Time Management 1.0 vs 2.0 Spells Relief

istock_relief-woman.jpgIt used to be that time management was a problem that needed to be solved.

“I have a problem with time management” is a common complaint that many professionals have.  It leads them to go looking for solutions of an instant variety.  For some it takes the form of a time management system that someone else develops and they adapt.  For others, it comes in the form of a shiny new PDA, smart-phone or a computer. Some buy time management binders with detachable pages that have sorts of colorful refills.

Thankfully, with the advent of Time Management 2.0  we don’t need to fix anything, because it starts with the assumption that nothing is broken.

Instead, everyone has their own system… whether they realize it or not.

Also, they don’t have to chaneg anything, as long as their current system is working for them.  If it’s not, then they can decide that it’s time to upgrade it, and they can do so with a minimum investment, as long as they have a knowledge of the fundamentals of time management.

After the upgrade, they can freeze their system once again, and use it as is, or decide that they want to upgrade it further.

The choice is always up to them.

In 2.0, there is a freedom to build a time management system that fits users’ habit patterns,  rather than trying to learn a set of foreign habits that were developed by someone far away, to fit a very different lifestyle.

With a huge sigh of relief, users are finding that it’s a much easier path to follow.

A Time Management System for Moms

baby-mom.jpgDo type-A-moms need their own time management system?

Apparently they do, according to Lisa Douglas of the type-a-mom blog.

She’s written an interesting post diagnosing the needs of this particular group of women, and has come up wtih an approach that is tailored to their specific situation.  Given that they are “type-A” people, they have lots of goals, an abundance of energy to accomplish them and a propensity to become over-stressed.  She clearly has figured out her target audience:

We’re Type-A Moms. We’ve got practices, PTA meetings, and bake sales going on. Your child has to learn the Cub Scout motto tonight, dinner is on the stove, and your toddler needs her diaper changed, all while locating an errant shoe. Need I go on? With all that we tackle, and not being able to magically add hours to the day, we need a plan, STAT.

I guess this would constitute an important first step — understanding the group or the individual that the time management system is being designed for.   This might explain why she didn’t just regurgitate a bunch of points from the nearest book on the topic,and instead, did what every good designer does and started from a thorough understanding of the situation.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to Part II of the article, as I am trying to figure out how to register on the site in order to see it.  But I like the thinking she’s doing so far, and her targeted advice.

I cannot imagine that a woman who decides to have a child, and to stay home to be a full-time mom, could continue to use the typical corporate planning tools e.g. (Blackberry, computer, internet, intranet) in exactly the same way.  It’s more likely that the way they structure their system would have to change to fit the new circumstances, and this might be true of anyone who makes such an all-encompassing shift in their daily lifestyle.  This change in tools would be just one way they would have to change their time management system.

It’s great Time Management 2.0 thinking.

The link to part 1 can be found here: Time Management Strategies for the Busy Mom Part 1


Prioritizing Has No Place in Many Time Management Systems

priority_matrix.jpgI remember when I finally figured out that “setting priorities” has a funny way of becoming nothing more than window dressing.

I had  a job in an engineering organization that used an elaborate system of priorities to figure out who should get the highest raise each year.  The joke was that once the elaborate engineering was done, the managers would go in and manually adjust the outputs to make sure they made sense, because the process would inevitably produce anomalies that made no sense whatsoever.

In essence, the system of priorities was just a justification used to make their gut feelings appear to be logical.

I have quite recently come across some elaborate systems for prioritizing To-Do lists.  As readers of the blog might know, I have included the practice of Listing as one of the fundamentals of a time management system.  I have also laid out different levels at which Listing is practiced, from white belt to green belt.

At the highest level described – a green belt – there is not such thing as a generic to-do list, as the schedule takes over the job of helping a user decide what to work on next from the To-Do list.  What happens to most users is that their list becomes incapable of handling the number of time demands that they must confront, and their reaction is to attempt some kind of prioritization in order to not to have to deal with all 100 items at once.

So, instead of 100 items, they only need to focus on 10 — the ones with the highest priority.

For some, this approach is sufficient.

For many, however, this approach falls apart quickly.

