I strongly recommend that if you are, or aspire to be, a Total Task Scheduler, you must pay close attention to the latest software developments.
Here is an article which outlines some of the most popular calendar apps. I think it leaves out a few good possibilities, and it completely ignores all the auto-schedulers. However, if you are a manual scheduler, it could be useful.
The sheer volume of productivity advice you and I face each day is mind-boggling. As we look to a future in which we must make further upgrades just in order to keep up, we cringe.
Are we doomed to surf the internet for random tips, tricks and shortcuts that might fit? How many “Top 3”, “Best 10” and “Secret 99″ lists will we have to read or listen to? Hundreds? Thousands? Really?
In the area of time management, the end-result is “improvement overwhelm.” It’s a feeling that with so many potential upgrades to our practices and tools, it’s impossible to choose the best one. Exhausted, we collapse into doing nothing at all. But can there be a better way?
Deep down, we hope there is. We know that the future is likely to demand more from us. Getting stuck using old, inefficient tools is not an option.
Today, it’s as if we have no other choice than to somehow filter an increasing number of recommendations. This is a losing strategy: at some point, even the best curator will fail.
Instead, we need to transform the problem.
To keep improving the way we have in the past, we must learn to drive our personal upgrades from a different place: the inside. Rather than being pushed by advertising, blogs, and random notifications we require an internal source.
Our journey to the inside begins with a deeper understanding of human development. Psychological researchers tell us that we all follow a similar path in the way we forge a unique time management system. The road we take is described in the diagram below.
In almost all cases, the personal system we create is self-taught: it’s all our own. As a result, you have a different set of specific habits, practices and tools from everyone else reading this article. When put together and seen as a single system, it’s not hard to see it has strengths and weaknesses which are uniquely yours. Here is some data that backs this up: it’s borrowed from the hundreds of people who have completed my training programs.
As a result, one-size-fits-all, super-simplified solutions may be easy to grasp but rarely work as advertised. The data suggests that they can’t: when people are in different places, using different behaviors, giving them all the same prescriptions won’t work. While it’s simpler for an author to write a “Just-Do-What-I-Do” article or book, it makes things harder for readers who can never become junior replicas.
Unfortunately, very few people appreciate this fact. When they discover a blogger’s “Top Ten List of Time Management Hacks” they believe that the writer’s description of an El Dorado of ideal behaviors must also apply to them. When they discover otherwise, time, money and energy have all been wasted. Sometimes people even feel guilty, believing that failure must mean something is wrong with them.
There isn’t. They are not to blame.
Most simply don’t understand that issues in time-based productivity are a result of stale practices and tools. They worked fine in the past, then suddenly, it seems, they didn’t. Fortunately, this usually means that the changes needed to be made are closer to small tweaks, steadily applied over time, than they are to total makeovers.
But developing these solutions, even the tiny ones, isn’t easy. You need to develop three extraordinary abilities.
Superpower #1 — Detect Like Sherlock Holmes
Most people are quite weak in picking up on small but important changes in their productivity. Hoping for the best, they ignore them, believing that things will work themselves out.
This especially applies to their personal system for managing time demands. As I mentioned in the diagram above, each one is an “internal, individual commitment to complete an action in the future.”
Lacking a practical knowledge of the processes they use to manipulate time demands, they suffer. They just don’t know what to look out for. As a result, only big failures gain their attention, attached to painful symptoms.
Take the example of Geoff, an executive. He has access to all the latest technologies, changing his smartphone regularly. However, he will readily tell you that he’s “not that good with email.”
Attending a webinar, he’s shocked to learn that the most effective people practice a technique called Inbox Zero, in which they empty their inboxes once or twice per day. Only then does he realize the advantage they have over people like him who practice an unstructured “Skim and Leave Behind” method.
On reflection, he realizes that the 10,000 unprocessed email messages in his Inbox are concealing all sorts of tasks he is supposed to do. Recently, his boss warned him that he shouldn’t be dropping the ball by failing to keep up with email. “It lets down the entire team” he advised, before forwarding the email about the webinar.
Geoff learns that this situation did not have to become such a big issue. He missed the warning signs.
