productive! Magazine Features 2Time Labs Article

An article I recently wrote was included in the latest issue of productive! Magazine.

Here’s the link to the website where the full issue can be downloaded or viewed for free:  productive! Magazine Issue 9

Please take a look and pass it on to others who might benefit.

Also sign up to receive Tweets on time management, or download the special report if you’d like to get frequent updates from 2Time Labs.

Dezhi Wu’s Game-Changing Research on Scheduling #3

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been immersing myself in Dezhi Wu’s book “Temporal Structure in Individual Time Management: practices to enhance calendar design.”  It’s a book based on the research she did over 5+ years and her empirical findings have put to bed some of the questions I have been exploring here at the 2Time Labs.

Here’s a summary of some of the findings as they pertain to a topic I have been exploring in depth.  In it, she uses the term “temporal structure” to mean “a time representation indicating how (people)…. capture, manipulate, and manage … time -related structures… in order to find out the best way to manage their time.”  In an earlier paper she states that a “temporal structure is defined as patterned organization of time used by humans to help them manage, comprehend or coordinate their use of time.”

In other words, temporal structures are the items that you put in your calendar, ranging from birthdays, study schedules, meetings, appointments, project work, exercise time… pretty much anything.

The best time managers use calendars to schedule their tasks.

This finding was unambiguous, according to the following excerpts:

“effective time managers demonstrate more skill in capturing and using their temporal structures than ineffective time managers.”

“better time managers (in terms of how much they accomplished in their work and how busy they were) were more likely to have intricate use of temporal structures as part of their scheduling behavior.”

“time-urgent individuals have a tendency to schedule more activities and are capable of fitting these activities more comfortably into time slots.”…. “They are more capable of completing more work within the same time… and have a tendency to be good time managers.”

“Effective time managers who exhibit less procrastination are found to use…. (and create) …significantly more explicit temporal structures in comparison to time managergs who procrastinate.”

“Time managers who meet more deadlines exhibit significant differences on the use of explicit temporal structures”

“there is a significant correlation between meeting deadline and creation of temporal structures.”

“Within the set of respondents were individuals who complained less about the difficulty of managing their time and who also had more time for personal activities and additional achievements. …. they were better able to estimate the amount of time a task required…  They created their own temporal structures to manage their life… they allocated units of time for specific types of repeating activities.  These better time managers also recorded more of the external temporal structures affecting their time usage in their electronic calendars. In contrast, another set of respondents, who complained about a lack of time for accomplishing anything significant, were much less likely to record and manage their time in a calendar system…. They were relatively unproductive… (and) produced less work product.”

Her research involved over 7,000 respondents and took place in a variety for forms, including surveys, in-depth interviews and a survey of existing time management research that must be the most comprehensive of its kind.

What does this all mean for the average professional?

Well, it casts into doubt the assertions made in many time management and productivity books that state or imply that it’s too difficult to keep a calendar of tasks, and that instead one must revert to using lists.  In all the research I’ve done, I’ve never seen any data to back up these statements, or even a single author who has stated that they tried both methods and have first hand experience that compares the use of lists to electronic scheduling.

Wu’s research backs up my own findings: there are many professionals who manage their tasks in schedules, and they tend to be the more productive as a result.  In numerous posts on this website, I have made that point, but here is the first empirical evidence that backs up my observations, and my own experience in moving from an electronic calendar, to lists, and back again to a calendar.

There are other findings I’ll share in future posts having to do with the paucity of tools at our disposal, different time management types and the reason why there is so little research.  None of it contradicts the 2Time Labs concept that each user needs a system that is customized to his/her needs, and habit pattern, and that it’s simply invalid to state that one size fits all.

If you liked this post, take a moment to download the 2Time Labs Special Report, and also to follow me on Twitter or Facebook using the links in the right-hand column.

Finding Software that Links Goals to Habits

I found an interesting program that connects goals with not only tasks, but the habits that need to change to make them happen.

On a consulting call with a client earlier today, she bemoaned the fact that managers were allowing strategic plans to fall through the cracks.  I described that fact that old habits executed daily aren’t enough to implement some new plans — they require new habits.  Unfortunately, they are often hard to learn.

Maybe this software could help:  Goals on Track.

N.B. Sorry about the incorrect link posted earlier.

Find the Right Personality for Your Productivity

A basic idea underlying Time Management 2.0 is the notion that one size / system can never fit all.

There are few places in books or on the Internet where this point is embraced, accepted and addressed in some form, and here’s one I stumbled across.

Kirsten over at the Being MultiPassionate blog has found some time to come up with a quiz that gives some insight into the kind of productivity system you should be implementing, based on your personality.  It’s an interesting take on this very new idea — follow this link to take her short quiz.

What I’m Learning from Doing Better Reviews

Once again, I am tinkering with my time management system.

A little background… the belt system set up here at 2Time Labs describes skills ranging from White, Yellow, Orange and Green belts.

It goes no further than these 4 skill levels because I wanted to be able to set higher belts, as they are discovered and articulated.  Also, I gave myself room to grow by intentionally crafting at least one Green Belt element that I have not achieved. It means that while I talk about the wonders of Green Belt skills, that I do so from the vantage point of an Orange who one day hopes to claim not just one but many other, higher belts.

An essential practice to master to move up from one skill level to the next is a Review of my system, both in terms of the content that in it, and how well I am executing each of the 11 fundamentals practices.  In the past I have left this review to happen on an ad-hoc basis, which simply means that it wouldn’t happen unless I led a live NewHabits program — I learn a lot about my personal system, and where it’s faulty when I have to teach a course.

