How my book can help app designers

When I wrote my book, I had a hunch that it could prove to be useful to designers of productivity apps, devices, planners and other aids. I didn’t exactly know how, but I saw instances where a poor understanding of time management fundamentals led to unworkable designs.

Now, a few years later (and after a few hundred hours of consulting sessions with clients) I have a much clearer picture. It’s so different, I am compelled to update my book with all that’s been discovered since it was published.

My article on Medium is an example – What Task Management App Developers Can Do to Catch Up with Pokemon Go.

It pulls together several lines of thinking together to explain why task management apps are so very dry, in contrast to computer games which are so engaging. It offers solutions that I have only discovered from working to improve software solutions with designers who are trying quite hard to please their users. Their goal, I believe, is to convert them into game “players”, and all that implies.

Take a look – it’s quite a deep dive… a plunge some say they are happy they took.



Posted in Designers and Developers

The Warned and Informed Selves

Top productivity today means setting up ways to manage specific kinds of information.

In the prior article on the Interrupted Self (part of The Notified Self), I described the need to set up interruptions so that you never run late or miss a task or appointment altogether.

In these two articles on the Warned Self and Informed Self, I take things a step further.

You also need to set up alarms and alerts that tell you when a part of your overall system is broken. Furthermore, you need new ways to deal with the deluge of data you are being fed on an ongoing basis. It’s grown to the point where you cannot data-mine all of it for useful insights, even if you think it might hae some answers.

In Perfect Time-Based Productivity I introduced these ideas via the practices of Interrupting, Warning and Switching, and these articles take a big step forward to create one result – The Perfectly Notified Self.

I hope you find these new articles to be useful. The provide some evidence that I need to get into my book to update it with the latest research.

Posted in New Ideas / Research

How High Performers Convert Single Behaviors into Habits

habits and behaviors

There’s no way to achieve long-term professional success without learning how to convert critical behaviors into habits. It’s a skill that’s not taught in the workplace, even though it’s key to accomplishing all worthwhile goals. How can you develop this ability?

Let’s start with a definition. A habit is an action that is initiated without conscious effort or motivation. If you have ever found yourself turning your steering wheel for home only to realize that you are supposed to be going in the opposite direction, you may understand their power. They require little energy to get started, making them a powerful ally. Of course, some can also become life-threatening enemies, causing us to focus on them exclusively.

That’s a common mistake.

For example, in my training I make a big deal about the negative influence of smartphones and their pervasive ability to turn people into dangerous users. For many, the act of purchasing a mobile phone is a precursor to, and predictor of, practices such as texting while driving.

However, there is a flip-side. Anyone can harness smartphone power to develop beneficial habits. Unfortunately, according to a recent University of London study, mobile apps and PC programs which are supposed to help us consciously build new habits fail to do so. They ignore existing research, rendering them impotent. Their failure is instructive: here’s what we can learn in our attempts to develop positive new habits.

1. Repetition Isn’t Enough
Habits aren’t formed just because we engage in the same practice over and over again. While repetition is important, habits also need cues and triggers that initiate a specific behavior.

Cues and triggers are defined as specific events which lead to the habit being executed. For example, your decision to retire for the evening sets in play a number of sequential behaviors that occur even when you are tired and can’t think clearly.

Furthermore, when developing long-term habits, it’s much better to link them to events rather than the clock. This feature is one your doctor exploits by assigning your medication for mealtimes rather than clock-times. Therefore, to keep a habit in place, you need to be a good builder of these events.

2. Cues and Triggers Sometimes Don’t Work
There are times, however, when events aren’t enough. When you are learning a brand new habit, you may not know which events to use. In these cases, using a planned reminder such as a smartphone alarm can be effective in, for example, learning to take a 10:00 AM morning break. But, there is one catch.

While this tool is effective in the beginning, it’s a short-term crutch. In the long-term it presents a danger. According to the research, over-reliance on timed reminders can interfere with permanent habit formation. They are helpful, but become harmful later on.

