Designing My Own Time Management System
I began to think that there must be a better way. Upon reflection, I looked at the people who typically became adherents of new time management systems, and realized that the few people who could “follow it” are those whose habits and practices were already very similar to those of their guru.
From the time management workshops I had done and led I knew that people were having an easy time understanding the ideas in the class, but a hard time once the class was over, and they were left on their own to implement 50 new habits all at once.
The problem is, we humans don’t change ingrained habits quickly, let alone multiples of habits. Smokers who drink, do drugs and gamble are taught to focus on only a single addiction — the research says that they are likely to be more effective by focusing on a few small habits, rather than a complex set.
One of the new design principles for those who needed a custom approach had to be that change must be gradual, and it must be supported.
Also, we all lead dynamic lives that change from year to year as we have babies, accept promotions, do marathons, get married and go into retirement. As these changes take place, we often need the tweak our time management systems to take into account a new number of demands on our time.
Couple that with fast-changing technology, and the advances in mobile computing which have have turned Internet access into a 24-7 reality. As technology changes, it makes sense to keep upgrading our systems to stay abreast and take advantage of new inventions and discoveries.
I simply couldn’t find an approach in anything I read that went this far.
Furthermore, I found myself resisting the purchase of an iPhone, Blackberry or Palm Treo because I imagined that those solutions were based on someone’s approach, but I couldn’t tell who that someone was, or see any documentation on what their approach might be.
It didn’t take long to discover that the problem I was facing was not unique to me, but that everyone had the same challenge. Most people were not accepting any single approach to time management in total, and instead were picking and choosing parts to use, and parts to ignore. I was doing the very same thing, at first. Unfortunately, this approach could lead to disaster as there was no guidance available to design a time management system that would ultimately work, and work for me.
I borrowed a page from my engineering training and started to describe what I was looking for as “design principles”. I simply didn’t know the essential design principles to use.
Someone who knows the design principles in a field can be a very effective designer. For example, a teacher who knows the principles of learning can design any course of study whether it be in person, by teleconference, webinar or e-learning. An engineer who knows the principles of flight can design most aircraft regardless of the purpose of the plane – they know that all aircraft need propulsion, wings, a tail, a certain shape, etc. and to adhere to certain design principles or else. All the time management systems I have researched showed that there were design principles that needed to be followed.
Fortunately, by 2005, I had begun to write my business thinking in a public blog — Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle — and continued to shape the time management ideas. After 2 years of writing to feed my own curiosity in this area, I was able to craft the ideas into a single approach whose essentials I have shared here on the 2Time Labs Blog, and also put into the 2-day NewHabits and MyTimeDesign programs.
One key discovery I made was that the average Jamaican’s time management skills were less developed than the average Americans. That’s hardly a revelation. A Jamaican who moves to live in the USA has to make an upgrade quickly, or return home. What I asked myself was, “What are the skills a Jamaican would have to develop to be as productive as an American, without leaving the island?”
The answers led me to develop a ladder of skills in 11 Fundamentals that acted as a bridge between the two “rungs.” The surprise came when I realized that there were a number of rungs that the average American would also have to climb to be world-class. The ladder of skills was deeper and taller than I ever imagined. Essentially, what time management gurus have done is to define rungs in great detail. Some go further and claim that their rung is the only one that anyone needs to know. The fact is, a ladder of skills exist and the professional who knows that it’s there can empower him/her self to start climbing. As ong as they define higher rungs, they can actually engage in kaizen – continuous improvement – for their entire working career.
Unfortunately, I still feel as if I am writing in a vacuum, and that not enough is being done to properly research this very important area. While none of the work I have done to date on time management has felt like… well, work, I really don’t know where this passion comes from, and when it leaves, I like to believe that I will pick up all my belongings and go move to a tropical country where time isn’t an issue! (Oh, wait, I already did that… LOL)
My point is that I hope others will step in and carry this on. If I can be part of an effort that convinces the Cornells of this world to take the field seriously, and establish it as an important interdisciplinary field of study, then maybe I could hand the baton over to those who are better equipped.
One thing I do know at the end of the day — every single professional wants a time management system that works for them — so why can’t more resources be devoted to giving them what they want?
Update July 2011
The work I started continues in much the same vein, with more writing, video-taping, speech-giving, workshop teaching etc. I have picked up some momentum in writing my book, which is being written in the form of a business fable. The working title is “Perfect Time Management.”
This website has evolved into 2Time Labs, with a focus on Time Management 2.0 principles. I now offer public workshops in the form of the NewHabits programs in the Caribbean, and also online – the MyTimeDesign programs.
As I mentioned before, the work I do here has felt almost effortless, and I am always working with a very long list of ideas to bring to fruition in posts on the blog, articles on Stepcase LifeHack, columns in the newspapers, videos on YouTube, etc. There’s a whole lot more to say, and I’m looking for others who are also willing to say them, fulfilling the mission of 2Time Labs.
Update November 2012
(Sidebar… Keeping a bio like this alive is a trip… I wonder if anyone actually gets to this last page or dies of boredom somewhere around the middle of the first page! They say the key to success is to take one step at a time, so here’s one more step…)
The book… the book, the book, the book. I’m undertaking the third and final draft, which is the last one that I can perform before handing it over to the professional editors. As I read it for the umpteenth time, all I can say is that it’s moderately engaging, and I kinda like the pace. It keeps me guessing, and wondering where the story is going next! There’s been a name change because another book written in 1999 popped up with the same name – now it’s called “Im-perfect Time Management.”
I’m hoping for a January release.
In September, I gave a training session and a full day workshop at the Institute for Challenging Disorder’s Annual Conference in Chicago. Over 170 professionals were trained in a single 90 minute session, while 25 more were trained in a full-day workshop. The theme? Baby Steps 101/201 – Radically Reducing Your Clients’ Time Clutter. Perhaps it was the largest training of time clutter professionals ever.
It was a LOT of fun, and I learned a lot from the entire experience – to say the least. The 25 attendees of the 201 version started their learning in April when I opened a virtual classroom, held an official ICD teleclass and launched a training game. The classroom will remain open through the end of the year – there was simply too much content to throw into a single session.
It led me to refashion MyTimeDesign into a website for trainers, coaches, consultants and professional organizers. Now, we are making plans for the first ever standard in the time management profession: Certified Time Management Adviser.
In the past year, one of the pleasures I discovered is that of using new technology to enhance the online learning experience. Flash interactivity, online quizzes and surveys, infographics, virtual classrooms… these are just a few of the techniques I have had to learn in the past year. Beyond the techie stuff, there is also eLearning andragogy – the teaching of adults in online environments. It’s a field that’s changing rapidly and I am always busy upgrading my materials to make them more effective, driven by the latest research and my own experience.
We recently received some good news here at 2Time Labs. My proposal to present at the 2013 ASTD conference was accepted and I’ll be travelling in Dallas in May of 2013 to speak on: How to Stop Failing At Behavior Change Training: The Case of Time Management. Hopefully, there will be more than a few followers of 2Time Labs at the session.
Update March 2013
A major milestone has been surpassed with the publication of my book: “Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure” on February 2. It’s a business fable of a man who discovers the tenets of Time Management after being threatened with the loss of his job due to low personal productivity.