One System vs. Another vs. Another

gurus-sik10gurus.jpgI just read an interesting article that compares three systems for Time Management, GTD®, Covey and DIT in  some detail.  What’s remarkable about the article is that I was wondering what the fuss was about.  The article can be found here.

Of course, the three systems must have their differences, and of course there must be pros and cons.  What I could not understand is why the writers involved were not focused less on the systems involved, and more on changing their own habits to create their own systems.  After all, the systems proposed should not be taken as complete, final solutions, even for their inventors.  They were created by their gurus to solve the particular lifestyle challenge that they happened to be facing in their lives.

I think the healthy way to regard the pre-packaged solutions is to follow Ludwig Wittgenstein, who said:

“My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the whole world aright.”

I think that time management solutions are a bit like this philosopher’s elucidations.  They are useful up to a point, but after a user has created their own system using a variety of inputs, and based on a knowledge of their own habit patterns, they actually don’t need the guru’s advice any further.

To be fair, this should include the 2Time Management System!

A Time Management System is Like a Hot-Rod

hotrod.jpgWhen I was a teenager growing up in Kingston,  the idea of building your own car, a hot-rod, was an exciting one.

(This was long before there were video games.)

I remember when I attempted to re-build the carburetor on my 1984 Toyota Corolla in an inspired attempt to fix an issue my car was having. The problem of only having a shop manual and a kit to help me didn’t stop me.

Half-way through, I realized that I was in over my head, and that I’d need some special tools to get the job done. When I struggled to put the carb back together I confirmed that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and that the 2 extra parts left over should probably have been included at some point.

Designing a car, I learned was a much more complex undertaking than I thought.  Without a knowledge of the fundamentals, I was more than a little dangerous and shouldn’t be found anywhere near a carburetor or a hot-rod.

I gained a new respect for those who successfully build their own hot-rods after this experience.  It looked easier than it
really was.

The same applies to time management systems.   At first glance, they look simple — after all everyone is using some kind of
system that they put together themselves.

The fact that they are doing it without knowing what they are doing  makes things difficult, however.  In general, people’s
feelings towards their time are decidedly disappointing.  Most believe that they are not using their time well,  don’t have
enough time and readily call themselves procrastinators.  Their time management systems don’t produce the peace of mind that most people want.

They are well intended, but lacking the basic information that  makes all the difference in well-executed design.

When someone knows the fundamentals of building a car, it’s not too hard to build any hot-rod.  Professionals who design time management systems with this understanding simply design better systems that give them more of what they want.  They achieve a peace of mind that comes from having their time demands well organized.  They achieve a level of productivity that lets them feel efficient, but doesn’t turn them into a machine.

Elegant design meets the needs of users with a minimum investment of time, energy and money.  The point of building a hot-rod was not to spend a lot of money, but instead to meet a personal need to exercise one’s creativity and ingenuity.  Plus there was the benefit of having your own car to drive.

A good time management system can be just as much fun to invent and to use in one’s day to day life,  And the fun doesn’t end there…. a time management system isn’t static, as it can be upgraded, fixed, tinkered with, improved and reshaped for the rest of one’s career.

Just like a good hot-rod.

More Crackberry Madness

urinal19.gifAn interesting article in the Economist starts with the finding that “35% of BlackBerry users would choose their PDA over their spouse.

While this is entertaining, the real shocker comes a bit later in the article:

The vast majority of people (84%) say they check their PDAs just before going to bed and as soon as they wake up, 85% say they sneak a peak at their PDA in the middle of the night, and 80% say they check their e mail before morning coffee. A whopping 87% of professionals bring their PDA into the bedroom.

This kind of productivity at all costs mentality is exactly what destroys the peace of mind that a PDA is supposed to help to bring.

It speaks to a kind of scatter-brained-ness that results when professionals live as if getting more done is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

How can 85% of Blackberry users be made to understand that “getting more stuff done” is a worthless goal that can never be achieved by itself?

After all, what good is it if someone doubles their productivity and at the same time ruins their sleep,  endangers their marriage and never allows them to focus on whatever is in front of them?

But don’t blame the BlackBerry… it’s only a device.  All it’s done is to illuminate and automate some unproductive habits.

Now, when that person is pretending to be listening to you but are instead checking email, you know that they are not.

