Edgy Idea #6 – Set your own goals and track your own progress as you improve

Others say: “Follow or use this system and you’ll double/tripe/quadruple your productivity”
Time Management 2.0 says: “There is no easy way to measure an increase in your productivity, but choose  a  tangible behavioral goal”

The promises that some make are outrageous.  Without giving any hint of how the result can be measured, they promise to “add 90 minutes to your day” or “triple your productivity.”  It’s easy to see the nonsense of this claim when up you realize that it’s being made to everyone, from the novice to the most skillful time management expert.

The hype is annoying (except perhaps to the most gullible,) because the fact is, there is no easy way to measure the impact of a time management system on someone’s productivity.  While it might be possible one day, at the moment there is no method that is even remotely reliable in scientific terms.  This presents a problem for us all – how do we know when a change we make to our time management system actually makes a difference?

There are proxy measurements available, however, that show the results of good time management, such as the average number of email messages remaining in an email Inbox at any given time.  I watch other leading indicators such as missed appointments and broken promises, which tell me when some aspect of my system isn’t working.  Unfortunately, I have to track all of these manually, as there is no program, that I am aware of, that is available in programs such as Outlook.

I have recently tried RescueTime which attempts to measure how productive you are by tracking the amount of time spent using different kinds of software or websites.  This isn’t a perfect approach by any means, and its final statistics are better than nothing.  The truth is that they are only useful to help you know what you shouldn’t be doing, like spending 20 hours a week on Facebook.

I tell participants in NewHabits and MyTimeDesign programs to track their peace of mind as the final indicator of how their system is working. This is a subjective measure that is purely psychological.  What makes it an interesting measure to use is that it can be applied immediately, once a change is made, and it brings the user right back to the benefit they ultimately want, which is one that is emotional, but not scientific.

After all, we aren’t machines.  Tripling our productivity would probably make most of us miserable!

Until better tools are available, I recommend that people focus on specific behaviors, and on changing them from day to day until they become automatic.  For example, remembering to take your manual capture point with you wherever you go is a powerful habit, and one that can be mastered, even in the absence of formal measurements.  Just because it’s tough to measure, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t become a habit.

Edgy Idea #7- Take your time and make changes according to your common-sense plan

Others say: “Here is a long list of changes you need to make NOW”
Time Management 2.0 says: “Plan out your changes over time and implement them organically”

You might be like most people who never got past the first few chapters of one or more time management books or websites.  You like the ideas or tips you got, but very quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of new stuff you discovered that had to be implemented all at once in order to make the system work.

The list of new habits was so long you were sure you couldn’t remember the whole thing, and you probably failed to make all the changes required.  Some do try however, and are able to make a few changes for a week or two, until the crunch comes and, under pressure, they revert to their old habits.

Many of us end up feeling guilty at what we think is our lack of discipline, and label ourselves as procrastinators.  Sometimes we even feel like failures, and this is particularly hard to take, given the initial excitement we felt when we first heard the ideas and liked them because they made sense.

This is all no fault of ours, however.

Individual habits are difficult to change, as we all know.  New ones are hard to learn, and old ones stubbornly resist removal, no matter how destructive they might be.  Yesterday a friend shared with me the fact that as she lay down in bed at 11:30pm to go to sleep, she noticed the light on her Blackberry was on, which led her to check her email and immediately fashion a reply.  Afterwards, she knew that what she did was unproductive, but in the moment there was no choice – the habit was that strong.

The gurus, however, seem content to do the easy part — sharing the ideas, while leaving the hard part (implementation) up to us.  And they don’t help the situation by not providing a pathway to actually effect the changes.

It’s no wonder the book is never finished.

In Time Management 2.0, the idea that a transformation can happen all at once is rejected, in favor of a new approach that happens to fit the latest research in habit change.

It turns out that habit changes are more effectively undertaken when they are broken into small steps, and when one works to perfect a single step at a time.  In this way, a person builds confidence and skill gradually, or in other words “organically.”  This does make things tricky for the gurus, however, as the sequence of habit to be changed differs from one person to another.

The solution is simple and puts the onus back on the user:
1.  teach someone how to distinguish individual habit changes
2.  show them how to sequence the changes over time, so that the flow from one change to another follows a natural progression

When you have these 2 skills your rate of success increases, which is exactly what the latest research predicts.  Over time, you build a foundation of effective changes that builds confidence and skill at habit change.

In Time Management 2.0, your implementation is everything, and success isn’t measured by how cool the guru’s ideas are, but instead, by how many habits that you, the user, actually put into play.  To make the transition stick, users need a third step, which will be covered in the next Edgy idea.

Edgy Idea #8 – Evolving your system is a function of your habit-changing supports

Others say: “Habit change is easy!”
Time Management 2.0 says: “Habit change is hard, but it can be made easier with the right support.”

Thankfully, the research done on changing habits is clear and helpful.

To be effective, you’d better have a great support system.  This is a part of the reason that Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers work so well — they provide superior support systems.

In Time Management 2.0, successful implementation has everything to do with the quality of the support system that a user puts in place.  Once again, however, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that you can find that would work for you.

The research is clear on this point – a support system that works for you, might create havoc for me.  Instead of just doing what others do, you must design your own combination of social, electronic and expert support so that you make it hard to escape the new habit without getting some feedback that reminds you (or forces you) to get back on track.

Doing this well is no easy task, as you are essentially finding creative ways to work around your habitual tendencies.  In time management, someone may have practiced certain habits for decades before deciding to make a change.  These are difficult to dislodge because they have had lots of time to be burned into your neuromuscular memory, and you no longer conciously think about doing them – they just get done.

In Time Management 2.0 we assume that changing habits is difficult, and that crafting this kind of supportive environment is critical to success. People need help in learning how to build these supports, so that they can radically improve the odds of implementing what they learn.

Some people use paid coaches to help keep them on track.  Others join a group in which they can help each other stay on top.  Electronic reminders have become more popular as a way of automatically prompting oneself to take action at specific times.  Tracking progress with metrics is also a very powerful method.

Recently I stumbled across a web service at www.sticck.com that allows you to place a bet on yourself using real, live cash — it’s a fascinating new way to support yourself in making changes.

Understanding which of the above options, among many, will work for you requires some experimentation and insight that few possess.    Once you figure out which supports work, however, you have the tremendous ability to change any habit at will, and you’ll be able to tell the difference between changes you MUST make and those you’d like to make someday.

Here are the links to all the pages in this report:


Summary: The 8 Edgy Ideas

Edgy Idea #1

Edgy Idea #2

Edgy Idea #3

Edgy Idea #4

Edgy Idea #5

Edgy Idea #6

Edgy Idea #7

Edgy Idea #8

Thanks and Links

This is an excerpt from the Special Report:  8 Edgy Ideas from Time Management 2.0, offered by Francis Wade of Framework Consulting.  We offer the MyTimeDesign online training.