It’s the very opposite of what Sherlock Holmes would do. If you have ever seen him in action on the screen or in a book, you may remember that he constructs an entire narrative based on a few easily overlooked observations. He paints a picture others cannot see, but it all starts with an uncommon superpower: keen observation.
He operates a bit like Spiderman who miraculously developed “spidey-sense” when his alter-ego, Peter Parker, was bitten by a radioactive arachnid. With it, he’s able to discern imminent danger even before it occurs.
With respect to time-based productivity, anyone who has the ability to detect lead indicators is rare. In fact, it’s a superpower which enables them to see around proverbial corners, and pick up on future issues with their system.
For example, you would know that a sudden increase in time demands is a strong predictor of trouble. So is the adoption of a new tool, or an unexpected surge in late nights at the office.
These are three examples of early warning signs few bother to notice. Focused on just getting through the day, they fail to see the larger indicators. Neglecting their personal systems, they leave the door open for repeated failure.
However, when this superpower exists, you operate like a skilled mechanic who can listen to an engine, picking up on problems others can’t. They must wait for a catastrophe to occur.
With this skill, your ability to intervene on a small scale prevents disasters from happening, but they also help you take the next step to uncover root causes.
Superpower #2: Diagnose Like Dr. House
Andrea sat in my class, stunned. She had just learned that she wasn’t incompetent because she couldn’t mentally keep track of all her time demands. In fact, she was quite normal.
Her panic dissipated: now she could imagine herself being promoted without the pressure to remember more stuff. Relieved, she could see that it was all a classic case of misdiagnosis. She had correctly identified unwanted symptoms, but assigned them to the wrong causes.
Television’s Dr. House is the opposite. His character possesses a fantastic ability to perform expert diagnoses that stump other professionals. Physicians assure me that the show is an exaggeration: in real-life, no single physician covers so many fields of expertise. It portrays a superhuman, but fictional, capability.
In the world of time-based productivity, you need skills which touch on these heights. With study and practice, your development of a diagnostic superpower can be a reality. It starts by undertaking a deep examination of your personal system for managing time demands.
Without it, you make mistakes. A 2010 survey showed that 87% of people who purchased an iPad intended to use it to increase their productivity. Unfortunately, studies have shown that it has little impact. Instead, it allows for better entertainment and greater convenience.
Imagine if Andrea had wasted several months training to improve her memory?
This superpower helps prevent such errors. Once you gain an in-depth understanding of how your system for managing time demands actually works, you can diagnose true root causes.
Our work at 2Time Labs should help. We have narrowed the practice of managing time demands to 11 observable behaviors: 7 Essential fundamentals supported by 4 Advanced.
Because we are self-taught, we unwittingly introduce errors at an early age. They continue into adulthood, where we are often strong in some fundamentals and weak in others, as the data I shared earlier shows. When we assemble them into a single system, it produces defects such as forgotten commitments, email overload and lateness.
With this superpower, and an understanding of technology, you can diagnose the root causes of these and other everyday problems in your life. In turn, this helps you focus on the next step: making the right adjustments to your behaviors and tools.
Superpower #3 — Implement Like Federer
Arriving at the Australian Open in January 2017, Roger Federer hoped to beat one or two players. In his mind, it was only a warmup tournament for a year in which, by April, he’d be able to play decent tennis. Coming off a six-month layoff, it was the best he could expect.
When he won the singles title, it was testament to careful preparation during his time away. After a complete and in-depth examination of his injury during the previous summer, he made a multi-month plan that included rehab, diet, running and sprinting. In the fall when he finally stepped back on a tennis court he also tweaked his return of serve plus a few other strokes.
“It was just being clever with my scheduling, making sure I’m not getting hurt,” he explained.
Now, he’s spending a chunk of his time off the court studying what it takes for his 35 year-old physical self to compete with younger players who could be his kids.
It’s a great example of the inside-out method one needs to take to change a long-term behavior.
In time-based productivity, I recommend you use a similar approach to implementation, a weak point for most of us. Here is the ETaPS method we developed at 2Time Labs.
E — Evaluate your current standard of behavior against those which are best-in-class using objective criteria. Look for break-downs of complex practices into small ones which can be measured easily.