Now, when someone should be paying attention to the cars whizzing by at 90 mph, you know they are not.

Now, when you think that you are relaxing with your family at home or on vacation, getting some quality time, you know that you are not.

I predict that the BlackBerry’s usefulness  won’t be measured by the number of emails sent in the middle of the night.  Instead, it will help to shed some light on poor time management practices that need to be amended by those who are apparently addicted.

Last week in La Guardia airport, I think I saw the ultimate in insane habits.

A man was peeing at a urinal, hands free.  It wasn’t because he was a neat freak… he wasn’t even looking down.  Instead, he was looking up over his head, in the direction if his hands, which were both typing furiously awayon the keypad of his BlackBerry.

Talk about multitasking.

Coaching a Professional on their Productivity

interview.jpgAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the benefits I have found in the use of the 2Time approach is that it functions as a useful diagnostic tool.

When I work alongside other professionals I have found myself better able to gauge their “belt level” so to speak, and adjust my actions accordingly.  For example, there are certain ways that a White Belt will interact with new time demands that is quite distinct.  Others might get upset at their habits, and let them know as much.  Some will refuse to work with them ever again.

A better approach is to realize that their actions are the perfect ones for a white belt, and that they should be at no other belt level other than the one they are currently at.

Also, someone who can understand the level at which a user is operating is better able to function as a time management coach, because they can very clearly see the current situation in terms of the 11 fundamentals.

A good cook can taste home-made brownies and immediately tell what is missing, or overdone, if anything.  They can give some spot-on coaching about which of the basic ingredients are missing.

The same apples to time management.  A good coach in this area is able to discern where the coachee should focus their time, energy and effort, and goes well past the everyday cliches like “work smarter not harder.”  In fact, a coach could do much better and break down their advice into specific habits that need to be changed, at a rate and sequence that the coachee could actually absorb. There are sheets that I provide in my programs that serve as excellent planning tools that could help both coach and coachee.

Today I am launching MyTimeDesign to the public, andwhile I don’t aspire to be a personal  coach as I once did, I imagine that there are coaches who would like to use the approach in working with others.  Of couse, there is nothing I can do to stop them, and in fact I encourage them to use these ideas in MyTimeDesign in any way they want (short of copyright infringement.)

MyTimeDesign Launched Today

mtd0005.jpgIt’s been a long time coming, but here it is.

For the past few months, I have been working on crafting the 2Time principles into a single 12 week program that teaches users how to design their own time management systems, and actually takes them through a single cycle of the entire process.

The page that describes the program can be found here:

As is the norm in taking on new challenges, I discovered a steep learning curve in building the infrastructure for the ordering and fulfillment of the program.

Actually designing the content was the easy part which involved pulling together the text, audios and videos that are used to make up each lesson.  I learned that my initial expectations were simply inaccurate!

I hope to meet you in the program, or in the discussion forums restricted to graduates of the course.

P.S.  There is an early-bird discount for acting soon.

2Time – a System versus a Framework

tinkertoy.jpgFrom the very beginning of writing about time management, I have struggled with how to describe something new using language that is not quite up to the task.

For example, while I know that there is no such thing as “time management,” I find myself forced to use the phrase because it’s the best one that exists.  All the substitutes sound quite strange, in comparison.

The same applies to the description of 2Time as a “system.”   While my intention in this blog has not been to create another system, I have found that there are not too many words that I can use instead of the word “system.”

When I pulled 2Time together I thought of it as a set of insights that could be useful to all professionals.  It would assist them in growing their time management system from what they currently have, to what they want it to be. The starting and ending points would be up to them, defined and created for their own use.

The worse thing that would happen would be for someone to say that they went from using Covey, to GTD® to 2Time.

I don’t want to present another system for people to follow, as if they were following the recipe in a book.  Instead, I am more interested in inspiring professionals to design for themselves, with any assistance that I can provide with the 2Time  framework.

But first, they must become committed to taking charge of their time management systems, and be willing to spend time to understand why it works and doesn’t work.  (I am simply not qualified to tell them that any system is better than the one they are using!)

