An Experiment in Using More Memory

A fascinating article at the Lifehacker website got my attention – and earned a swift rebuttal from some lifehackers. The article’s author performed an experiment – to use as much memory as possible, and to use as few external devices as he could get away with.

How I Learned to Rely on My Memory (and Stop Relying on Technology)


In the article the author, Thorin Klosowski, makes a determined effort to try to remember more things by using fewer tech devices. He takes it on as a bit of an experiment, and at the end (even after a few failures) decides to try harder to remember more things than before.

The comments after the article taught me a few things… I had no idea that postpartum memory loss was real. I don’t have kids, so I thought it was a bit of a joke but there is solid research that shows that some life-changes can produce this effect.

What do you think?

Why To-Do Lists Sometimes Do Work

checklist-thumbDaniel Markovitz wrote a great article about a year ago in the HBR Blog Network entitled “To-Do Lists Don’t Work.” From a 2Time Labs perspective it raises some provocative points but then falls into a familiar trap: it tries to argue for a one-size fits-all approach.

He does, however, start off on a strong foot by clearly stating some of the weaknesses of To-Do Lists that defy conventional wisdom.

  1. To-Do lists that grow to be too long end up presenting too many choices to us at any/every point in time. We quickly become overwhelmed with too many choices.
  2. Because tasks that are short are listed alongside those that are long, the mind must contend with the inherent differences between the time required to complete each task, even though they seem to be identical when placed on a list. It’s s little like looking at a row of identical apples, knowing that the one with the shiniest color always has worms.
  3. The same applies to tasks of differing priority.
  4. The task appears on the list without context, as if it were free-floating. For example, one critical piece of background information is always “how much time do I have available?”
  5. His point about “commitment devices” is a bit confusing so I won’t venture a summary.

He rightly points out that when you put together a schedule to replace your To-Do list you are instantly confronted by the time you think you have, but don’t. Advocates of tracking your time spent on different tasks each day are right: when you compare what you planned to do vs. what you actually do on a regular basis, you learn to make better plans.

The article falls apart as it started, which might be a function of the way it was edited, and not written. Markovitz concludes by saying “So do yourself a favor: ditch the to-do lists, and start living in your calendar today.” That line seems out of place in the article – it’s a blunt and didactic statement that follows a nuanced and subtle argument, and it’s the only statement in the article that supports the bold claim of the headline.

While all the concepts that Markovitz outlines do fit our findings here at 2Time Labs, it’s a mistake to go the next step and imply that everyone would benefit from living out of their calendar. Our research shows that people with a low number of time demands do quite well with just a list. They don’t experience the problems he outlines above.

Also, people who cannot develop the skill of using an electronic calendar or can’t afford one are better off using a list than trying to manipulate a paper calendar for large numbers of time demands. (I know lots of people who will never own a computer in this lifetime due to its cost.)

The problem with articles headlines like these is that they don’t acknowledge the continuum of skills that ordinary people require to lead a daily life. It’s a problem in the time management world; a sound observation is converted into a one-size-fits-all conclusion that simply over-reaches, and causes the strength of the original argument to be rejected by those who think just a bit differently.

P.S. Dan gets a lot of flack in the comments of this article… ouch… for over-reaching. It’s tough to bring people back when they believe that they are being attacked. It’s an issue I worry about about a bit as my book will make some pointed observations that others are bound to experience this way.

More on Happiness and Time Management – Lifehack - Happiness can be never-ending, but you need good time management skills to keep it that way.The article I write that was just published on Stepcase Lifehack talked about a connection I picked up in the research between happiness and time management – it’s beyond just a mere time management tip.

Building on that article, I recently made an interactive video that includes a self-assessment based on the idea of flow / productive happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. You can find the video here in this example of the time management training that’s being done in my online program, MyTimeDesign.

One a slightly different note, I recently posted a video on the challenge that consultants have in helping their clients get better at time management. There’s a good reason that tips, tricks and shortcuts don’t work… and we all need to pay attention to this at a time of year when we are simply inundated with trivial lists on the topic.

I Can Save You 5000 Hours Per year. Guaranteed… (Not!)

I recently decided to sharpen up my focus on  certain kind of customer / reader here at 2Time Labs and MyTimeDesign.

I’ll use the headline of this post to explain what I mean.

My Time Management System Can Save You 5000 Hours Per Year. Guaranteed.

 What’s your reaction?

  • I’m intrigued!
  • Bull&%$#!

This may sound ridiculous, but the first group is the one I intend to ignore.

And it’s not because I am aligning myself with the cynics in the world, against those who are open-minded.

The distinction I’m trying to draw is more of the “bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you” variety. The second group knows that the flaws in the headline of this post run deep, for a number of reasons, starting with these two:

  1. the promise cannot be verified scientifically due to problems in establishing proper measures.
  2. professionals operate at different levels of skill, and such a promise assumes a world of universal mediocrity that, thankfully, doesn’t exist.