Ta — Set Targets for new behaviors. Pick a level of expertise or skills which corresponds to your desired goals.
P — Plan to make changes for new habits, practices and rituals by stretching them out over time. They should appear to you as baby steps which makes the plan realistic, but easy to implement.
S — Support the plan with the right mix of internal and external elements, such as a checklist (internal) and a coach (external.) Put in enough supports to make failure almost impossible.
Federer’s approach follows these four steps quite closely. Other players might have been impatient, injuring themselves in their recovery, because they failed to set up a sufficient support system. The fact is, long term change isn’t easy and we often overestimate our ability to make permanent shifts.
This superpower, more than any other, keeps you focused on the small changes you need to make. Now, suggested improvements from outside your life show up in the right context. If they support your overall plan, you entertain them. If not, you can safely filter them out of your attention.
To be clear — we are always declining improvement opportunities. But if you have this superpower, you do so effectively and powerfully, in ways others may not understand. Like Federer, who resisted the impulse to shortcut his recovery, you say no.
Bring the Superpowers Together
These three capacities are not completely missing for most people. We all possess them in small quanta at the very least.
Developing them into superpowers does not come naturally or without effort. It requires hard work and diligence to achieve that level of performance. Just ask Federer. Or Dr. Anders Ericsson, of Deliberate Practice fame. His study of high performers shows that they rarely accomplish the top echelons without 10 years or 10,000 hours of diligent effort. Much of it involves focuses on the weakest skills in their repertoire, under the guidance of a skilled coach.
Those who are fortunate become highly skilled in these superpowers, facing the future confidently. They aren’t afraid of all the suggestions and recommendations flying around because they understand what they need and why. It comes from their plan, not the external world, so improvement fatigue is something they are aware of, but don’t experience.
However, they are open to fresh opportunities. When someone offers a new behavior or technology, they know how to evaluate them against their needs. They are careful, even suspicious, knowing that it’s unlikely that a random suggestion will fit into their plan at just the right moment in time.
It’s a level I failed to reach while writing my book, Perfect Time-Based Productivity. A few months before publication I had my first exposure with SkedPal, an auto-scheduling app, but didn’t believe it would work. My hasty dismissal led me to publish without even a single mention of this new AI-driven technology. Now that I use it several times per day, my prior lack of planning is appalling!
Studies show that many people become cynical and resigned about their inability to cope with a future of increasing time demands. They simply don’t see a way out.
People armed with an improvement plan are free from this trap. They relax, working with what they have, rather than complaining about the stuff they don’t. Their acceptance of the way things work and how they can be upgraded is essential in overcoming the challenge of improvement fatigue.
Thanks to editors Brendan Bain, Doug Toft, Nicki Franklin, Wim Annerel, Jolene Brown, Catherine Munson and Arlene Henry. This article was originally published on Medium.
For current users of Todoist who are interested in Total Task Scheduling, this is wonderful news as you may tell from the comments on the article. It comes on the heels of the announcement of “Smart Schedule” in November; it was the app’s prior step on the journey to becoming an auto-scheduler.
That announcement was also well-received.
However, there appears to be a pattern. Todoist users hail the arrival of these new auto-scheduling features, but then once they actually start to use them, they find there are problems. In the case of the prior announcement, the most recent comments are from annoyed users. Also, I couldn’t find a positive review of the new feature, even after a lengthy search. It was as if all the happiness that users expressed when the new feature emerged turned into its opposite. What’s happening?
To help understand, see the diagram below.
It shows the path an average user takes as they upgrade their tools. Todoist is a typical example of a Complex Task App, used by people who manage their time demands using various kinds of lists. Each one its tagged with attributes such as importance, urgency and duration in the program.
With the latest features, Todoist is attempting to make the jump to Level 6 by adding the typical features of an Auto-Scheduler.
The challenge is that the program’s users all have habits which are suitable for Level 4. Now, they must make a difficult adjustment, without much explanation and with no training. It’s a bit like giving someone a racehorse to ride when they have only ever ridden a donkey.
At first, it seems like a good idea… in theory. But when you actually start riding for the first time, a whole new reality emerges.
