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Francis Wade and Janice Russell
Being a Time Adviser is TOUGH!
If you are a coach, consultant, professional organizer, productivity expert or trainer, you may know what we mean. Who are we? Francis Wade (a management consultant) and Janice Russell (a productivity strategist.) After working in this field for 40 years, we have come together to write this special report. We probably have a lot in common with you. We serve clients (or prospective clients) who have time management issues. They are looking for help. Their needs vary widely. Some are mildly curious as they look for new ideas to refine methods that already work. Others are having severe difficulties and are barely holding things together according to their own standards. They show the symptoms of weak time management. But they aren’t interested in the canned, over-simplified kind of help that consists of little more than clichés and bromides. After all, lots of places on the Internet provide shallow tips and tricks that are titillating but not satisfying. Anyone with a browser can Google them. Clients want quality assistance that will actually make a difference, not merely rehash the stuff they have already heard or mastered.
Our Definitions Time Demand : An individual
commitment to complete a task in the future; a promise to consider a particular commitment.
They want something new and substantive But as time advisors, we are very careful, aren’t we? We don’t want them to know one little professional secret we don’t know where to find new, high-quality ideas in the field of time management. It’s not as if there’s a school for time management advisors. No webinar series exists. There is no book on the subject or piece of academic research to download. Never before has there been a downloadable special report that directly speaks to the needs of trainers, consultants, professional organizers and coaches of time management. That is, not until now.
Time Management: The actions
taken to create time demands and manage their existence over time. Also referred to as time organization.
Time Management System: an
interlocking set of habits, practices & rituals used to manage time demands. © 20XX by ACME Inc
Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
We imagine that, like us, you came to this field from another discipline, and you have some formal training or credentials in a related area of expertise. Like us, you might have searched for the same level of structured learning in time management advising that exists in other fields such as coaching, consulting or professional organizing. After years of searching, we can verify the fact: if certification or training in time management advising is going to appear in our lifetime, it will be because we (all of us) created it. From scratch. That’s our goal in this special report. Welcome to The 8 Fatal Assumptions That Time Advisors Make.
Why This is Important
As you probably know, the number of demands on our time is expanding rapidly, driven by two mega-trends: the availability of information and the increasing use of mobile gadgets. Never before has so much information been coming at us and demanding our attention in an incessant stream. To illustrate, studies have shown that we are exposed to more information in a day than our grandparents saw in a month. In an attempt to cope, the average professional checks email 40-50 times per day and is interrupted by more phone calls, pings, beeps, vibrations and flashing lights than ever before. Distraction management has become a new and distinct area of concern. Our clients and trainees are struggling to keep up, and their anxiety grows as they see their Inboxes overflowing, suffer as commitments fall through the cracks, feel their weight increasing, regret the lack of balance in their lives, and fight to prevent further damage to their professional reputations. In a desperate attempt to stay on top of things, they try the strategies in keeping with the conventional wisdom: 1. Buy the latest smartphone, hoping that its new features will help. 2. Multi-task as often as possible while trying not to endanger lives, annoy other people too much, or break common-sense rules of hygiene. 3. Chase down tips, tricks and shortcuts on websites. 4. Copy or mimic the precise habits and practices of a guru who has written a book or authored a blog. © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
Your experience as an advisor shows that these solutions don’t last. Clients come to you because they have tried one or more of these four approaches, but they haven’t worked for more than a few days at a time. They still need answers; their desperation grows. They want solutions that match our fast-moving world and speak to the never-ending increase of demands on their time. The future ahead is scary, because it appears so relentless: there’s more to do, it’s coming faster than ever before, and they are armed only with the same approaches that no longer work.
As a time advisor, you commit to giving your clients remarkable, permanent solutions that last. After a year of work, it’s disheartening to hear a client confide, “To be honest, I’m not really using any of the stuff you taught me.” It’s painful. As professionals, we want to do more than just give our advice and deposit their checks. We want to do a superior job that makes a profound difference – for a number of reasons. (If you don’t know any of these reasons, you should probably close this special report and do something else with your time. Seriously. The rest of what we have to say will probably annoy you.) We didn’t become time advisors to see this happen over and over again, yet it does. This special report is a first step in getting us to a place where lasting solutions for our clients are possible, where we know how to coach clients with a high probability of success. We just need to give up some of the conventional wisdom, and instead use the latest research to increase our effectiveness. That’s the way to become the kind of time advisor people willingly refer to others. Here are the 8 Fatal Assumptions we have to change.
