Part 8 — Why There’s Always a Limit to Your Capacity to Manage Tasks Effectively

Part 8 — Why There’s Always a Limit to Your Capacity to Manage Tasks Effectively

And what happens when you try to exceed it

The Problem

Like most people, you probably wish you could make one, final, ultimate set of changes to your task management system that would last forever. What kinds of changes? Maybe a behavior change to adapt (like a new habit, ritual, routine, or practice), or a new app to download, or a device to acquire.

But experience (and research) show that there is no final solution that lasts forever. Why? Part of the reason is that unwanted symptoms, or defects, show up whenever the volume of tasks you are trying to manage nears your personal limits.

Consider a balloon trapped inside a box. The balloon’s size can be increased or decreased at will, as long as it never touches the sides of the box.

However, if you increase the volume of air in the balloon past a certain point, the walls of the two objects start to touch. Eventually, the balloon loses its shape and deforms. If even more air is added, it bursts.

Now imagine that:

  • the box represents the upper limits of your task management system, made up of your behaviors, apps and devices.
  • the balloon pictures all the tasks you are trying to manage at a given time.
  • its changing shape reflects your total task volume in that moment.

When your personal task volume increases to a certain point — before it reaches the capacity of your system — you don’t have a problem. But once it hits a certain limit, unwanted symptoms or defects occur.

This relationship between task volume, your capacity, and unwanted symptoms is a fact of life — the reality of managing tasks. (The analogy to the balloon in the box is only partial.)

In this context, understanding each of these three components in isolation is just the beginning. However, as a connected system of psychological objects, there is a new level of comprehension that’s possible that makes all the difference when you seek to make improvements.

Why is This Important?

If this model is true for all functioning adults, it could explain a few things. For example, even after we make a number of critical improvements to our task management, unwanted symptoms will probably recur.

To most people, this is bad news. In their minds, a problem they had solved has returned. Unfortunately, some use this evidence to invalidate their progress and those who give advice. For example, Getting Things Done by David Allen is disparaged by many who see the return of unwanted symptoms. They see it as a sign of the guru’s failure. Or their own.

But some escape the trap: for a handful of advanced productivity enthusiasts, the re-emergence of old symptoms is nothing more than an indication of proximity. It has no more significance than the sound a car’s sensor makes as it reverses to a wall.

As such, when unwanted symptoms re-appear, they take the occurrence as a sign: it’s time to perform a fresh diagnosis. The fault is no-one’s.

But they also realize that the solutions they used as a beginner, or last year, or last week, can’t be recycled. Hence the need for a new assessment, and perhaps even better diagnostic tools.

What’s the Link to the Rapid Assessment Program?

In the training, you learn how to use a unique diagnostic toolset to understand your current system. Plus, you are given a full list of unwanted symptoms to work with and a way of mapping them to their behavioral causes, which sit inside your current setup.

These are lifelong tools which apply to all levels of task volume. While better diagnostics will undoubtedly appear in time, you’ll have already made “The Switch” from taking the general advice of others, to using personalized insights based on your self-evaluation.

P.S. While I have used the term “tasks” in this article, I mean “time demands”.

Find out more about the MyTimeDesign Rapid Assessment Program in this webinar.

Part 8 — Why There’s Always a Limit to Your Capacity to Manage Tasks Effectively was originally published in 2Time Labs on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Part 7 — Why You Are Always Already Diagnosing

Why you are already using diagnostic techniques to improve your task management, but might not know.

The Problem

One of the ways in which pedagogy (the teaching of children) should be different from andragogy (the teaching of adults) lies in the fact that learners think differently as they mature. With more years of experience, and greater age, the adult brings a higher degree of discernment to the interaction than a child.

Today, you don’t pretend to absorb everything someone tried to teach you at face value. Right? But what do you do instead?

Well, in task management, you hear new advice to change a behavior or pick up a new technology, and…then you pause. While the teacher may want you to simply follow orders without question (like a child) you probably can’t. Your mind won’t let you.

Instead, you perform a brief, but possibly imperceptible diagnosis.

