduates of the program based on 2Time.

Yet, there was something powerful I witnessed first hand about having a LIVE group working together, and for some reason my mind drifted to a New York location. Maybe it might be fruitful to have it generated during a summer in the city?

Where Your Eyes Go Your Attention Flows

eyes-baby_blue_eyes_9tog.jpgBy special guest blogger — Andre Kibbe of Tools for Thought (Tools-for-Thought.com)

A great strategy for maintaining focus is to to set up visual cues that return your attention to your intention. Cues can take many forms: a photograph that represents some component of your ideal lifestyle, a written goal, an entry on your calendar, or a mind map that graphically details every aspect of a project.

Holding intentions entirely in the head without external reinforcement can work in an environment without distractions, but that’s not a reality for most people. Setting up review protocols helps us keep our eyes on the prize – or as productivity coach Jason Womack once said, “Where my eyes go my attention flows.” Here are a few ways to get your eyes going to where you want your attention flowing.

Make reviewing your calendar that very first action of the morning. Keep your day planner, PDA or printout of your desktop calendar on your nightstand, and review it when you wake up, before doing anything else. I use my smartphone as my alarm clock, with my wake-up alert as a calendar entry; so when the alert goes off, the calendar is evoked automatically.

This won’t necessarily be the only time you review the calendar that morning. It’s a good idea to review it at your work desk when you first sit down, or on your laptop when you first open it. But the idea is to use a visual cue to create a mental focus for the day before your attention has a chance to wander.

Set reminders to reinforce new habits. Behaviors we want to retain as habits are like facts that we want to keep in long-term memory. They need to be refreshed repeatedly.

I used to review my @Office action list rigorously, but frequently neglected to apply the same discipline at home. So I put a reminder in my tickler file to look at my @Home list. I filed the first reminder for two days later, then I refiled the reminder for three days later, then three days later again, then four, and so on in increasing intervals. The only criterion for deciding how far in the future to file it was the question: “When will I start forgetting to do this?”

You can apply the same principle for habits you want reminders of throughout the day by setting alarms on your watch or cell phone, asking yourself when you expect to forget the habit. I’m fond of using Twitter’s timer bot on my phone, sending the text message “d 180 log your activities” – where d sends a private message to the timer bot, and 180 is the number of minutes to receive the reminder from Twitter.

Set reminders for just before the time you think you’ll forget, not earlier. Memory research shows that repeating things when they’re still well remembered has a weaker reinforcement effect than at the brink of forgetting.

Make sure the actions on your task list can be visualized. Tasks that aren’t physical or visible are generally too abstract and unclear to motivate action. Replace verbs like “learn” with “read,” “plan” with “write,” “remind” with “call” or “email,” and so on. Being able to see yourself doing things helps clarify their execution, and reinforces your self-image as a doer.

Planning Leisure Time

touristbeach1.jpgYet another New York Times article caught my attention.

This one, written by Marci Alboher, is about Leisure Time, and it made my mind wander to the years I lived in New Jersey, the times I have visited New York to work and the life I now live in Jamaica.

For cultural reasons, the importance of leisure time is well understood here in Jamaica, even when we think our lives become hectic. It’s part of the reason people pay thousands of dollar to vacation here — in a place where it’s always warm, people are more connected with each other and the tropical weather often intervenes to slow things down without warning.

Alboher predicts that Americans will be focusing much more on leisure in the near future. The Baby Boomers are entering the retirement phase, and they are going to produce an increasing need for people to have more meaningful, and productive leisure time in their lives.

She promotes a kind of self-awareness that I would say I have seen more of here in Jamaica than I did in the U.S. After her work with one client she shared the following:

Here’s an example of a work situation: one of my clients works in television, and her life is filled with stress during her filming season. In those periods, she works six days a week and has little energy for herself, her boyfriend and others in her life. She came to me in one of those stretches, in which she was so overwhelmed that she was waking up each morning just hoping to get through the day. It was affecting both her workday and the limited time she had outside of work.

“Eventually, (the client) said, she might make a big lifestyle change. But until she could do that we worked together on how she could add small bits of leisure into her days during those intense times. We were looking for small changes, the kinds of things she could do in 10 or 15 minutes. She created a list: she could call a friend who would make her laugh, take a walk to get coffee, sit for a few minutes in the park, even walk to and from work. Once she started to add some of these small bits of leisure to her life, she felt more free and happy at work, and she saw changes in her life outside of work, especially in how she interacted with others.”In 2Time terms, this is interesting. I believe that the goal of a time management system is promotion of both productivity and peace of mind, with an emphasis on the latter. In essence, the client is being encouraged to schedule leisure time into her calendar.To do that effectively, however, it would take at least a level of Orange Belt scheduling to bring it off. (See the posts on Scheduling for more on the topic.)