Fatal Assumption #1 : Our clients are like little kids.
There is a big difference between the art of teaching children (pedagogy) and that of teaching adults (known as andragogy.) Unfortunately, most time advisors have never heard these terms; as a result, they use outdated methods. When an instructor uses an andragogical approach to time management training, there’s an understanding that the adult learners already know something about the © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
subject. They may never have received formal training, but they have taught themselves some of the critical skills needed and may Francis’ Pointer even have studied the topic on their own. In other My professional trainees words, they aren’t brand-new learners. relax when I let them In kindergarten, grade school and middle school, a know that they are likely pedagogical approach makes sense. For the most part, to be among the best time students have neither knowledge nor skills in the managers in the world. subjects they are being taught. They are like the The fact that they proverbial tabula rasa: blank canvases, fully engaged. attended college and You may remember what that was like. have successful lives in By the time you got to high school, however, things which the cost of my started to change. A deep boredom may have set in professional service is when you discovered that you already knew a lot about affordable, tells me that they have already used a the subjects you were being taught. Nowadays, if a teacher isn’t up to date, students may (with the help of self-made system to a Google search) believe that they can find information achieve some important and instantly know as much as, or more than, their things. instructors. By the time they reach adulthood, they are convinced they know a lot about many subjects. Your potential clients are no different, as you probably know from trying to sell your services. Most working professionals don’t believe they have a time management problem, even when they are exhibiting all the symptoms of weak skills. They already know a lot about the topic from what they have read and experienced, and it is far more than previous generations knew. They believe (rightly) that their current time management skills have played a major part in their professional success. To question their skills is to question their success, meaning that you will not get very far trying to convince them that they need help. Those who do admit to having time-related challenges may tell themselves that you, a time advisor, have little or no new information to give them, and all you do is repeat the same stuff everyone knows. They don’t take you seriously. But the fact is that those who are looking for solutions find that their frustration mounts as they (unsuccessfully) try numerous random techniques picked up from here or there. Then, the very few who decide to read a book or sign up for training or coaching often start out being misunderstood by us, their hired experts. We focus on telling them what they should be doing without even mentioning that much of what they are currently doing IS working and doesn’t need to be changed. © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
It’s a mistake. They aren’t novices – none of them, not unless you are training ten-year-olds. Ignoring their existing knowledge and skills and believing that they are not relevant to the improvements we are trying to help them make will only chase clients away. Faster.
Treat your clients as if they are already using a time management system of their own design that has been a corner-stone of their success to date. Let them know that your goal is to help them preserve the habits, practices and rituals that are already working while focusing their efforts on the few that aren’t. To do it well, you’ll need to develop some diagnostic tools to help both you and your clients see where the obvious faults lie. The better your tools, the faster you’ll be able to help them. Additionally, you won’t waste their time. If you want to prepare them for the future, take the further step of teaching them how to diagnose their own methods at any point in the future. This will prepare them for tomorrow’s technology and the likely increase in time demands they are likely to face. (This kind of training is called “metacognitive”, which simply means that your goal is to teach them how to teach themselves. We address this in Assumption #2.) Take this further step, and they’ll thank you for the rest of their lives.
Fatal Assumption #2 - Clients need us to give them a single answer.
As a time advisor, you have probably spent a great deal of time figuring out your own personal approach to being productive. You have made important improvements to the methods you used only a few years ago, thanks in part to new technology. It’s only natural to do what we all do: share the improvements we have made with our clients. More often than not, we start by giving them insight into our own habits, practices and rituals. If they are having obvious and urgent problems, it’s easy to give helpful suggestions, because we have solved many of the same problems ourselves at some point in the past. After doing this a few times, we conclude that we could help a lot more people if only we were to write down or summarize the methods we use. If we had them all documented in a single place, we could share them with a large number of clients in training and coaching sessions and also help them without being there in person. When enough people like our summaries, we turn them into books, seminars, blogs and podcasts. © 20XX by ACME Inc
Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
Some people can really cook; others need recipes. Some people write cookbooks; others read cookbooks. Even in the restaurant world, there are cooks and there are chefs. Cooks follow the recipes, and chefs create the recipes. Even those who don’t know anything about cooking understand that every ingredient in a recipe has a purpose. You wouldn't bake and simply leave out flour, would you? The key is to figure out whether you are a cook or a chef.