I don’t know if Todoist has figured out what they are asking their users to do from a behavioral perspective, but they must do so. It’s the only way to prevent the annoyance that ensued when the last feature was rolled out. Fortunately for them, this need not be a matter of trial and error, hit or miss. In A Course in Scheduling on the Schedule U website, there is a road map of behaviors which must be mastered by users of all auto-schedulers. It’s inherent in the way human beings relate to their tasks and calendar.
In other words, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The addition of these features is leading users down a well-defined path. Where certain capabilities are needed, but lacking, users will experience a predictable level of frustration. For example, there are already complaints that users can’t manage projects and notifications the way they want. Plus, some want to sync some tasks their calendar but not others. Many want to “cross off the item once it’s complete” which is one of the reasons people like using lists, and Complex and Simple Task Apps.
How can this frustration be alleviated?
Maybe there’s a way to show Todoist users the path they are on… that this is more than just a few cool features being added to meet some user’s requests. It actually involves a completely new way to manage tasks. This is a fact Total Task Schedulers know from experience.
This implies that there needs to be more than just added functionality… there should also be a level of transparency at first, then the offer of education and training.
Or maybe not.
I could be wrong — there has never been a company which migrated its users from Level 4 to 6 by adding new features. All I have is the experience of people who made the jump by letting go of one app and adopting an entirely new one altogether.
Will Todoist find a way to prevent the predictable frustration that will unfold? Is it sufficient to leave it up to users to figure out the path they are on and how they should educate themselves? Only time will tell.
Here’s an interesting resource for all Total Task Schedulers.
For the past year, I have regularly searched for questions on Quora that may have an answer in the content here at ScheduleU. Recently, the number of questions being asked has been growing, even as I do my best to answer the most popular ones.
Here are some of the most recent. Take a moment to visit, and remember to Upvote them to help other people discover them when they do a search.
I hope you enjoy my answers to these questions – there are over 100 other questions I have responded to in a similar way since January 2016.. You can check them out here.
It’s an interesting article and echoes one of the tactics I use to write my books, articles and columns. For me, I intersperse morning spent writing with triathlon training mornings. The breakthrough occurred when I decided to consciously move my last hour in the evening to the morning.
In other words, I decided to go to be an hour earlier in order to awaken an hour earlier. The end result was a swap – one unproductive hour at the end of the evening for a productive hour at the start of the day.
It worked like a charm, due to the reasons outlined in this article.
For Total Task Schedulers it’s an easier transition to make. When you consciously think about the use of your time you gain the ability to schedule spans of time when you can be hyper-productive. The Flow State, Deliberate Learning or Deep Work are all techniques which become easily available to you because you schedule everything.
It’s just one of the outstnading benefits of being a Total Task Scheduler.
Chances are, you already know a thing or two about the hyper-focused frame of mind which produces a state of high productivity. But there’s surprising information emerging about its opposite: a state of “mind wandering” which makes you not only unproductive, but unhappy. It made me ask: “Is there are a hidden connection between happiness and being a Total Task Scheduler?”
Authors Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly, Anders Ericsson and Cal Newport are separately known for a trio of similar concepts: Flow, Deliberate Practice and Deep Work. They advocate a variation of the same idea; there comes a time when, in order to achieve a productive state, you must shut out distractions and focus on a single challenge for a long enough time to produce a breakthrough result. These tasks are the ones which produce the most movement in our professional careers. Complete enough of them, and the improvements compound over time, giving you a clear path to growth and an advantage over the competition.
The most productive people who attempt to achieve these states know that they don’t just happen by accident. They must not only be scheduled beforehand, they involve clear-headed preparation. Not only must you set up your environment in a particular way, you must also ward off other people who could become a source of interruptions.
While these highly productive states may occur by serendipity, you are unlikely to fall into them by accident. The opposite is more likely. Most workplaces are set up to interrupt you easily. As a result, a professional may never experience a single moment of Flow, Deliberate Practice or Deep Work in the course of the average working week.
Now there’s evidence that a failure to manage oneself to reach these productive states can make you unhappy. The evidence actually comes from a recent study of wandering minds.