Fortunately, there’s a more effective technique to use. Instead, turn on a reminder to help you notice which event occurs at the same time. For example, when the mid-morning alarm goes off, you may notice that the break coincides with a hunger or thirst pang.

After a while, you could wean yourself off the alarm, paying attention to the pang: your new trigger.

3. The Use of Rewards
The final piece of the puzzle is the role of positive reinforcement. Someone who wants to build new habits needs to become a smart cheerleader, rewarding him/herself appropriately. However, herein lies yet another catch.

In general, intrinsic rewards (such as a sense of personal satisfaction) are far better than extrinsic rewards such as a financial incentive granted by your manager. The question is, how do you tap into intrinsic rewards on a regular basis, given their intangible, ephemeral nature?

One key is to treat external rewards as dangerous distractions that may take your attention away from the joy inherent in the task. The other is to allow time for reflection (e.g. by journaling) so that you can stay present to positive inner experiences.

These insights imply that managers need to be cautious in their application of rewards. When tempted and distracted by external “Big-Ups”, many employees are prone to lose track of intrinsic motivation entirely. This is a recipe for trouble, putting all their satisfaction in one basket: their company’s.

It’s far better to train employees to be self-reliant on their own habits. Unfortunately, most companies don’t deliberately teach this skill and waste time in crafting manipulations. In the long-term, they never work as well as positive habits which are intrinsically motivating, especially when they happen to drive value to the bottom line.


Posted in New Ideas / Research

Updated Infographic comparing Listers and Schedulers

Listers vs Schedulers - 2Time LabsThe originalarticle can be found here.

Posted in New Ideas / Research

The Notified Self is Now Launched

Notified Self - 2Time LabsEver since the completion of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, I have known that I left some gaps in its coverage of the 11 Fundamentals.

If you have read the book you may have noticed – I have lots of detailed experience from classes teaching the 7 Basics, but little to show from teaching the 4 “Advanceds.”

It’s no accident. When the recession came on, I had to cut the NewHabits-NewGoals training into a single day from two. The end-result is that Switching, Interrupting, Warning and Reviewing have not been taught live for some time. So, my own learning in these areas simply has not kept pace with what’s happened in other areas.

Until now.

After thinking about it for some time I got a bit inspired to define a new end-point – The Notified Self. It’s a destination for most of us where we are perfectly supported by our ecosystem of devices, which are giving us the alerts, notifications, updates and interruptions we need to run our lives.

I’m hoping it will do a couple of things: one is to build on the fine start  given by the Quantified Self movement which has focused on data collection and analysis. The other goal is to help developers invent apps and devices that empower rather than overwhelm us. This isn’t an easy goal and I am hoping that a deep dive into this topic in this article on Medium will help: How to Organize Your Notifications to Accomplish the Perfectly “Notified Self”.

Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments.

Posted in New Ideas / Research

A Mind Map of Perfect Time-Based Productivity

perfect mind map eric bouchetEric Bouchet is no casual reader of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. He’s a French native who has a real passion for productivity.

Over several weeks, he went through the book in detail and converted the concepts into a mindmap which can can be found here. I think he did a great job.

Take a look and leave him a comment or question.


Posted in Presenting the Book

Can Time Be Managed? A Project Nears Completion

In Perfect Time-Based Productivity, I glossed over an assertion that’s been made by a number of notable people, including David Allen, Dr. Brigitte Claessens and Earl Nightingale. It boils down the following:

Time cannot be managed, therefore time management is impossible.

In both my books I openly agreed with them and many others who have echoed the sentiment. However, what has been missing from the popular discourse and academic research is any evidence to support the statement. I can this with some confidence because, for the past year, I heave performed a sustained search.

In fact, I found so little direct evidence that I decided to provide my own.InnerLab from Framework Consulting

Every 6 – 18 months, I invite a number of thought leaders to gather together in order to delve into a single topic related to Time-Based Productivity. Initially, I dubbed the group The InnerLab and in the fifth iteration which ran from January 2105-June 2016 , we focused on this statement.