Here is a typical example (broken down into steps) of what happens when a user has no schedule, and simply a long To-Do list, illustrating where the breakdown occurs:

Step 1 — user makes list and sets up a priority system to focus on the top 10 items

Step 2 —  without a schedule, the user has a poor idea of when the 10th item will be finished

Step 3 — long before the 10th item is begun, circumstances change, and several lower ranked items (let’s say the 47th and 75th)  need to be moved up to the top 10

Step 4 — the prioties must be changed and 2 items from the  top 10 are replaced in the top 10 list

Step 5 — because the user has no written schedule, the items inevitably take longer than they had imagined, and when they review their mental time estimates they discover that even more items are now due and need to be assigned higher priorities because the due dates are now approaching

Step 6 — they change the priorities once again, and while they are changing them, their boss comes in with a new project which forces them to start all over from the beginning

The overall result is a little like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.  For many users, their system of  prioritization simply can’t keep up with the changes in their situation.  The problem is that from minute to minute, items’ “priority ranking” changes, as life’s circumstances take their toll, and there is just no way to keep up.

Instead, the solution that many users at higher belts find is quite simple.

Step 1: Items are placed in a flexible schedule that is adjusted as circumstances change.

That’s it.  There may be 50 changes in a single day, as items are moved from one time slot to another, and between days, weeks and months.  Each scheduled item takes up a time slot whose size corresponds to the amount of time it’s expected to take.

Purists might argue that the advanced user is still prioritizing.

This is where a key distinction is necessary.  When use the verb “prioritize” I mean to denote the activity that occurs when someone sits down and assigns a ranking to individual time demands.

That is the physical activity that has no place in most time management systems.

However, I DON’T take it to mean the activity of placing greater importance on one item over another as a decision is being made about when to start and end the work on that item.  That activity can be taken to be just another attribute of the item that is included in the user’s decision on the start and end times.

If they reschedule the activity, then its importance is taken into account once again at that point.  Just before they commence working on the item, they may want to ask themselves the question again.  (Here I am actually describing what happens when a user switches from one activity to another, a practice that’s called Switching in 2Time.)

The strength of the green belt’s system lies in the fact that they have removed a step (assigning a priority) while allowing the circumstances of the moment to influence their choice about what they should do at any and all points in the future.  Because they are working from a written versus a mental schedule, and are using it as a flexible planning guide, they find it easy to shuffle items around whenever the need arises.

They don’t get caught up in whether the item they have scheduled is a “1, 2 or 3,” “A, B or C” or “Red, Yellow or Green.”

All that stuff is for them, a made-up and unnecessary construct, that gets in the way of their productivity.

This is not to say that a yellow belt should not use a prioritized to-do list.  That may work perfectly for their habit patterns and level of time demands.

However, a green belt has no need for priorities because their time management system helps them to switch from task to task without the extra time and effort needed to prioritize their to-do lists.

A User’s System for Daily Organizing

On the blog for WE magazine for women, I found an entry that is linked to an article on a Simple, Effective Approach for Time Management.

Teresa Morrow has come up with a way of using list and schedules together to plan the day, and has taken the extra step of documenting it.

She’s clearly thought about the approach that she’s using, and it sounds as if she’s been doing some experiementing with different variations on the theme.

What I loved is the end-product she’s focused on creating:  “…the system will leave you feeling proud of your accomplishments of the day.”  It’s real Time Management 2.0 thinking — that we must create our own systems.

To see the system that Teresa has created for herself, click here:   A Simple, Effective Approach for Time Management

A Zero Inbox in Outlook or Gmail?

magnifying_glass.pngI just read a great post over at the Web Worker Daily Blog.

It essentially has to do with Capturing in one’s inbox, and how using Outlook has lead to very different ways of maintaining a Zero Inbox than using Gmail.

The post makes a distinction between Filers and Finders, and how people use each of these email tools.  Filers (predominantly Outlook users) put email in folders, while Finders (Gmail users) use tags to change the way email is displayed to them through different filters.

Ultimately, I think both get the job done (although Gmail’s method is more efficient, but less intuitive.)

The bottom line is that both methods can be used to maintain a zero inbox, which is (in my mind) a sign of superior efficiency.  In the case of Outlook, the folder is “empty”while in Gmail the tag or filter is “void.”

In the experience of the user (if not in the case of bits and bytes) the effect is the very same.

The full article can be found here:  Email — Are you a Filer or a Finder?


The Company’s “Guidelines”

istock_000002231792small.jpgI just found a most interesting set of corporate guidelines.

It comes from a marketing company called Sandia, in a document entitled “Being More Productive: Working more effectively will greatly benefit our clients, the agency and yourself.

The document describes 16 ideas for its employees on how to increase productivity, ranging from #16 – “Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7” to #15 – “Prioritize.”