However, the number of people who offer professional time management coaching far outnumbers those who have produced books or programs that summarize habits, practices and rituals to be followed by others. Most of us don’t have the time or inclination to pursue the slow, laborious process of creating our own stuff. Instead, we use someone else’ book or training, simply passing a system developed by a third party on to our clients. In most cases, clients are satisfied to receive this information. If they have never heard it before, they like the simplified approach: “Just tell me exactly what I need to do from now on.” From a purely business point of view, this approach works for many time advisors, who can tell a LOT of people the same thing over and over and get paid to do so in book sales or seminar enrollments. However, there is a fatal flaw in this approach, which appears in the following symptoms:
Michael Boyle, StrengthCoach.com
• Clients have a hard time implementing a list of new habits and practices, even when they start off being enthusiastic and inspired. • Clients often, without delay, start to tinker with the combination of practices we provide them, bending and twisting them into new shapes without guidance or understanding. This can result in frustration and even disaster. • Clients eventually ask for an update to our original prescription (a version 2.0) to deal with new problems (or new technology) when we don’t have or intend to offer one. They eventually come up with “advanced” versions on their own. • Clients get tired of us telling them they need to be more disciplined, pressuring them to stick to the exact formula we gave them. The harder we try to convince them to work harder to follow the rules we gave them, the more they resist. • Clients ignore the coaching we give them on how best to implement the systems we provide. They accept the big ideas but don’t use them well in their real lives. The end result is that awkward conversation we mentioned before: “I don’t really use the stuff you taught me.” Our conclusion? They just need to do a better job of following our instructions. © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
But that explanation doesn’t prevent our inner frustration from growing. How many times can we blame them for these failures before we start questioning our own methods? To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The fault lies not in our clients but in ourselves.” Here’s the paradox. We have assumed, correctly, that our system is better than our clients’, but we have concluded wrongly that they should simply follow our example. Think of it from their perspective: Of the following skills, guess which one is more important to your client? From the client’s point of view, the answer is obvious.
Skill Number 1
The ability to follow instructions given by a time advisor and stick to the detailed behaviors laid out for them.
Skill Number 2
The capacity to consciously develop, modify or improve their own time management or productivity system, using the best practices and technologies available at any moment in time. However, from our point of view, Skill Number 2 is daunting. The second skill requires way more effort from us while giving us a huge challenge. Some advisors would say that it’s not possible or that it’s unrealistic, or at least too hard to do. As a result, Skill Number 1 seems easier to pass on. However, in spite of our fear of what it takes to deliver Skill Number 2 effectively, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s exactly what our clients want: immunity from foreseeable future changes. They want to know that they can cope with new increases in demands on their time as well as any new software or hardware they’ll have to use.
