A Message for All GTDers

6mistakes-cover-2.jpgActually, this is a message to the users of all time management systems: there are some mistakes that people often make when they try to learn Getting Things Done (GTD®), Covey, and all other systems developed by another person.

It’s all detailed in my new report, The Six Surprising Mistakes that GTD®ers Make.

At first blush, you might think that I’m taking a swipe at those who use GTD®. That’s not my goal.

I did, however, make a bunch of mistakes when I tried to implement it a second time. Now, I have the benefit of some insight that tells me I’m not the only one who tries to make GTD® and other systems do what they cannot do — and get stuck as a result.

For more, download the report and have a read. It also comes in an audio format and has its own follow-up video series.

Click here to go to the download page at http://2time-sys.com/6mistakes


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Mission Control Productivity, FranklinCovey, GTD and Getting Things Done are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company (davidco.com.)  2Time is not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company, Mission Control Productivity or FranklinCovey.

Lifelong Learning — A Way to Think About Time Management

scale-feetonscale.jpgThere’s simply no way to create a great time management system from bits and pieces of tips dug up from here and there.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying, does it?

A quick search of Twitter for the phrase “time management” or the hashtag “#timemanagement” reveals how many people are looking for tips, shortcuts, and back doors.

We all want to be able to take a pill and wake up the following morning able to manage our time better.

Rather than looking for tips, we’d all be better off treating the issue as if it were a matter of lifelong learning rather than a miraculous flash in the pan.

In other words, it’s not as if people arrive at the perfect system at some point in their lives, and all they can do from that point on is hold onto it for dear life.

Instead, it’s more important for someone to treat their time management system as if it were something like they were their weight management system.

Trying to manage your weight at the age of 45 in the same way that you did at 25 is a recipe for disaster.

In the same way, trying to hold onto the same time management system, regardless of changes in the following aspects of your life, is just as crazy:

  • Retirement or working
  • Type of job
  • Commuting time (or working at home)
  • Number of kids
  • Technology availability
  • Marital status
  • Ability to remember

It’s a better idea to see time management skills as something that you must change over time — and continually redesign. One thing we do know is that a poor time management system can lead to regrets of all shapes and sizes, particularly as your life draws to a close.

Impressing Your Boss Article

I recently wrote an article for the Stepcase Lifehack website entitled “Impressing Your Boss with Time Management 2.0”

I got the idea when I remembered some performance reviews I had received in the past in which I could not figure out what I should do differently, if anything.

I imagined that employees who were told that they should improve their time management skills were no better off, and had no idea where to start, and whether or not it would reverse a poor perception.

Follow this link to read my recommendations on how an employee can use Time Management 2.0 principles to create a new impression: Impressing Your Boss With Time Management 2.0

Experimenting with Time Management Systems

I read a tremendous article recently that captures the importance of experimenting more eloquently than I ever could.

I found it in the April 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review and it is entitled “Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life,” and written by Stewart Friedman.

The authors divides a professional’s life into four separate areas  — work, home, community and self — and urges employees and leaders alike to undertake focused improvement projects in each area.  Each project is given a start and an end date, and only a few are to be attempted at any one time in order to ensure that one’s energy isn’t dissipated.

Also, by attempting these projects, he points out that people can take the leadership lessons learned from one area into all areas.  This is because we all live interconnected lives, and there is a non-linear magic that occurs in someone’s life when a true improvement takes place.

Imagine for instance someone who decides to partake in a community project, in order to help them try some new time management skills.  They could quite deliberately accept a leadership role in order to test themselves, to see what happens with their ability to manage a new volume of work.

If this idea sounds familiar to frequent readers of the blog, then it should.

2Time is built on the idea of continuous experimentation, and the truth is that building your own time management system can only be done well with the kind of focus the author describes.

In the old world of time management, the instructions were simple to give, but hard to follow.  Authors and gurus simply said:  “Follow me.” And, “if you have difficulty doing so, try harder.”

That was essentially it.

In Time Management 2.0 the reality is very different.  In order to design a time management system that works for you you need to constantly experiment with different approaches, in order to discover your default habit patterns.  Unless you are lucky enough to have a handbook somewhere that describes your habits in detail, you are likely to be venturing into new territory.