I think the ideas are wonderful, but there is not a single mention of basic Time Management 2.0 ideas, starting with the idea that the user is responsible for their own time management system, and must define, manage and master it for themselves.

In fact, in the document, there is no mention of the user at all.

It made me wonder —  was the article intended to be followed by all employees?  The language seemed to be a bit “mandatory” which I imagine could create all sorts of resentment– it’s very “1.0” in its tone.  The statement that “working more effectively will greatly benefit our clients, the agency and myself” which implies some kind of hierarchy in which my experience is at the bottom of the pile.

I would suggest to Sandia that their model is, on the whole, unsustainable.

The problem is in the assumptions that might be underlying the list, which include the notion that habits are easy to break, and that each employee should be using the same time management system as everyone else.

Research of all kinds shows that ingrained habits are difficult to make and/or break, and each person is different.  Employees  need to know this in order to see why it is they won’t be successful trying to put all these ideas into effect immediately.  Managers also need to know that they cannot evaluate their employees on how well they are implementing the 16 items the day after the list is passed around, or even a year after.

But maybe the biggest problem of all is that the employee seems to be the lowest priority, and a mere tool of the company’s productivity needs.  I don’t know for a fact if Sandia intentionally means to put customers first and employees last, but the way the document is written strongly implies that this is so.

I can’t imagine that the company means to replace a love of customer and company above a concern for self by just stating it in a document.  I think it’s a smarter strategy to speak to employee’s greatest concern when it comes to productivity, which is that it contribute to their peace of mind and other desired emotional states.

The days are gone when employees can be thought of as mere “tools” of a company that exist in order to produce results.  Thinking of them in this way misses the mark, and probably lead the company to think that putting out this list would result in changed behavior.

What employees do need is help to design their own system, and to see that the list of 16 items is a useful set of ideas that they must now work on to make their own.


Time Management 2.0


One of the definitions of the Web 2.0 phenomena reads as follows:

A term to generally describe web sites and services where the content is shaped partially or entirely by the users (instead of being read-only and published by a sponsoring company)

The 2Time blog is built on the idea that something similar is happening in the world of time management.  There is a migration underway and its taking us away from time management systems that are defined by others, towards systems that are  owned, defined and improved by users.

As such, it is a revolution of sorts… a shift in the way people view an essential component of their lives that is bringing with it a new level of responsibility, power and freedom.

It’s just like the revolution that Web 2.0 ushered in.  Ownership of key content, relationships and communication channels moved away from companies and towards users in a tremendous shift in power in which information-creation was democratized and individuals came to trust their own judgment, and those of many others, over that of established experts.  It has been a gradual but steady deepening of the “Wisdom of the Crowds.”

Well, strap yourselves in, because another quiet revolution is underway: “Time Management 2.0.” Some say that the Web 2.0 transformation was built on tools that were built over a decade ago, but are only just being exploited to the fullest by millions of people.  The same applies to time management, where this “new” term is actually  describing a phenomena that has always existed.

You and I have already been doing Time Management 2.0.  We sat in time management classes, or read books, nodded our heads in agreement, and afterward, went off to do our own thing.  After all, who could follow the prescriptions of someone who insisted that you label your folders this way or that, or used their new term to describe something you already understood, or who tried to redefine everyday words such as “now.”  We listened to their detailed practices and we knew deep down that we could never change our habits to fit their system.  God bless the few that could, but the rest of us were the dunces in the class who just couldn’t measure up by instantly turning over a new leaf. soapboxderby200701.jpg

Instead, we took a little from here and there and made up our own thing… sometimes it worked, but oftentimes we failed, because we couldn’t quite reverse engineer the recipe they were using.  Nevertheless, it still felt better than the feeling of overwhelm that came from reading the latest “1001 Top Tips for Time Management…”  Doing our own thing at kept put us in charge, and made us experience the success that kids sometimes feel when they also “do their own thing.”

The funny thing is that the experts haven’t noticed that we aren’t quite following the way we should.  The fact is, they sincerely believe that their systems work, and do you know… they are right. They DO work… for them.

The rest of us out here don’t need a different or better or smarter guru.  Instead, we need help to design our own system, and we need help in order to make them work to fit our needs, and our unique habits.

And that’s why “Time Management 2.0” is not a new idea, but a phrase that more accurately describes an already existing reality in a way that might help us all to get what we want at the end.  More productivity. Greater peace of mind.  Less stress.  More time spent doing important things, and less time doing trivia things.