The Alternative Lies in Metacognition
Most time advisors focus on teaching the result of their self-made time management systems rather than the process they followed to create it in the first place. © 20XX by ACME Inc
Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
Take a simple example. Baking a cake can be an easy process of purchasing a box of cake mixture and following the instructions on the back. The end result will be a simple, plain cake. It’s the way most pre-teens learn to bake their first cakes. Students attending a French pastry school, however, learn quite a different process. By the time they graduate, they are not simply following the box’s instructions. Instead, they are creating their own recipes using new technology, processes and ingredients. They are experimenting on their own and producing unique results that meet their professional needs. In other words, they have learned how to teach themselves new baking techniques. This fits the very definition of “metacognition”: thinking about thinking, or in our applied case, the study of the way humans learn to teach themselves new material. In terms of time management and personal productivity, the average modern professional is more like a pastry chef and less like a pre-teen. If you followed the argument laid out in Fatal Assumption #1 , you’ll see that by the time you meet them, clients already have some useful, ingrained habits and practices in place. They’ll have supplemented their home-grown systems with new technology, buttressed them with cultural norms and added a few idiosyncrasies. Presenting them with a one-size-fits-all solution that’s ten times better than the one they are using might be interesting, but it is hardly useful. Imagine the average highschool student with an interest in science attending a post-graduate lecture on experimental techniques. Interesting, perhaps, but not very useful. Learning graduate-level scientific techniques is too much of a jump. Your clients often fail because they can’t make the jump from their self-made systems to the summarized set of methods you want them to follow. The gap is just too large. Also, if that’s all you offer them, you’re likely to bore them to tears. After all, do they really need your help to find new “recipes”? It’s easy to find these “recipes” without your help: using Amazon or Google, they can download the latest and newest list of habits and practices from the hottest productivity guru. Instead, what they need to learn and practice from you, their expert time advisor, are ways to develop Skill Number 2. The best way for you to respond is to teach them the process you use to find solutions rather than any particular result. In other words, stop giving them fish. Teach them how to fish. Spend some time discerning the steps you took to come up with your own idiosyncratic methods. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to reveal your © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
own metacognition: • • • • • • • • What was the first step you took in crafting your time management methods? How did you experiment with different ideas? How did you measure success? What caused you to stop improving your approach, if you did? What were the habits and practices you used before? What targets did you set for yourself? How have you assessed new technology? How do you know when it’s time to upgrade your methods?
• What process do you use to figure out when you need a slight modification, vs. an upgrade, vs. a complete overhaul? When you answer these questions for yourself, you can give your clients a peek into something so valuable that they’ll use it for the rest of their working careers: your successful formula, as a time advisor, for staying on top of things, regardless of what life throws at you in the future.
Fatal Assumption #3 - Clients Understand the Demands on Their Time
Often, our clients attend our training or hire us as consultants because they feel some combination of negative, unwanted emotions. They struggle to deal with all the stuff that’s flying at them each day, feeling as if they will never catch up and therefore never feel satisfied. They look to us for time management solutions, but deep down, we know better time can’t actually be managed. It’s a mistake to take their limited perception as the starting point: they actually don’t understand the nature of the demands on their time or what time management actually is. Here’s why.
1 . They don’t distinguish between “stuff” and “time demands.”
People tend to lump everything they have to do into the all-purpose basket of “stuff,” which they may further describe as “things that fly at me each day and I need to get done.” The truth is far more subtle. Consider a new definition: A time demand is an individual commitment to complete an action in the future. Triggered by life’s events, we humans create these demands in our minds. They are © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
psychological creations, even though they do seem to have some physical properties, such as their ability to accumulate and feel like a burden. This burden may lead to physical symptoms. Also, time demands are created one at a time, and at the moment of inception, they are often tagged with a likely start time/date and duration. Most people who are effective at time management don’t try to store them in their memory: doing so is too stressful. Time demands are managed as single units. A single new email message, for example, may include 1 5 separate time demands, which must each be disposed of in different ways. For the average professional, keeping track of them is essential. Furthermore, researchers such as M. Ziegarnik in the 1 920’s and, more recently, Baumeister and Masicampo show that: • When time demands are created and left incomplete, they are likely to prey on the mind and interrupt daily functioning. • When time demands are created and completed, they are likely to be entirely forgotten. • When time demands are created and managed so that they can reliably be completed at a later time, they enter a state in which they no longer prey on the mind and hardly interfere with daily functioning. From the research, it’s clear: the way we manage (or don’t manage) time demands affects us emotionally. For example, people (typically young) who decide to “act on every time demand immediately” are likely to think this technique works, not realizing that it only works when the number of time demands is small. As the number inevitably balloons, however, they are likely to become stressed as they take on more of life’s challenges: college, a job, a relationship, a family and a mortgage. Seeing “time demands” instead of “stuff” allows for greater precision as our clients come to identify which actions produce the preferred emotions. It also gets them to focus on the right thing: managing “time demands,” which they have already started doing, versus “managing time,” which is impossible.