This is not a problem, as long as you have some tolerance for the trial and error process that comes with self-discovery.  Also, it’s important to know that this self-knowledge is only a means to an end — a personally customized time management system.

What I realized while reading this article is that a professional who takes the effort to design their own time management system is likely to see an improvement in all areas of their life at the same time.  This is likely to occur because people who undertake this kind of design end up creating systems that allow them to relax into the flow state for longer and longer periods of time.

This is true whether or not they are reading a book, talking to their children, replying to a tricky email or attending a meeting.  They are simply able to invent a method that allows themselves to give 100% more often than those who are stuck in unconscious time management systems.

The author gives a few tips on how to design the best experiments.  He advocates creating experiments that “feel like something of a stretch: not too easy, not too daunting.  It might be something quite mundane for someone else, but that doesn’t matter.  What’s critical is that you see it as a moderately difficult, challenge.”

Furthermore, he advises that once users have gotten started with a few projects, that they be open to constant adaptation.  In this way, there is no such thing as failure.  Whether goals are achieved or not, there is something important to be learned, and one’s life can be transformed in both cases.

Also, it turns out that there is no such thing as small or unimportant experiments.  They all make a contribution towards the greatest of changes.

I have found that users who are confronted by the idea of building a time management system for their own, benefit greatly when they take the approach of breaking the project down into small steps, and sequence the steps they are planning to take over time.  This prevents the overload that comes from taking the typical time management program in which hundreds of new habits are introduced in a torrent that drowns most participants.

It’s a great article, and it can be purchased from hbr.org and searching for reprint R0804H.

Practicing New Habits

ropes-course.JPGI recently got a little too happy when I found a game on CNet.com that claimed to be a “time management game.”

The reason for my premature celebration is that I have been trying to find a way to help participants in my 2-day and online programs to practice the 11 fundamentals in some way.  I initially imagined that this could be done through a simulation, in which I created an imaginary environment to manage a large number of time demands.

The game, which I played for an hour, was all about running a pet fish store, and required the owner to make split-second decisions about what fish to stock, what fish-food to use and what ornaments to place in the tank.  As the game progressed, things moved faster and faster, and at different levels, points could be accumulated  that could be exchanged for a bigger tank and better machines, among other upgrades.

As time went  on, I was indeed getting better at playing the game, and at making split-second decisions about how to manage my time in the game.

The only  problem is, the game lasted only 60 minutes, and I don’t plan to ever play it again.

So, my new-found skills are essentially useless  now that the game is over, as all I really learned to do was to play the game better.

It reminded me of a day I spent on a ropes course  with a team of which I was a member.  We performed all sorts of interesting tasks that required communication, teamwork, planning, etc.

However, it made not a shred of difference to the members of the team, once we returned to the office.

I suppose that with constant  practice that we could have become better at navigating ropes courses.  I also imagine that with more time I could have become a better player of the “pet-fish store game.”

However,  I would not have become a better team player, or have improved any time management skills by continuing in either direction.

This makes sense — I doubt that Michael Jordan spends too much time improving his basketball game by playing NBA Live on his Nintendo.  Also, I doubt that the kid who won the last   World of Warcraft contest would do too well fighting the insurgents in Afghanistan.

In the 2Time system, the core habits that I identified were only those that could be observed, and they all include some element of physical motion.  Mental habits  like ” focusing” or “prioritizing” were deliberately left out of the fundamentals.

I now see that playing a video game involves very different physical motion and practices than playing basketball.  Someone watching a game player from behind would not mistake them for a basketball player due to how differently they are using their bodies.

Someone watching a  team going through a session at the ropes course would not be mistake them for a team that is huddled over the sales results from last month trying to decide which strategy to follow.

Finally, playing a video game does not, alas, make me a better manager of my time, unless it causes me to engage in one or more of the 11 fundamentals  in some way.

I think that true practice comes from repeating actions until they become ingrained into our neuro-muscular systems, and if that’s not happening, then it’s not really practice.

So, I am back to where I started, still looking for a way to help users to practice the 11 fundamentals in a safe environment.

Click here to be taken to Jenny’s Fish-Shop – Time Management Game.