But even these words are misleading, as each person’s interpretation of them is individual, and unique.  Therefore, the time management systems that produce them must be different from person to person as well.

This is where time management 2.0 starts — with me empowering myself to master my own time management system that produces the results I want in my life.  That has got to be a close description of what we all want.


A New Name for This Blog

I have been considering coming up with a new name for my blog.

Up until now, I have used the word “system” to describe the 2Time approach, but am starting to think that I have it all wrong.

I have never wanted 2Time to replace GTD®, Covey or any other particular system, but instead to support them and act as an umbrella framework or as an approach that could be used by a user to evaluate every other system that exists, but most importantly their own.  The 2Time approach is looking more like a tool for people who are developing their own time management systems,and my experience tells me that there are very few who are following a system that anyone else designed with anything close to perfection.

The only system they are following perfectly is their own.

2Time is also a way to evolve their time management system from wherever their starting point is, to any point in the future they wish to be.  I see this as a natural next step for someone who wants to create their own system.

In the same way that web 2.0 has come to be about user generated content, I see the next step in time management systems being the creation of user generated systems.  In other words, there is a revolution on the way to what I might call  “Time Management 2.0.”  In much the same way that Web 2.0 has been about user-developed content, I think that the same level of user-determination is coming to personal productivity.

My only surprise is that no-one else is seeing and saying the same message, as it seem obvious to me that it only acknowledges what people are already doing.  They take classes, and read books, and go off to do their own thing.  Sometimes it works out, and sometime it doesn’t, but I plan to keep spreading this message until a light bulb goes off, and becoming the designer of your own system is realized as an obvious thing to do.

Which brings me back to the name of my blog.  Should I call it:
The 2Time Management Approach  (no more claiming to be a system)
2Time Management  (a shorter more spiffy title)
2.0Time Management  (Hmm… maybe I can ditch the zero)

Time Management 2.0  (self-explanatory, and catchy)

The Time Management 2.0 Revolution  (dashing and a bit dangerous)
The 2Time Management Framework (my company is called Framework Consulting so this may be confusing.)

I’d love to hear your opinions on this issue of a new name.  I think the clearer the name, the more easily someone will spend 30 seconds on the site and immediately realize that they need to log off and go design their own time management system  (That might not be a good thing…  😉 )

But it would be a great experience, and if I could leave this work I have started in capable hands, I’d feel on top of the world!


Case in Point – A User’s Time Management System

I came across an interesting post by Raj Dash over at Freelance Switch.

In response to the shortcomings of other time management systems, he has created his own time management system.

This is a post worth reading, even if the system he has created doesn’t work for you.  I think it’s a glimpse of things to come — hundreds, and then millions of individual systems that are built around a single set of core principles.

Click here to see the article:  Get Things Started: Simpler Than GTD®.


Rudeness or Poor Time Management Skills

please-don-t-interrupt-me-while-i-m-ignoring-you-posters.jpgIt’s happened to all of us… we are in what we think is a useful conversation, when the person we are talking with, suddenly  switches over to their Blackberry, or cell phone.

In the moment, they  make a decision that the unknown call or email that has just come in is more important than the conversation they are having with us.

We think to ourselves “How rude!” as we get that partial-attention that is now commonplace when the person we are talking with is giving us “just so much” of their attention and no more.

I have been on the giving and receiving end of this poor habit.

I know that when I do it, I trick myself into thinking that I can get away with it, and I know that I don’t intend to be rude, but in that  moment I am engaging in a habit that undermines my productivity as I attempt to multitask my way to greater accomplishment.

One of my clients, a phone company, had executives who had developed a habit of answering their cell phones at any moment, even in mid-sentence.  Another company had a policy of answering their landlines each and every time they rang, and refused to put in place a voicemail system.

The result in each case was very long meetings and a generally frenetic pace, as anything took precedence over the task at hand.   Even the unknown caller.

When an unknown caller or sender of email has that much power over our activities,  it destroys our productivity and peace of mind, as we eventually never really commit to getting anything completed without interruption.

That is the same as having a mindset that the thing we are working on in the moment might be important, but we are always on the look-out for more important things to whisk us away.  Of course, after the switch has taken place,  nothing has changed, as the new task is also only as good as the next interruption.

Those who suffer from this affliction never, ever have enough time go get anything done.

It’s not that they are rude — it’s just a sign of their unconscious ineffectiveness.