Apparently the behavior is widespread. “People spend some 4.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing” according to a recent study by Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert. “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” they state. Even though our ability to think about what is not happening in the moment is a great advantage to us as humans, apparently we indulge in it far too often.
We think about stuff that has already happened, is about to happen, and will never happen, instead of being present. By contrast, we are at our happiest when completing tasks which occupy our attention the most: “making love, exercising or engaging in conversation.”
We are least happy when” resting, working or using a home computer.” Each of these are un-challenging tasks which are completed alone while not using any particular skill.
Not surprisingly, there is a strong link between mind wandering and happiness. “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
In fact, the researchers estimate that a person’s mind-wandering is responsible for some 10.8 percent of their happiness, while the nature of the activity only accounts for 4.6 percent.
Someone who schedules everything is far more likely to stay on purpose each day. After creating a written schedule, they know what they hope to be doing at different times. This includes time for rest, social activity, meals and exercise.
Without a schedule, they have to make multiple decisions each day about what to do next. When decision fatigue sets in, it’s easy to let the mind wander, particularly late in the day.
Compare that with the approach of Total Task Schedulers who experience what I call “awakeness.” They don’t become lost in time, arriving at the end of the day wondering what just happened. In fact, they are likely to know the purpose of the activity they are engaged in at that moment, plus all its temporal attributes: how long it is supposed to last and what due date it is meant to hit, if any.
As a result, they leave little time for mind wandering to set in, and for unhappiness to accumulate. Instead, they move purposely from one task to the next, giving it as much of their attention as possible.
Furthermore, having a plan for the day serves as insurance: they are less likely to fall into the trap of chasing their tails – being hit by one surprise after another, often instigated by other people. Without a plan, the average person is entirely off-balance all day, wondering about the stuff she had kinda intended to get done but never actually wrote down.
We hate this feeling: it’s when the Zeigarnik effect is at its worst and we are at our least productive. It turns out that we are also unhappy.
Andrea Sharb (ACC, CPO-CD, COC, CPO), owner of S.O.S.~Sharb Organizing Solutions, LLC is a professional organizer and certified coach who specializes in supporting her clients in overcoming overwhelm.
I met her about five years ago when she was serving as treasurer for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and her business focused primarily on supporting clients in overcoming their challenges with physical clutter. In the past five years she has shifted her practice to supporting adults with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and adults who who have difficulty managing their time demands. She’s one of the few coaches I’ve encountered who actively promotes the ideas behind Total Task Scheduling.
Schedule U/Francis: Thanks for spending time with us Andrea. I’m learning more about common traits of individuals with ADHD as a result of our conversations. How does ADHD impact an individual’s ability to manage their time demands?
Andrea: Interesting question, Francis. The impact on abilities to manage time demands can vary widely. In a nutshell, ADHD is a neuro-developmental psychological disorder whose hallmarks are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. There are three presentations ADHD: Hyperactive-Impulsive, Inattentive and Combined each of which differs significantly from the others. Therefore “ADHD” shows up differently in different people depending on which presentation and which symptoms are exhibited within each presentation. The traits I see showing up most often for myself, as an adult with ADHD, and for my clients are:
Having too many time demands and getting overwhelmed
Difficulty deciding what to do, when
Difficulty estimating time needed to complete a time demand
Difficulty allocating adequate time in schedule for time demands
Difficulty with activation when needing to address a time demand
Difficulty completing a time demand that has been started
Difficulty transitioning between time demands
Getting easily distracted from a time demand
General lack of time awareness and the passing of time
Relying too much on memory to get things done
Using too many different systems to capture and track time demands
Inconsistent use of time demand management systems created
Magical thinking – Claiming “It will get done” yet not having any time allocated to do the work
The challenges those of us with ADHD face with respect to time demand management are not that dissimilar from those that a neurotypical person might face. The difference is that we face these challenges more often, and because of our brain’s structural and “wiring” differences we have a much harder time overcoming them.
ScheduleU: What do you mean by the ADHD “brain’s structural and “wiring” differences” ?