The second group is often insulted by time management trivia that does little to inform, and makes no difference other than to provide a cool distraction. Lists of numbered time management tips leave them cold.

Instead, they would find company in others who know that improving one’s time management skills is a difficult business. As Steve Pavlina puts it on his website, Personal Development for Smart People, “Personal development is hard work.”

Anyone who is looking for a fast, easy shortcut to better time management skills hasn’t learned the truth that, I think, can only come from real-world experience. That’s a fancy way of saying that they haven’t failed enough to know enough.

In the time management business, I can’t compete with those who write soft articles that speak to this first group. They make outrageous promises and offer over-simplified answers to tough questions and there are a lot of them who believe that an article urging people to “spend more time on stuff that’s important and less time on stuff that’s not” is a brand new message that deserves to be disseminated widely to professionals who have never heard it.

They are the ones most likely to believe that there’s a time management system that fits every person on the planet, and that you should find the best time management system and just follow it.

What I do know for a fact is that for the second group I described, that does indeed know much, much better, there is little that’s being written. Maybe 5% of the new time management articles being published address their experience and knowledge. Probably less. I curate hundreds of posts, videos and audios on time management each week and I can attest – the number of quality articles that try to speak to the second group is small.

We can blame this state of affairs on any number of people, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on getting more content out to a greater number of people that actually makes a profound difference. Doing so is much, much harder… and I love it.

Breaking News from ASTD

astd logoIt’s good news for us here at 2Time Labs! Christmas came early with the news that I’ll be presenting a session at the ASTD Conference in Dallas on May 20th, 2013 at their International Conference and Exposition. ASTD is the largest training and development organization in the world. My topic, as you may expect, will be related to the work we do here:

How to Stop Failing at Behavior Change Training: The Case of Time Management

I am looking forward to this opportunity to share the message behind Time Management 2.0, and also to meeting some of you who have been following the work we do for some time! Click here for the details of our presentation at ASTD on Time Management 2.0.

A Top Site for Effective Project Management


Recently I was informed that the home of 2Time Labs was listed as one of the top 100 sites for Effective Project Managers.

It lines up well with some secondary research that we’re doing into the “last mile” of project management.

When I worked at AT&T Bell Labs in the late ’80s-early ’90’s, one of the challenges the company faced was that it was only allowed to connect with customers via the Local Exchange Companies such as NYTEL or Southern Bell. AT&T Employees often complained that these other companies owned “the last mile” and limited what could be offered to the customer in terms of new services.

Well, there’s a “last mile” in project management but it has nothing to do with distance. Instead, it has to do with project failure when a project manager has done a lot of good, hard work that ends up being entirely undone by poor time management skills on the part of team members. In other words, the individuals can’t effectively handle the volume of new time demands that the project places on them.

The fate of the project is entirely out of the hands of the project manager at that point who dutifully hands out tasks to team members and promises to follow-up if he/she hears nothing by pre-determined critical dates.

What are some of the things that project managers can do? Should they do some kind of assessment before a project even starts? Should they try to improve time management skills in the middle of a project? If they ignore the problem, will it go away? What do they do differently when they have completed an assessment?

These issues are worth digging into because (in theory) the Time Management 2.0 approach offers Project Managers an efficient way to evaluate the skills of team members, and effect an improvement by taking small steps.

Whether it holds up in practice remains to be seen, and I’ll be asking this question in the upcoming months to get some definitive answers.

In my soon-to-be-released book there is a critical part of the story when the protagonist / Project Manager, Bill, must lead an ineffective team in terms of time management skills. Or else…

More on the book, and Bill to come, so please stay tuned.

Flowing: A Possible New Fundamental

Recently, I watched a couple of videos that gave life to some ideas I have been mulling: that the flow state has everything to do with time management.

The flow state is defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as one of high performance that gives an individual an experience that he says is “optimal.” In this state the individual loses track of time as they devote their complete attention to the task at hand. The task itself is an important one that isn’t easy to complete, and requires their full concentration.

Ever since learning about the book, Flow, and its ideas, I have been guided by them. A few years later, they were incorporated into my own time management programs.

Then, a few weeks ago I stumbled across a TED video by Matthew Killingsworth that linked happiness to the kind of unhappiness that comes from mind-wandering.

His article reinforced my thought that good time management can help prevent unhappiness, and promote productivity/happiness.

It led me to re-think the entire foundation of the 2Time labs fundamentals, which were first established back in 2006. Perhaps, in addition to the 11 fundamentals already identified, there is a twelfth – “Flowing.”

Rather than just write about it here on the blog, I decided to put together an interactive video that describes this potentially new development. It has a self-assessment built into it, and even a one-step challenge game, and I wrapped it inside the launch of the new MyTimeDesign Plus+ training to make some broader points.

Continue reading “Flowing: A Possible New Fundamental”