As soon as I started the review I realized that my profile needed to be updated.  Some practices were stronger, while others were weaker but I’m not sure if that’s due to the improved tools I have for analyzing each practice, or because I have changed habits over time.

Here is my current profile — those who have taken either MyTimeDesign or NewHabits training programs would know what

In keeping with the 2Time Labs convention, I am an Orange belt, which is the lowest belt on my chart.

It’s easy to slip back down to a lower level, and destroy one’s piece of mind.  I learned that when I do my review, I am able to catch these slips much earlier, hopefully preventing a bigger problem from happening.

Unfortunately, there was a slip in Tossing when I learned that users have a bad habit of maintaining empty folders in Outlook.  Back I went to an Orange Belt when I learned how many empty folders I currently have, a practice that is simply unsustainable.

Maybe this is what progress looks like… taking steps to move forward and backward as more/better information becomes available about the higher belts.

Coming soon — if you’re interested in joining me on this journey of self-improvement, sign up for early notification for MyTimeDesign 1.0.Free.

Update on Dezhi Wu’s Research #2

I’m still working through the first chapter of Dezhi Wu’s book “Temporal Structures in Individual Time Management,” but it’s already leading to some interesting places.

She used four criteria to characterize individual time management quality:

  • planning
  • meeting deadlines
  • sensing a lack of time control
  • engaging in procrastinating

She found great differences between good and bad time managers in terms of these characteristics, and the way they used “temporal structures.” These are essentially blocks of designated time set up by either society (public holidays,) groups (Happy Hour) or individuals (designated gym time.)

“Effective time managers demonstrate more skill in capturing and using their temporal structures than ineffective time managers.  Current information technologies do not provide much support…”

To that end, she has a chapter focused on the shortcomings of calendars and schedules:

“This chapter also discloses users’ difficulties with current electronic time management tools. In essence, users’ complaints can be transferred to a whole set of desired tool features, which are (1) better integration with other existing tools that they often need for their jobs, such as project management tools and organizational calendaring tools, (2) flexibility for scheduling more complicated activities, as there is no flexible template in the existing tools for setting up and modifying a series of events easily, (3) better synchronization with different devices, especially for travelers who often have to install different operating systems and calendar software for their mobile and their desktop calendar tools, (4) more user-friendly calendar interfaces (e.g. the stylus used in small devices is difficult for seniors and visually-impaired people), (5) truly built-in time management features (e.g., the ability to assess a person’s time management quality, and to advise how to enhance personal time management practices). In other words, the current electronic calendar tools do not behave intelligently enough to meet users’ time management needs, and (6) more convenient collaborative calendaring features for more effective team scheduling. ”

Wow.  This summary of Chapter 11 makes me want to jump straight to that chapter because these are some of the very issues we are tackling here at the 2Time Labs.  I hope that some software company out there is reading this book and planning for the next generation of scheduling tools.


Finding a Villain for a Business Novel is Tough Work

In my continuous, but pretty ineffective efforts to write “the book,” I have gotten some amazing help from “Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight Swain.

The latest idea I gleaned, just before starting my second reading, is the need to have a villain in my story.

I am not a reader of copious novels, but it’s still amazing to me that I did not see the basic structure of a novel before reading this book, a problem that he says is common among first-time authors.   The “art behind the art” in invisible to the untrained eye, much in the way that good time management skills are believed by some to be in the genes, rather than in their practices.

Of course, now that I look back I can see villains everywhere, or at least in almost all the stories I have read.  It’s amazing what happens when the mind becomes illuminated in a new way… it’s delicious.

So, my book now has a villain called Vernon (aka “Vermin”) Vaz.  He hasn’t showed up in the story yet, but my protagonist’s boss has just recommended that he “work closely with him” because Vernon “produces results.”

Apparently, the management team kinda likes him because he gets the job done, but he’s hated by his peers because he gets it done at their expense, and is only more productive because he puts in marathon hours in the office.

So, just like that… my protagonist has someone to fight with!

According to Swain, it’s all about bringing out emotions in the reader that have been swirling around, felt but unspoken.  A villain certainly does help in this regard!

Possibly the Best Time Management Research Ever Completed. Period.

I am reading through the first chapters of a book written by Professor Dezhi Wu entitled Temporal Structures in Individual Time management: Practices to Enhance Calendar Tool Design.

It’s a seminal work.  But I am a bit biased as I have been lamenting the lack of proper research in this important area of professional life, so maybe I am a bit easy to please.  She makes the same point, and explains that it comes, in part, from the time needed to do thorough research in this area.  I remember from my days as a graduate student that “getting out” was a high priority, and I certainly was not interested in doing the kind of work that would prolong my stay. Kudos to her for not only doing the work, but for also turning it into a book that is… sorta kinda readable for the average graduate student!  LOL

The purpose of the book is described here:

The focus of this work is to provide solid evidence that can be used to design better electronic calendar systems that support the creation and sharing of organizational temporal structures, both as a knowledge capture for the organization and as a handy tool for improving personal time management. This empirical evidence consists of two sets of intensive field interviews with busy professionals and a large survey with over 700 subjects. The study findings demonstrate a real need for improving current electronic calendar systems through incorporating temporal structure features.

I’ll be reading and updating the blog on my progress through its chapters and hopefully will report some interesting findings along the way.  Stay tuned.

Collective Intelligence Wins

My experience consulting and working in office environments in different countries tells me that the environment plays a very strong role in determining how productive the individual can be.

Some research from MIT seems to back up this hunch.

It goes further and says that the presence of women (or men) who have good social skills help the group’s performance to improve.

What I’d like to know if there’s been any research done to show the effect of higher skilled team members on group performance.  In other words, is there a collective intelligence that applies to time management skills?