Here is another excerpt:

“Q. So how do you explain all those people who don’t feel free in their lives? A. Few of us really think about or plan for leisure. We think we should just go with the flow, but too often we end up feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unfulfilled. We need to plan for leisure — perhaps by doing one small thing every day, identifying long- and short-term leisure goals, putting enjoyable activities on the calendar — like we do other aspects of life. But before people start moving up leisure on the priority list, they need to appreciate and recognize the value and benefits of leisure, even when they have constraints (that may be internal or external). We all have obligations and other constraints that inhibit us from engaging in leisure that range from guilt to time or financial constraints. Yet the personal benefits and collective benefits short term and long term are worthwhile.”

Interesting, I thought. I agree that the importance of leisure needs to be appreciated first, but there is not way that someone with a low level of Scheduling skills will be able to create the kind of calendar that produces the increase in leisure she recommends.Of course, she is right about people wanting to “go with the flow.” There is nothing wrong with being flexible, but someone who sets aside their Green Belt calendar of activities to grab some fun, is in a very different place than someone who has only a White Belt calendar to set aside, or worse, no calendar at all.

Q. So what happens when an individual goes for an extended period of time without leisure?A. You tell me. Have you ever been burned out, depressed or overwhelmed, had stress manifest physically? Mind and body connect you know. And then think of the effect on not only you but how it affects others.

Another answer to the question of “what happens” is that the credit card is whipped out and the flight to Ocho Rios is booked on Travelocity.In either case it’s not too hard to see that effective leisure management has everything to do with good time management skills.

Tracking Procrastination

It might just be me, but I think I have cannot for the life of me figure out why someone would want to know how much time they are spending in each activity on their computer.

I recently came across a couple of software programs that claim to help its users to improve their productivity by tracking the amount of time they spend in each Windows program. The latest one I found, ProcrastiTracker, is a case in point.

The tagline on the page I discovered says that “Spying on yourself Was Never this Much Fun!”

Essentially the program produces a chart that shows how much time is spent on each program. With this simple tool, the user is supposed to (I guess) determine that they need a better balance between Excel and Word, or between Firefox and Outlook.

Unfortunately, when the phone rings, all bets are off, as the system only records that the user is “idle.”

This program strikes me as one of those “tools” that was invented and never actually used by its programmers. These kinds of tools are easy to devise with the languages and skills that are available today, but they do little to actually improve our productivity. In my ChangeThis.com manifesto I called for users to “Focus on the Fundamentals, and Toss Away the Tips.” I also should have said, “Toss away the nifty tools”… such as this one.

If am terribly wrong about this, would someone please shed some much-needed light?

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

rewire.jpgI was a bit startled to see the New York Times article by the above title, as I had just finished leading a 2-day program in Trinidad called “NewHabits-NewGoals.”

(It uses the 2Time principles to help people build their own time management systems.)

The author, Janet Rae-Dupree, shares the discovery that habits can be used as the pathway to creativity, and are far more than the bad things that we spend so much time to get rid of.

She says “Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.” This is very good news for those of us who are in the process of crafting our own time management systems.

She also reports that it’s better to focus on creating new habits, than on trying to kill off old ones.

“But don’t bother trying to kill off old habits; once those ruts of procedure are worn into the hippocampus, they’re there to stay. Instead, the new habits we deliberately ingrain into ourselves create parallel pathways that can bypass those old roads.”

That reaffirms much of the 2Time approach, which is largely based on the idea that new habits or practices are the key to increasing productivity. When people complain about their habit of procrastination, for example, it’s a better idea for them to focus on developing new habits, than to try to stop procrastinating.

She also points out some research done by M.J. Ryan and Dawna Markova:

“Ms. Ryan and Ms. Markova have found what they call three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is the realm of existing habit. Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond current experience as to be overwhelming. It’s that stretch zone in the middle — activities that feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar — where true change occurs.”

“Getting into the stretch zone is good for you,” Ms. Ryan says in “This Year I Will… .” “It helps keep your brain healthy. It turns out that unless we continue to learn new things, which challenges our brains to create new pathways, they literally begin to atrophy, which may result in dementia, Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.”

Wow — it sounds like they are saying that a focus on creating and refining a time management system could ward off senility!! LOL

As a 42-year old, I have enough mad days to make me hope that this is true!

One a more serious note, they perfectly capture the middle ground that I have wanted the belt system to embody. Most time management systems that I have observed are presented in all or nothing terms. In the experience of the user, they either produce comfort (I already know this stuff) or stress (all this new stuff is overwhelming.) In adding in a belt system to 2Time, my hope was that each user would find their own “stretch” point, and be able to pick a set of habits to focus on that would carry them to the next belt level (if they desired,) at a pace that kept them engaged.