2. They don’t believe they have any power.
When clients are able to distinguish time demands, they quickly realize that they are the creators, and it’s not just about stuff flying at them from out of the blue. They might initially argue that the real sources are their spouses, bosses, kids’ schools, newspapers, emails, last night’s television show or even today’s weather. Your job is to show them that these events might act as triggers, but according to the definition, © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
the point of creation always lies with the individual. What’s remarkable is that your clients may have operated for years without realizing this fact, sincerely believing themselves to be hapless victims. When you share the distinction between “time demands” vs. “stuff” you can help them see their agency for the very first time. It’s the start of being Janice’s Pointer empowered. Clients with Executive Function Disorders (EFD) http://www.webmd.com/addadhd/executive-function have great challenges with time management. Common EFDs include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other Learning Disabilities (LD). Please be ethically responsible, and get appropriate training before working with clients who have diagnosed EFDs or for whom you suspect an EFD. When we, as time advisors, also fail to make this distinction, we limit the help we can offer. We end up giving them trivial methods to deal with an onslaught of stuff that they can’t control. However, when we empower them to realize their role in creating time demands in response to life’s triggers, we invite them to take responsibility for their power. For most clients, this is a profound transformation.
We show them that their minds create time demands without conscious effort and without any apparent limits. Some will think that they should curb this creative impulse in an effort to be more realistic. Even when it’s obvious that they are creating more time demands than they can ever complete in a lifetime, we must be clear: they shouldn’t try to suppress the creation of new time demands or limit their minds. Instead, we can train clients to sort through the time demands their minds have given birth to, not at the moment of inception, but later in the day or week. They can learn to consciously perform an act of triage: acting on some time demands immediately, delaying others until later, and revoking a few on the spot. When clients learn that they have more control over what actually gets done than they ever imagined, some of the burden lifts. They free themselves of the guilt that comes from feeling as if they should be able to complete all the time demands their minds create. (The part of the brain that does this deciding is the prefrontal cortex in a process called executive function.) Clients who are led by their time advisors to take this new level of responsibility gain a tremendous advantage.
3. They can’t accurately assess their time demands.
© 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
Clients who start to see their own efficacy and the process that their minds follow might still complain that they have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. However, when they start to see that they have been stressing themselves out by creating and mismanaging time demands, they see things differently. At this point, you can teach them that they often commit what’s known as the planning fallacy: the tendency we humans have to over-estimate our individual capacity to get stuff done in the future. As a result, we make promises that we can’t fulfill, severely under-estimate the time required to hit deadlines, and disappoint others. With our help, clients can start to see time demands clearly and use advanced scheduling tools to plan and execute time demands accurately. Many clients get into trouble when they experience a life change they don’t assess clearly. It may range from the birth of a child to the acceptance of a new position or the need to take care of a sick parent or child. These are all examples of phases during which clients need to see the impact of new time demands clearly, deciding whether or not they need your help as a time advisor to upgrade their skills.
Develop the skills to use these concepts in your own life, and then pass them on to clients for their benefit. As you both assume greater degrees of responsibility for time demands, you will both benefit from a new level of empowerment. Further, your clients will probably be hearing these concepts for the first time, which will help build your credibility as a time advisor who not only knows some cool stuff but also walks the talk.
Fatal Assumption #4 - Electronic is the only way to go.
It’s easy to assume that using the latest technology is a must. After all, we know the advantages of replacing paper tools with electronic ones, including the ability to safely and quickly back up and restore information. Anything written on paper can be lost, stolen, made wet, burned or faded over the years. The use of bits and bytes is a clear winner from the point of view of the average client, who has eagerly joined the electronic bandwagon. However, as a time advisor, you don’t deal with “average clients” but with unique, living people. Your job is not to remake them in your image or force them into a single set of “best” practices. In Francis’ book, Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure, one character © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
believes that his way, taken from a popular training program, is the one that everyone should follow, barring none. He spoils lives of those who have the misfortune of working with him as he attempts to force them to follow the rigid “best” practices described in the program. Some people in the book use the approach with apparent success, but for the most part, it’s not a useable universal approach. The reality is that your clients are probably doing their own thing. Over time, they have taught themselves a hodge-podge of techniques that may not seem to make sense. They are probably inefficient, because their homegrown systems have a number of holes. As you look at what they do with an objective eye, you can easily see where a few electronic replacements could solve many of their problems. The problem is that as visionary as your solutions might be, they must be implemented by a human being who may have spent years practicing and reinforcing the paper-based habits they use every day. In terms of brain science, the neural pathways that daily repetition enforces aren’t easily replaced by new ones, no matter what the conscious, rational mind might think it should do instead. Some brain science research suggests that our brains actively fight the creation of new routines. It also doesn’t matter what you, their coach, might think. Big changes are hard. The biological fact is that you’ll be more successful asking your clients to make small changes in how they do things and to do them over and over again until they become new habits. That includes how (or if) they make the switch to new technology. Try to push them to make too many changes too quickly, and you’ll see them fail. They’ll join the ranks of the many who take a time management program, love the concepts, implement them fully for about a week, and then, in the face of a time crunch, fall right back into their former, less effective habits.