With the help of my colleagues, I produced a draft report: Can Time Be Managed – An inquiry into the definition of time-based productivity.

It’s nearing can time be managedthe time for its release in September and I am eager to get others involved, including editors of its ideas, logic flow and grammar.

If you are interested, do let me know and I can promise that you’ll be mentioned in the Acknowledgements.



Posted in New Ideas / Research

Put on Your Thinking Cap! [Guest post]

Most people arrive at their desks and the only thing scheduled in their calendars are meetings; that is, places to put their bodies.  If you are slightly more evolved in the management of your time and productivity, then along with meetings, you also have scheduled actions like writing, going places, research and making phone calls. But what most of us never schedule is time to think, create, ponder, imagine or dream.  Of course, you do think, ponder and dream. But instead of designating specific times in which to do it, you fit it in around the edges, or you do it as part of another task like writing a report, researching an article or presentation or while doing something non-intellectual like going for a run or a hike.

According to Noreena Hertz, author of Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World, the most successful people (many of whom she interviewed for her book) set aside time specifically to think.  Thinking, rather than researching, reading, scanning the Internet or writing, is when your brain is allowed to roam free. The difference between that and simply thinking about what to write for the next slide in your presentation is that your brain may want to wander away from the presentation, and when you are at work on something, your job is to contain the wandering brain and refocus on the task at hand. That’s a great way to accomplish a task, but not a great way to innovate or create novel thoughts and ideas.

But when the task at hand is to think, you give your brain free rein to roam.  Ideally your time to think should be in a relaxed state.  If you are a runner or swimmer you may have found, as I have, that your best ideas happen while on a run or swim. For others it happens in the shower or while lying in bed to sleep or before rising in the morning.  When your dopamine centers within the brain are in a state of contentment, your creativity flows.  For most of us, creativity is what we most need. New ideas. Better ideas. Novel thoughts.  Those ideas fuel our success and innovation, they provide the fodder for our friendships or our product or service development, and make the strategic difference in how we face challenges we have or those we expect to have.

So how can you use this information in your own life or business? Well, start by scheduling 30 minutes a day to think. Put it in your calendar. try an experiment to find what relaxing activity will make your brain secrete dopamine and relax you.  You may take the time to go for a walk or lie on the floor and stretch or just recline in your chair, close your eyes and let your mind wander.  Don’t judge where it goes, just surrender.  One important caveat is that this is not the time to surf the web, hang out of Facebook or otherwise distract yourself.  Give your brain a chance to invent and grow its own material, without the stimulus of other peoples’ thoughts or content.  Given how flooded we are with stimulus, it may take a few minutes or a few attempts before you learn how to do this without the aid of a shower or a jog to give your brain a kick-start. But soon, you will start to be able to switch off your normal, all-day racing to the next task, and switch on the free flow of ideation your brain was made to do.  Let me know how it goes.

Republished with the kind permission of Amie Devero, author of the article.

Amie Devero

Posted in Master - Advanced Schedulers

Answers on Quora

I just put a post up on the 2Time Labs website with links to some interesting time-based productivity questions I have been answering on Quora – the question and answer, social website. I invite you to come on over as it’s the most active place to receive answers to everyday queries from real people.

Here is the link to the article.

Posted in New Ideas / Research

Dr. Melanie Wilson interview on SkedPal [podcast]

I sat down a few days ago to have an in-depth chat with Dr. Melanie Wilson about the different ways we are using SkedPal.

It was a fascinating conversation that really just scratched the surface of what we have discovered in the past year. It’s the first podcast I’m aware of on the topic and it coincides with some good news – I am adding more people to my Private Beta of SkedPal.

Once again the time is limited, but you can join my community of Advanced Schedulers here.

Listen in to the conversation with Melanie.

Posted in Podcasts