The researchers link this engagement to a commitment to achieving improvements in small steps, and she uses the Japanese concept of kaizen, which simply means small, continuous improvements. It’s one of the cornerstones of the Toyota Production System, and other manufacturing techniques that they have been using so effectively. (As an industrial engineer, this concept became part of my bread and butter at a young age.)

“Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain,” Ms. Ryan notes in her book. “If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness.”

That’s just the reaction that I hope users experience when they use the belt system for the first time — a way to take control of small, incremental improvements, with only hints of direction from the 2Time system itself. Once these improvements are practiced long enough, an interesting thing happens in the brain.

“After the churn of confusion, she says, the brain begins organizing the new input, ultimately creating new synaptic connections if the process is repeated enough.”

Well, I can’t say that ever intended to be part of the great rewiring or the twenty-first century brain, but I do hope this happens, if only in small ways.

The Original New York Times article can be found by clicking here.

Audio Podcasts

Just in case you didn’t notice, or are reading the RSS feed, I just wanted to let you know that I have added an Audio tab that leads to a page with podcasts all related to 2Time,

The podcasts include an introduction to 2Time as well as a recent interview done with a friend of mine, Peter Gales, who has a website that focuses on the “The Practice of Your Life.”

We discovered that our thinking happens to be very similar — which came as a surpris, because we only knew each other socially until recently. He is helping people to find ways of getting more out of their lives by seeing them as opportunities to practice.

Here is the link to the podcast that can be heard here or downloaded with a right click, and then choosing “Save Link As.”:

[audio:PeterGales.mp3| leftbg=0xFFCC00|rightbg=0xFFCC00|lefticon=ox000000|righticon=0x000000]


There is a service that I have been using lately called MonkeyOn.com, and it’s a nifty, simple tool for delegating action items.

It allows a user to send an email to another person requesting that they complete an action item by a particular date.  In other wrds, itall ows you to put “the monkey on someone else’s back.”

While it’s missing some features I have seen in more sophisiticated programmes (such as a the ability of the recipient to actually affirm that they are accepting the promise) the idea is a very simple one, and it ensures that assignments don’t fall through the cracks.

At the moment, this has nothing to do with 2Time, except that it carries forward the principle of taking things out of your memory, and placing them in a system.  A reader of this blog made a comment a few months ago that “Delegating” might be another fundamental.

I have been considering this idea, as everyone (other than those who work absolutely alone) must rely on others to get work done.   Tools like this are essential to manage multiple promises.

Over in my business blog, I came up with the idea of a promisphere — an environment of promises that exists in every company.

 Click here to be taken to these 2 posts on the topic.

This simple tool can be a great help in establishing a clean promisphere.

Learning from White Belts

practice-bp-7-ward-batting.jpgI just completed the process of leading another NewHabits program in the Caribbean – this time in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

I learned a great deal from the experience.

It confirmed my observation that most people entering the program in the Caribbean do so at the White Belt level. Some are pure White Belts, practicing at that level in each of the 11 components.

Others have a mix of different belts, but at least one area in which they are White belts. That single area drags their time management
systems down to the lowest belt level. Ouch.

What is challenging, however, is that as White belts, there is some difficulty in dealing with the time demands that the program places
on them.

Even though one of the key principles is that habits must be learned at a rate of one or two at a time, the volume of items that must be done in order to implement these habits can easily overwhelm a White belt. At the moment, the way the course is designed is that the last learning activity has to do with habit changes, and it introduces a flurry of time demands to change and learn a habit. by that point, the average participant is tired, and can’t handle the sudden flood effectively.

Arguably, it is the toughest part of the course for a White belt as time demands fly, and old feelings of inadequacy resurface.

What I like about this fact is that it offers a great way to demonstrate what the course is teaching.

I am going to change the design of the course somewhat, and introduce a new meta-conversation that focuses on building their participants’ skill at dealing with the time demands that are created by the Newhabits program itself. I plan to take some “breaks” in the course throughout the two days, and allow people a chance to reflect on how they are using the principles they are learning to manage the time demands being created from the materials.

I also plan for them to practice scheduling, by using the lunch period as a real life example.

In this way, attendees will be able to get their hands dirty using the techniques they are learning, and be able to get coached and to
compare notes with each other.

The end result will be that they will have a real-life chance to practice and also be able to deal more effectively with the steps
to implement their new system.

This partially fulfills a dream I have had of giving participants something real to practice with, like a pick-up game in basketball
where the stakes are not so high, but real skills are being used. I had played with the idea of engineering a simulation, but I couldn’t come up with a way to challenge everyone in the class, given their different skill levels.

This seems to be one way to get the best of both worlds — some actual practice on some real problems, while giving each person a chance to use the new habits they are about the implement in their lives.