Checking over your current system, you consider areas of weakness and the difference their specific suggestion might make. If it passes your internal test, you apply the change. If not, you don’t.

Why is This Important?

Being a great diagnostician may be a novel idea, but the truth is everyone who considers themselves a productivity enthusiast already employs this practice. So does everyone reading a book, taking a training or listening to a podcast in the area of task management.

The challenge is to make this skill explicit. And to get better at it while doing so.

Even the gurus are challenged by this goal, as evidenced by the paucity of their teaching on this subject. Almost all of them are great diagnosticians, but they don’t talk about The Switch they made.

I don’t think they’re hiding anything — just sticking with the simple-to-explain themes beginners resonate with the most.

What’s the Link to the Rapid Assessment Program?

In this training, you explicitly develop your skills as a task management diagnostician….a self-coach. In a short time, you gain an understanding of the fundamentals of task management, how they work together, and some basic principles to apply in any diagnosis.

It sets the groundwork for you to make The Switch to nurturing lifelong diagnostic skills.

Find out more about the MyTimeDesign Rapid Assessment Program in this webinar.

Part 7 — Why You Are Always Already Diagnosing was originally published in 2Time Labs on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Solving the Problem of Getting to Work on Time

Tourists love Jamaican culture for its laid back attitude and easy vibe. That is, until the guy who is supposed to check you out of the villa shows up to work late, causing you to miss your flight… in that moment, there’s not much to love.

In this article, I address a problem that shows up in the Caribbean workplace – lateness. There’s a lesson here for all managers – never assume that your employees know how to undertake a practice that you have mastered, such as getting to work on time. You have probably forgotten what it took to learn the micro-habits needed to achieve mastery and if no-one spells them out, it’s likely that they’ll never be learned.

Here’s the article from the Sunday newspaper in Jamaica – How Hard Is It to Come to Work on Time?

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.

Learning and Practicing by Writing

One of the quarrels that I have with myself is… “Why Do You Insist on Putting All Your Ideas Out There in the Public?”

The answer isn’t too hard to figure out, now that I am writing “the book” in earnest.  My ideas don’t gather steam and make sense unless I am actually spelling them out in words for other people to see.  It’s a little like the difference between doing a live performance versus one that’s being recorded.

When I know something will be “out there” I write differently, in a way that not only enhances the standard, but also helps cement it as a building-block for further ideas and insights.

Writing “the book” isn’t much different.  The part I’m having the hardest part with is not the ideas I want to include, but instead it’s the story around the learning that I want the protagonist, to experience.

To that end, I have found wonderful help from a book called “Techniques of the $elling Writer” by Dwight Swain.  There are some memorable quotes in the book, which clued me in to the fact that it’s written very much along the lines of Time Management 2.0.  The author claims that there are certain fundamentals of writing fiction that are simply inescapable, and it takes continuous practice in order to become proficient in each of them.

I almost fell out of my chair, especially when he stated:

“the skill of a skilled writer tricks you into thinking there is no skill.”

“You first have to be willing to be very, very bad, in this business, if you’re ever to be good. Only if you stand ready to make mistakes today can you hope to move ahead tomorrow.”

“Can you learn to write stories?
Can you learn to write well enough to sell an occasional piece?
Again yes, in most cases.  Can you learn to write well enough to sell consistently to Red-book or Playboy or Random House or Gold Medal? Now that’s another matter, and one upon which undue confusion centers.

Writing is, in its way, very much like tennis.  It’s no trick at all to learn to play tennis—if you don’t mind losing every game.  Given time and perseverance, you probably can even work yourself up to where Squaw Hollow rates you as above-average competition.
Beyond that, however, the going gets rough. Reach the nationals, win status as champion or finalist, and you know your performance bespeaks talent as well as sweat.

So it is with writing. To get stories of a sort set down on paper; to become known as a “leading Squaw Hollow writer,” demands little more than self-discipline.

