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.