Teach your clients that regardless of the number, scope or nature of the changes they need to make, their bandwidth for change is probably much lower than they think. Help them see that it’s better to focus on a few changes at a time, and demonstrate your expertise by working with them to find the right pace.
Fatal Assumption #5 - PC vs. Tablet, Mac vs. Windows, Feature Phone vs. Smartphone – “It Doesn’t Matter.”
As time advisors, we often tell clients that it doesn’t matter what technology they use or don’t use. We argue that our advice applies to any system, whether it’s based on © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
paper planners or gadgets. It might be true, but if we give this advice, we are likely to leave our clients short of what they really need. The truth is that their choice of tools is tremendously important: it shapes the habits they exercise each day. Case in point: we have all seen the statistics that surround smartphone abuse and the ways in which many professionals use Janice’s Pointer their devices in ways that are dangerous, Know your own technology limits. unhygienic, rude and unproductive. I have a PC and Android Research shows that someone who uses a smartphone. I do not know smartphone to check email will, on average, anything about Macs or iPhones. visit his or her Inbox 50 times per day. If I’m asked a question about Obviously, someone who uses a feature those devices, I’m very clear to phone (with no Internet capability) won’t say, “Here’s how I might handle have continuous access to his/her Inbox and that on a PC, but I don’t know the won’t visit as often. options available on the Therefore, if clients ask you, “Should I get a Mac/iPhone.” I then refer them to smartphone?” or “What kind of cell phone someone who knows better. should I buy?” your answer shouldn’t be, “It doesn’t matter.” It DOES. If they adopt this technology, they are likely to develop some bad habits that they simply won’t adopt if they forgo this particular technology. Furthermore, the ramp-up time some clients need to learn how to use the device might set back their time management goals. This isn’t to say that you should encourage your clients or trainees to use paper wherever they can. That’s not the point.
The point is that you must be savvy enough to help your client see the likely impact of their choices and help them mitigate the risks that come from unconscious use. Here are some helpful steps: 1 ) Become a student of new productivity technology, including tablet computing, mobile devices, software, etc. Don’t try to convince your clients that “it doesn’t matter.” Instead, provide them with the latest research, and use facts and figures to make your points. If you decide not to become proficient in new technology, have some referral sources for these services. 2) Teach your clients how to experiment with new technology and pay attention to © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
the new practices they are likely to adapt, both positive and negative. Strengthen the habits that matter while helping them prevent the patterns that make their lives worse. 3) Explore their context with them. What do their bosses and workplaces expect of them and their mobile availability? Are there policies around timely email replies? How will their lives change if they accept the gift of a corporate smartphone? Help your clients make intelligent choices and set boundaries that work for them. Very few employees are most productive when they need to keep checking email, just in case. 4) Show them how to use technology to enhance old practices. If they like to use a written to-do list in a 3-ring binder, show them the value of taking a picture of their current list so that if the book gets lost, they have a back-up to work from. Your job as a time advisor is to think about the things they don’t and to offer solutions to problems they may not have experienced yet... but are very likely to.
Fatal Assumption #6- Your client understands the jargon you use.