Andrea: First, recent studies have demonstrated the ADHD brain differs from a neurotypical brain in brain volume in certain regions. In addition, the ADHD brain has challenges with transference of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine, resulting in a brain that is by nature under stimulated and which struggles to engage when tasks are not inherently interesting. Dr. William Dodson reframes this by saying those of us with ADHD have an “interest based nervous system.” If something is interesting to us, our brains engage differently and function in a more neurotypical manner. Said another way, our under aroused, under stimulated brains are constantly seeking stimulation and this results in many of the challenging behaviors noted above.
Schedule U: What’s your experience with Total Task Scheduling?
Andrea: It wasn’t until our conversation a while back that I realized Total Task Scheduling was a “thing”. I had learned from personal experience over the years that if tasks and projects were going to be completed I needed to allocate time for that to happen.
Too often we, and especially those of us with ADHD, create time demands and tasks without regard for reality (i.e. the available time in our schedule). I’ve termed this “magical thinking.” Just saying something is going to get done doesn’t make it so. Time must be matched with the intention, otherwise intentions wither and die or you end up pulling all nighters to get it all done.
A number of years ago, I noticed I was spending much of my free time in the evenings catching up on work projects that didn’t get finished during the workday. Though I was sitting beside my husband on the couch in the evening, I was on my laptop finishing up session notes, writing blog postings, or catching up on email. I wasn’t doing a good job with setting boundaries on my time and I was ignoring the most important person in my life as a result. My magical thinking, that I could get everything done each work day, was being exposed for what it was.
That’s when things began to change for me.
I committed to overcoming magical thinking and to getting real about how many hours I had in the day. My first step was to actively reduce my commitments and focus on what was most important to me. I let go of relationships and activities that no longer served me and gave greater thought to who and what I wanted to focus my time on.
I began to schedule my days differently. Instead of just scheduling appointments with others, I scheduled appointments with me – for work, clients, exercise, meal planning, meal prep, laundry, connection with my family, gardening and even bedtime. I also identified times of the day I was most productive and started to frame my days around these peak times. I now use the 6:30AM to 8AM time slot and the 3:30PM to 5PM time slots, when my brain is most alert, for my most important work. Getting real about my schedule has been a game changer in overcoming overwhelm.
Schedule U: Can you share more with us about your path to Total Task Scheduling?
Andrea: Like you describe in the Schedule U course (A Course in Scheduling), I’ve been traveling along a time demand management path for many years. In college I got by using a basic calendar to track my activities, assignments, and commitments. In the professional world, I found that as a CPA I needed a better way to manage demands on my time and purchased a black leather Dayrunner. That tool was my life for many years. As I rose through the ranks at KPMG I found ways to modify the components of if to better support the completion of my ever increasing time demands.
When I left the professional world to become a full time mother, I lost the structure that my career had provided and I found myself flailing around time demand management wise for number of years. I kept a basic calendar for appointments with others, but shopping lists and to do lists ruled my world. I got around to things when there was time, like when the boys went down for a nap. It wasn’t until my kids started school that I was able to regain some much needed structure.
It was around that time I purchased a Visor Handspring Palm pilot. It was blue and it was magical, in a good way, maintaining all of my lists, my contacts, my calendar and a calculator! The Handspring was a game changer because it synced with your computer, creating a backup of your life on your hard drive! In time I graduated from the Handspring to the Palm Zire and eventually to the first generation iPhone, etc. I kept on top of things with lists and calendars and all was well.
It wasn’t until my business started to take off in 2008 that I began losing the battle with getting things done. There were now too many tasks for me to track using my lists and calendar. Worse yet, I noted the busier I got the less often I was consulting the lists. As a result, tasks that weren’t on my calendar weren’t getting done.
It was around this time I started searching for a new means of tracking the demands on my time and ended up going analog and adopting the Planner Pad as my time demand management tool. The Planner Pad was awesome because It gave me a place to capture and visualize all of my time demands on two facing pages of paper. This visual resulted in me paying greater attention to the nature of and the necessity of my time demands. My love affair with the Planner Pad lasted about a year, my biggest problems with it being the limited scheduling space on each page (it only had space for tracking the business day and my life was bigger than that!) and the lack of portability.
