Promises – A Productivity Hole

hole-normal_p1010044.jpgI am working on a project that involves multiple promises being made in every direction, and I am struck by an area of my own system for productivity that is underdeveloped.  While it’s not a time management issue, per se, it does appear to be a problem that results in wasted time.

What do you do when someone makes you a promise that you need to make sure they fulfill?

Here are some options I have seen or tried in the past, none of which I am altogether happy with.


Once the initial promise is made, what exactly happens next?  Is it committed to memory, with a hope that things won’t get so crazy that it then gets forgotten?

Or do you send an email to the person (if you can) as a way of putting the promise in writing?

Is it written onto a capture point like a paper pad?

Do the above actions depend on the person who is making the promise and your prior experience?  I have used good Promise Management software to help me in this regard, but it requires proximity to a computer and the intranet.  There may be PDA-based promise management software, but I haven’t found any yet.


Whatever enters a capture point must at some point be removed, in keeping with good time management habits.  A promise is a bit difficult to work with, however, as I can’t see a perfect place to out this particular time demand.

Option A:  After Emptying, add it to a list (Listing)

A user could maintain a list of items that have been promised by others, and track the list frequently to ensure that  no promises are being forgotten.  This action of checking the list would have to be placed in a schedule to ensure that it actually gets reviewed, also.

Option B: After Emptying, place a reminder in a schedule (Scheduling)

Place an item in the schedule that acts as a reminder to expect the item by a particular due date.  The item would also need a reminder for this to work, so that it pops up and interrupts the action at the right moment in time.

Neither of these options are elegant, in my opinion, and I’d love to learn some other alternatives.

This strikes me as a hole in my productivity system, and it’s one that I think many share, and would love to solve.

The Three Ingredients of a Daily Plan

I read an interesting post on the topic of the kinds of things that one should look to do on a daily basis.

When I found it, I realized that it covered some of the things I wanted to write in a post, on  the topic of my own daily routine.

It’s  a simple post, but I guess that’s why it caught my attention.  I have found that skipping steps in my daily routine often leads to trouble, and results in commitments falling through the cracks.

At the start of the post, the author, Marcia Francois, makes the  point that each person needs to develop their own routine, and that even a well-established daily plan should be revisited from time to time.

This is some top-quality Time Management 2.0 advice.

Here is the link to the article – the 3 ingredients of a good daily plan.

A Small, New Habit

istock_000001077068small.jpgI made a small change in one of my habits that I don’t recommend.

It’s not that it’s a bad change — far from it — it’s NOT the case that I, all of a sudden, decided to do without my favorite capture point.

The story is a simple one.  I started a project that has a tremendous number of time demands.

At the start of each day, I realized that I was starting in too much of a hurry, and needed to spend some more time Emptying, before doing things like checking voicemail and email.

I implemented the following practice:

Step 1 – check to see which items are incomplete from the prior day.  Put the in a reliable place.

Step 2 –  look at today’s schedule and configure it to my liking

Step 3 – empty my paper pad that serves as my primary capture  point

Step 4 – download email and  listen to voicemail, while moving as many items as possible away from these areas intended for temporary storage

Step 5 – schedule any new items into my calendar

As I said before, I don’t recommend these steps to anyone.  I also don’t say that they are useful.

I AM saying that  the process of adjusting one’s habits to the circumstances at hand is a critical one that no professional who is serious can ignore.  It lies at the heart of the Time Management 2.0 approach.

Thinking for Yourself

istock_000002968326xsmall.jpgI recently read an article that could be applied in all sorts of areas — politics. organizational change, and even person transformation.

I just finished reading it again, and discovered a solid connectionbetween the its thesis and Time Management 2.0.

The article is a fascinating one, as it speaks to the difficulty of creating one’s own self-theory.  It goes further into the notion that a self-theory can only be discovered in practice (rather than in the abstract,) and that it can’t be gained from anyone else… not even for $299.95 (a price of a good program to learn someone else’s self-theory.)

Instead, the article speaks to the challenge of creating for oneself, free from constraints.