As an expert and a professional in time management, you have developed specialized knowledge, and with it, you have acquired terms that are specific to the profession. There’s nothing wrong with that: there’s something right, in fact! Your clients, however, haven’t invested the time you have to learn these new concepts. You have read e-books, blogs and newsletters and attended webinars, programs and seminars. You use time management terms they have never heard. Furthermore, you probably use some definitions that have no meaning whatsoever outside the community of time advisors who would Janice’s pointer read a special report like this one. While it’s important to explain terms your clients may not understand, at the same time you don’t want to insult them if they are familiar with the term. I will often say, “I’m bad about making assumptions. Tell me what you think <term> means. Then I can clarify, if necessary, so that we’re on the same page.” Don’t be afraid to use these terms, but make sure you explain them first. Your clients recognize that they need to learn new concepts in order to understand fresh ideas, but they feel resentful if you use jargon in a way that leaves them in the dark. Unfortunately, they’ll either pretend to understand (which is bad) or bristle with anger and end the relationship (which is much worse.) The fact is, as a time advisor, you also play the role of teacher, a communicator of concepts that lie buried in obscure books and research papers. You share them in simple terms in order to help your clients use them for themselves, which Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
© 20XX by ACME Inc
empowers them to make better choices.
Don’t shy away from this role, but be careful to pay attention to the effect that your language has by watching clients’ reactions closely. You’ll probably slip up now and then, accidentally including new terms: just be prepared to back-pedal when you sense that you have lost or confused your clients.
Fatal Assumption #7 - Throwing the book at them should work.
Few time management advisors focus all their efforts in this area. Imagine, then, being in the middle of a coaching conversation on a topic that has nothing to do with time management when, out of the blue, your client brings up a time management problem. In order to stay focused and achieve your primary objective, you refer them to a good book. By brushing them off in this way, however, you do them a disservice, especially as you imply (perhaps not very subtly) that implementing the ideas from a time management book is easy. What happens next is predictable. Your client dutifully reads the book and closes the last page feeling excited. He or she enjoys some success for a few days, and then something happens –a sick child, a bad project review, or a ridiculous deadline – that sets him or her right back to the beginning. Clients feel guilty, as if they did something wrong. Sometimes, they may blame you for telling them to read something that doesn’t work. At the heart of such a fiasco might be a flawed assumption on our part as consultants. Clients might read a time management book and love the 50 new ideas they learn but vastly over-estimate their ability to implement these ideas successfully. Authors of most how-to-be-more-productive books usually don’t help: they make it sound easy, as they are simply describing their own habit patterns. Aside from that, here’s an uncomfortable truth: your incorrect assumption about his or her likely success got your client into trouble.
If you refer a client to a book or program, be honest and blunt. Tell clients that the failure rate is high, but help them see how you can work with them to be successful where others fail. Show them that time management skills are complex blends of habits, practices and rituals that don’t change overnight. Also, don’t miss the chance to extend your work with the client. You may have the © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
opportunity to set up extra sessions or extend your current contract to include a series of time management consultations. Help clients understand that it’s a mistake to try to copy the author’s habits, practices and rituals without modification. Let them know how you can help them, starting with the practices they are already doing well while taking into account their individual needs and preferences. The fact is, your support after the book is closed is probably more beneficial to their success than the ideas in the book are, so don’t be afraid to tell your clients the truth: they need a credible implementation plan and a lot of habit-change support to realize the results they want. The andragogical research supports this notion, and you should rely on it as you think about novel but useful ways to help your clients succeed.
Fatal Assumption #8 - It’s about only time management.
As we’ve indicated throughout this report, time organization is multifaceted. Throw in the vast differences that exist between people, cultures and technological preferences, and things get even more complicated.
It’s a Personal Thing .
People don’t all learn the same way. Some people process information better visually or aurally. Others need a verbal or kinesthetic component. Furthermore, people learn at different paces; the way a client processes information should influence how you relay new material to him or her. Additionally, some people have brain-based conditions that impact their ability to process information. Such conditions include but aren’t limited to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or specific learning disabilities. A client may or may not share such diagnoses with you (in fact, sometimes they don’t know it themselves). Your ability to recognize (but not diagnose) brain-based conditions and accommodate learning accordingly may make the difference in a client’s ability to modify his or her time management system successfully.
It’s a Motivation Thing .
Clients come to you with a pain, and they want it to go away. Because of our quickfix society, that’s exactly what most clients are looking for: a fast solution, delivered via a single page of nifty ideas. While we can give them tips and tricks about any time clutter challenge they might be experiencing, in the long run, those hints will only mask the symptoms for a short while. If they want lasting change, they will ultimately have to upgrade their habit © 20XX by ACME Inc Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
patterns. If they are not motivated toward habit change and insist on a fast fix, you need to decide whether or not they are a good fit for your practice. Chances are, they’ll blame you when the habits they have developed over decades don’t change overnight.