Continued work and study often will carry you into American Girl or Men’s Digest or Real Confessions or Scholastic Newstime. But the higher you climb toward big name and big money, the steeper and rougher your road becomes.
At the top, it’s very rough indeed. If you get there; if you place consistently at Post or McCall’s or Doubleday, you know it’s because you have talent in quantity; and innate ability that sets you apart from the competition.
Now this doesn’t seem at all strange to me. The same principle applies when you strive for success as attorney or salesman or racing driver.

Further, whatever the field, no realist expects advance guarantees of triumph. You can’t know for sure how well you’ll do until you try. Not even a Ben Hogan, a Sam Snead, or an Arnold Palmer made a hole-in-one his first time on the links. To win success, you first must master the skills involved. A pre-med student isn’t called on to perform brain surgery.”

Alrighty then…  This isn’t a book about tips, tricks and shortcuts:  the kind of stuff that’s killing time management training and learning.

Instead, it’s about honest hard effort to learn a craft that doesn’t yield it’s deeper secrets to anyone who simply picks up a pen.

In like manner, if you are serious about time management, don’t expect anything to change when you purchase your first Blackberry (even though you might feel more productive.)  Getting better at time management, and becoming really, really good both take hard work.

I imagine that some would say that he’s being too discouraging but, as I have said in prior posts mentioning Usain Bolt and Andre Agassi, they didn’t arrive at the top by taking every silly piece of advice.  Why should we?


A New Special Report on Time Management 2.0

For the first time in a long time, I put my pen to paper to update the “manifesto” of ideas here on the 2Time website.

In writing the special report, 8 Edgy Ideas From Time Management 2.0, I tried to pull together the best ideas I could find from the posts I have written over the past 4 years.  I also recorded an audio version and a short video introduction that you can view below.

To download the report, simply click on the icon or click here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it over at the page I created for comments.

Procrastination Article – A Point I Missed

istock_000001479642xsmall.jpgI wrote an article for the StepCase LifeHack website on the topic of procrastination after getting a bit pissed that the word was getting a bad name!

(If you read the article by clicking at the link below you’ll get the lame joke that I just made.)

It’s a serious article, however, on a problem that I think afflicts professionals from White to Green belt levels alike — being hobbled by what they call procrastination.

After writing it, however,  it struck me that I missed one tiny point.

What I didn’t mention are those people who make indefinite commitments without due dates, and instead make vague promises to themselves to do something in the future.  The thing never gets done as a result, or only after they think it “should” have been done.

This is also called “procrastination” but is it really?

I believe it’s also the same kind of mistake that I mention in the article… a real problem with the wrong label.  A better label for this particular problem would be “habits that need to be changed.”  In 2Time language,  it might mean upgrading one’s skills in 3 fundamental disciplines: Capturing, Emptying and Scheduling.

This would solve the problem of putting off vague promises indefinitely.

But how do we get over the problem that has so many saying:  “I procrastinate too much!” ?

The answer is over at the Stepcase Lifehack website in my new article — Click here to  read “Procrastination — NOT a Problem.”

P.S. Sorry for the gap in posts — I have been working hard on MyTimeDesign 2.0 for its January release, and I also moved homes here in Kingston.  Doing both made me procrastinate… in the good way!


“I Don’t Need Time Management”

I don’t often post a copy of my ezines that I reserve for those on my mailing lists, but this month I’m making an exception.

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who kept missing deadlines while insisting that he had no time management problem. I realized that he couldn’t see his own low skills clearly. This month’s article speaks to those who think that they don’t have a problem — and why.

(If you aren’t receiving this ezine, simply request the e-book at the top left of this page and you’ll be automatically added.)

Click here, or on the link below, to be taken to this month’s issue.

Issue 12


New 2Time eZine on the Failure of Time Management Systems

2time-header.jpgI just wrote a new article for the 2Time eZine on the reasons why time management systems fail.

It’s something  that I haven’t seen any of the gurus talk about, and it may be because the explanation isn’t something they can do much about in a book or 2-day program.

If you haven’t subscribed, you can do so by requesting my free e-book using the free sign-up box at top left, or by sending email to [email protected].

Click here – The Reason Why New Time Management Systems Fail