In that sense, I prefer to think of 2Time (and the NewHabits-NewGoals and MyTimeDesign by-products) as a framework that can include all time management systems, whether they are developed by the user or not, or sold commercially or not.  This framework is really comprised of a set of design rules that can be used in a variety of ways:

– Diagnosis:  2Time can be used to understand where a time management system is  lacking in some way

– Design:  2Time can be used to  put together a new system

– Planning: 2Time can be used to create a plan for changing one’s approach to time management over a period of years

In this sense, it brings some structure to an activity that most professionals have already been doing, contrary to the conventional wisdom of how people use time management systems.

Conventional  wisdom: a professional takes a time management class, learns a system of practices to start doing and then tries to start following them each day… against the odds

 New wisdom:  a professional takes ownership of their time management system, and is always on the lookout for ways to enhance it by borrowing ideas, practices  and techniques from whatever source might offer them.  They monitor its effectiveness and make changes as needed.

As I have said in prior posts, the “new wisdom” is simply a truer description of what MOST people have already been doing, without saying so explicitly.  It’s just too hard to follow a time management system designed for someone else, no matter how smart or productive they are.  Our habits and idiosyncrasies won’t allow it.

My goal for 2Time is that it helps professionals see this fact, and make the shift from “following a system” to “owning a system.”  This would be putting it to its proper use.

The trick is that that’s more than a mere “framework” is supposed to do, and sounds more like something that a “system” accomplishes.  Hence the dilemma — should I call 2Time a framework, a system, or something else entirely?

I welcome your comments!

Regrets and Time Management Execution

Getting rid of “negative” thought-patterns that destroy peace of mind is one of the side-goals that a professional can set as a target when managing his/her own time management system.

Why is it important?

In 2Time, the goal of a time management system is to produce peace of mind for the user.  When someone develops the habit of allowing stressful thoughts to go unquestioned, the result is a destruction of peace of mind and further un-productivity as energy, time and attention are frittered away.  The ever-elusive “flow” state of mind simply gets pushed away by other less-productive moods.

Some of the common negative thoughts include:

“I am a terrible procrastinator”
“I wasted the entire day”
“I should have done more”
“I am lazy”
“I am not working hard enough”
“I have an awful memory”
“I never have enough time”

While we all have these thoughts from time to time, there are some professionals who believe them, repeat them and then try to take time management programs in order to turn things around.  As a teacher of these programs, I probably should not say that many professionals need a different kind of training than the kind that I present.

They need to develop some habits that involve developing their capacity to inquire into the nature of the above thoughts.

Towards this end, I strongly recommend the Work of Byron Katie, which can be found at

The process she advocates is a simple one — identify the thought, write it down, ask 4 questions to investigate its truth and turn it around to its opposite for even further inquiry.

The results in my case have been simply astounding.

After practicing for a few years, stressful thoughts don’t hang around for long before they are questioned on paper (which I
prefer,) or in my thinking.

Professionals who take a time management program come in order to get rid of one of the above, listed thoughts can very well find themselves wasting their time. Once the thoughts become habitual, there is no degree of productivity that can be attained that remove them, and the unhappy feelings that ensue.  These are best dealt with by following the process Katie’ advocates, rather than trying to become more productive.

This is no less important than learning the 11 fundamentals of time management that I describe here in 2Time. However, it definitely is cheaper, and saves a great deal of time.

Blown Off-Track

Hurricanes have a funny way of throwing things off-track, and it certainly has affected my posting to this blog.  Gustav’s effects are still being felt, with roads, houses and bridges all disappearing from its onslaught.

The irony is  that it’s exactly the kind of thing that happens each time a natural disaster hits our shores.  What I have not yet learned is how to effectively deal with this kind of drama, although I suspect that it has something to do with going back to basics.

When my computer crashed the day after the hurricane hit, it brought all my work to a complete halt, and forced me to do a complete re-install when I discovered that my copy of XP Professional had gone bad.

It took me several days to get everything functional, and by then I was dealing with another hurricane – Ike – as I tried to make my way to Puerto Rico for a meeting.

Luckily, I lost only a few non-essential files ( as far as I know so far) and learned a lot about the need to do a good job of “Storing.”  This is the one fundamental I like the least, and have the hardest time implementing, but I was glad that I did a disaster recovery plan some time ago and was able to plug some empty holes.

Thank you (an awesome passive back-up system that saved me from total destruction.)

Yet, I still think that I have a way to go before  I am altogether happy about my productivity after a hurricane.

I just hope that I won’t have to learn that particular lesson this year!