It’s Also a Space Thing .
Organizing time isn’t just about time; it’s also about creating a functional environment. Clients waste time if they are searching for things they can’t find, whether it’s a bunch of keys to leave the house or a document to discuss with the boss. A dysfunctional environment most likely means that other important time demands aren’t being met.
As a time management consultant, you may not help clients organize their space; however, you may want to ask some questions to find out if a cluttered space is impacting their time. If the answer is “yes,” then referring them to the appropriate organization or productivity professional might be helpful.
Be savvy. Not every client who tells you he or she has a time management problem is seeing the problem correctly. Train yourself in skillful methods to recognize all the possible causes of the major symptoms, and advise your clients accordingly.
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Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
If you are a serious time advisor who operates as a professional trainer, coach, consultant, organizer or productivity expert, these ideas probably resonated with you. The good news is that this is just the beginning. Visit http://mytimedesign.com -- it’s Francis’ website, set up especially for you and other professional advisors in this field. There, you’ll be able to access our early notification list for other unique content. You’ll also hear all about the ideas that the two of us have been developing since we first met at a time advisor training session in 201 2. One of the first email messages you’ll receive will give you directions to a free online simulation created for time advisors. It’s called “Wilma Tackles Time Clutter Consulting.” It’s a fun way to tackle some of the concepts we looked at in depth in preparation for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization Conference in Chicago in 201 2. So be sure to join our mailing list – we have a lot to share and a lot more coming! Once again, visit and sign up at http://mytimedesign.com. Good luck with your clients! Francis Wade Janice Russell P.S. If you’d like to get a hold of the background resources we used to write this special report, be sure to join the list at http://mytimedesign.com.
This is Just a Small Slice
Francis Wade is an innovator, content creator and management consultant who
founded 2Time Labs. The author of Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure, he spends much of his time in Kingston, Jamaica, a place he's called home since 2005. Francis is a graduate of Cornell University in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, where he earned Bachelor and Master’s Degrees. Most of his energy goes to Time Management 2.0 and turning new productivity research into practical ideas that company leaders and individuals can use. He has also completed several marathons and triathlons.
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Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell
Janice Russell is an author, speaker, Productivity Strategist, organizer coach,
Master Organizer, world traveler and owner of Minding Your Matters®. Janice Russell, M.Ed., CPO-CD, COC has a reputation for helping clients achieve “flow.” “Flow,” as she calls it, is the blissful state of having an organizational process that supports your life and lifestyle. Developer of the Flexible Structure Method™ of productivity and organizing, Janice serves the organizational needs and challenges of both business and residential clients. Janice uses her practical and caring approach to specialize in working with people affected by ADHD and chronic disorganization.
Books & Articles
Duhigg, C. (201 2). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York, NY: Random House. Masicampo, E.J., & Baumeister, R.F. (2011 ). Consider it done! Plan making can eliminate the cognitive effects of unfulfilled goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, . Online publication doi: 1 0.1 037/a00241 92. Maurer, R. (2004). One small step can change your life: The kaizen way. New York, New York: Workman Publishing Company. McGee-Cooper, A. Trammell, D. (1 993). Time management for unmanageable people. Dallas, TX: Bowen & Rogers. Silber, L. (1 998). Time management for the creative person. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. Wade, F. (201 3). Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure. Lexington, KY: 2Time Labs Press. Available on Amazon.com - http://amzn.to/Xnauu6 Zeigarnik, B. (1 938). On finished and unfinished tasks. In W. D. Ellis (Ed.), A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology (pp. 300-31 4). New York: Harcourt.
2Time Labs. http://www.2time-sys.com/ Flexible Structure Method (organizing and productivity). http://flexiblestructuremethod.com/organizing-productivity-fsm-overview/ Institute for Challenging Disorganization. http://challengingdisorganization.com/content/fact- sheets-public-0 Minding Your Matters® (organizing and productivity). http://www.mindingyourmatters.com/
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Copyright © 201 3 by Francis Wade and Janice Russell