I currently use a variety of tools for my Total Task Scheduling. The most important is an online calendar, available on various platforms, easily accessible wherever I am. Also important is the container I use to hold my time demands. I use a listing app, Reminders, but you may choose any of the multitude of similar apps available. You might also choose a project management app like Trello or Toodledo. I’ve used both, but as I’ve worked to simplify my life in the past few years I’ve found I can easily manage my time demands with Reminders. It’s important that your time demand container, like you calendar, be accessible across various platforms. Finally, I also use good old-fashioned paper & pen because some days writing a list and crossing things off is extremely motivating in a way that marking tasks complete on a calendar isn’t.
Schedule U: What are the typical complaints clients share with you that indicate that Total Task Scheduling would be a part of the solution?
Andrea: The most common complaint my clients bring to coaching is experiencing overwhelm on a regular basis. Their overwhelm is typically significant enough to result in an unproductive pattern of avoidance & procrastination, followed by reliance on adrenaline fueled all-nighters. This pattern may be sustainable for folks when they’re in high school or even college, but by the time they’re in grad school or the work force, habits need to change in order for them to thrive instead of just survive. Total Task Scheduling can make a huge difference in the lives of these folks.
Schedule U: What steps do you use to diagnose their issues when you have that first set of conversations?
Andrea: In our initial conversations it’s important for us to build awareness of the individual’s current reality as well as where they hope to get to. We work together to better understand the nature of the individual’s time demand management challenges ( what works, what doesn’t work, the nature of execution errors, etc.) In addition to building awareness around the time demand management component, it’s just as important to help the individual identify and understand their talents, character strengths, and values, the knowledge of which can be integral to the process of creating change.
Schedule U: How much support do you provide them? For how long?
Andrea: It depends on the individual. Most of my coaching relationships with clients run 6-9 months. By that time an individual has generally accumulated a number of supportive tools to experiment with and it’s not uncommon for us to shift from weekly to monthly sessions.
Schedule U: What been the toughest part about becoming a Total Task Scheduler for you and for your clients?
Andrea: In general, I think the toughest part is the acknowledgement of how much you’ve committed yourself to in relation to the number of hours there are in a week. I was working with a client recently who is early along in the process of Total Task Scheduling. At her previous session she had committed to starting the process of capturing her time demands in a spreadsheet. She came to her session totally overwhelmed by how much she had to accomplish in the next couple of weeks and she was far from capturing all of her time demands. She had truly backed herself into a corner of commitments and I thought she was going to breakdown and cry.
Instead she held it together and was open to learning more about getting real about her schedule. We started by looking at her current calendar, which only included appointments with others, and assessing the negotiability of these commitments. We opened up about a dozen hours of time by identifying less time sensitive commitments that could be rescheduled. We next discussed what she knew about her energy levels at different times of the day and blocked out time in her schedule accordingly. Finally, we reviewed the productivity tools she had identified thus far in our coaching that could serve her in being her most productive self. By the time the session was over she still had the same amount of work to do, but she now had identified the time in which to accomplish it. This was the difference between overwhelm and moving forward.
Schedule U: Given the fact that you are not an auto-scheduler user (yet!) is that a route you recommend at this time?
Andrea: At this time I have only one client I have discussed auto-scheduling with. He is a tech savvy individual and is always interested in the newest ways to improve his productivity. I have another client who is highly motivated by games and I think she would appreciate a number of the aspects of auto-scheduling, though we’ve not discussed it yet. Many of my clients are artistically inclined and have actually created beautiful paper calendars, planners and bullet journals for themselves that they use to track their time demands and lives.
These individuals have little interest in using technology to manage their time demands because the kinesthetic and artistic components of scheduling their lives are key to them following through with it. Pretty pens and heavy paper make the experience fun and more pleasurable and thus they follow through. You and I both know that the most important part of any time demand system, no matter what level, is consistent follow through, so I think you’ve got to go with what works for the individual.
Schedule U: Thanks for spending time with us Andrea. If someone wants to know about your work, how can they find out more?
Andrea: You’re welcome, Francis! If you’re reading this and you’re interested in learning more about about how I might be able to support you in overcoming your overwhelm, please visit my website at https://sossharborganizingsolutionsllc.com/