There is a joy that exists when one creates in this way, and the authors are right to focus on the process and the results it produces, because people who invent their own time management systems often feel the same way about the process they are undertaking, and the results they produce.

Here is an excerpt:

 Therefore, constructing your self-theory is a revolutionary pleasure. It is both a destructive and constructive pleasure, because you are creating a practical theory–one tied to action–for the destruction and reconstruction of this society. It is a theory of adventure, because it is based on what you want from life and on devising the means necessary to achieve it. It is as erotic and humorous as an authentic revolution.

That’s not a bad way to describe the joy that comes from being put back in charge of one’s own time management system for the first time. There is a revolutionary pleasure that comes from designing one’s own time management system that is a bit easier than coming up with one’s own self-theory.

The article is a pretty dense one, and I doubt that all readers of this blog will find it interesting, but if you like abstract thinking, check it out — The Revolutionary Pleasure of Thinking for Yourself.


The Link Between Managing Time and Peace of Mind

I recently wrote an article on the futility of trying to manage one’s time, instead of one’s habits.

I was asked by the folks over at to address the mistake that many people make when it comes to time management.  The article entitled Quit Managing Time and Get Some Peace of Mind can be found by clicking on the link.

Incidentally, Simpleology is perhaps the best online personal development site that one can find at no initial cost.   It’s well worth a visit, or better yet, a subscription as the authors are quite generous in what they provide to someone who has committed to giving nothing more than their email address.

Learning Time Management is Like Learning a Language

I came across an article on Tim Ferris’ blog on the topic of Why Language Classes Don’t Work:  How to Cut Classes and Double Your Learning Rate.

I found it interesting because it parallels my experience in time management courses to some degree.

He makes the following points about problems that he has encountered in language learning classes:

1. Teachers are viewed as saviors when materials are actually the determining factor.

I have found this to be true in my courses.  The “teacher” is only there to provide a foil for  the materials, and when the materials are badly conceived (as most are) then no matter how good the student is, the new habits are impossible to learn.

Poor course materials in time management that focus on a single set of new habits never work for more than a few students, and the teacher can’t make up for this problem.

2. Classes move as slowly as the slowest student. 

In poorly designed classes, when a student cannot understand why a new habit is important, a great deal of time is wasted showing him/her why it’s necessary.  Better classes are focused on each student developing systems that work for them, and no-one else.  It’s not important to learn the higher skills if they are not at the point of immediate use.

The best classes help students develop and use their skills at a pace that works for them

3. Conversation can be learned but not taught. (read:  Time management can be learned but not taught.)

Because time management is built on a collection of personal habits, changing them is entirely up the individual’s willingness, and requires continuous practice to turn a new technique into a habit that can stick.  In other words, there’s more to be  gained from repetitive trial and error than there is from any explanation or theory.  All a good time management class does is point students in the correct direction, and shows them what they need to teach themselves.

4. Teachers are often prescriptive instead of descriptive. 

A good teacher of time management never tells  a student what they should do, but merely points out the advantages and disadvantages of certain choices.  In MyTimeDesign, for example, a student has the choice at every stage of which skill-level to adapt in each discipline.

For example, we need not putt like Tiger Woods to have a golf game that we are satisfied with.  Yet, there are many time management systems that will warn students that they MUST follow “the system” according to the way it’s designed, down to the naming of folders, the colour of the tabs on their diary and the names they use for everyday items.

When the user’s needs are placed at the center of a time management program, these 4 traps are much easier to avoid.

A Summary of Flow – the Goal of Time Management

5182bhk90ml_sl160_.jpgThe book, Flow, is one that I refer to often in my thinking about time management.

I recently heard a wonderful presentation of the author of the book on the Ted website, given by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

It’s a great summary of the ideas in this book, and I thought that this summary slide was particularly useful.  Of course, reading one of his books on the subject would be an even better idea.

The flow state summarized below is a great description of the goal of any time management system.  It’s one that allows the user to remain in, or attain the flow state of often as possible.

How Does it Feel to Be in Flow?

1.  Completely  involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.

2.  A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.

3.  Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.

4.  Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task

5.   A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego

6.  Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes

7.  Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes it own reward

A good summary of the book, Flow,  can be found at this link.