A New Community is Being Created

If you are a fan or follower of ScheduleU you may have detected a pivot here at 2Time Labs in the past few months. Now, we have clarified our audience and named it: The Busiest One Percent. Who are these people?

They are a tiny group of professionals who routinely create more demands on their time in a week than the 168 hours each of us gets. This comprises sleeping, working, playing, in relationships, exercising, eating, etc. They are the kind of people who come to ScheduleU for help in becoming Total Task Schedulers.

As a result, they are a bit different from their friends.

The oddity comes from the fact that they have a lot of energy which they pour into their interests without abandon. Others around them are exhausted by their pace. But it’s not a mania or psychological fault that serves as the driving force. Instead, it’s a deep commitment to make a difference in some way. Some want to save the world. Others want to win a gold medal. Many want to get rich as fast as possible.

The fact is, they are a driven bunch and no longer benefit from traditional productivity advice. They have already “been there and done that” with most gurus and their ideas which are really meant for beginners. Instead, they need more advanced assistance that goes beyond the basics and can take them to the next level.

They also want to know that there’s some Gladwell-level research behind these ideas, not just anecdata.

Up until now, these folks have been isolated. I have run into them on Reddit, various chat forums, StackExchange, ProductHunt, Quora and other places but they don’t have a community. That is…until now.

A few months ago I surveyed graduates of A Course in Scheduling here at ScheduleU and picked up on a the gap – the respondents want to be with each other.

So here we here… about to enlist the first group of Beta PlayTesters to The Busiest One Percent Community. If this resonates with you at all, consider joining us here. The action starts this week.

 

Comparing 6 Auto-Schedulers – a First!

Recently, I published a couple of new podcast episodes to compare the 6 most popular auto-schedulers.

The series actually consist of long conversations with Dr. Melanie Wilson, who introduced me to the first auto-scheduler back in January 2015. This introduction had a profound impact on my professional life, leading me to give birth to ScheduleU.

In this discussion, we come up with the best criteria to judge the quality of an auto-scheduler, then we applied them to each of the 6 apps which currently dominate the market: TimeHero, SkedPal, Sorted3, Focuster, Futurenda and Flux-Speed Schedules. This is the first comparison I have ever seen so we were a bit nervous treading into uncharted waters. Although both of us are longtime SkedPal users, we tried to be as unbiased as possible, hoping to apply criteria that would be enduring.

At the end, I summarized our findings in the form of an interactive Decision Tree Tool along with a Comparison Table.

Here is the first episode of two.

Block Scheduling – A New Alternative?

I just viewed a video from Jordan Page’s vlog sharing a technique that she’s named “Block Scheduling.”

While it’s not altogether new, it emphasizes a decent middle-ground for people who are making the transition to Total Task Scheduling for the first time or looking to refine their manual approach.

Take a look at the video for a definition. She separates the day into blocks, and assigns particular kinds of tasks to each one.

Unfortunately, she’s still using manual methods. She doesn’t seem to be aware of programs like SkedPal which would fit in well with her system, while helping her make sure that she never overruns each block with too many task. In SkedPal, for example, a block is simply the same as a user’s Time Map.

Using the app would help prevent the assignment of too many tasks to a given bucket, while suggesting the best task to work on at any moment in time. These are critical features for the Ultra-Busy person to have.

 

 

A New Auto-Scheduler

In the past few days, a new auto-scheduler has entered the market on the iOS platform. It’s the newest version of Sorted, version 3.

Here’s a brief video by Francesco at the Keep Productive vlog on the app.

Scheduling and Creativity

There’s an interesting article I just added to the social proof page with links to articles, videos and podcasts on the topic of time blocking, and scheduling everything.

It’s entitled: How following a schedule improved my creativity.

According to the FastCompany author Srinivas Rao,

In my experience interviewing 700 experts for my podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, I discovered a clear pattern among every single person who does creative work for a living. From entrepreneurs and graffiti artists to peak performance psychologists, high performers create on a schedule.

Some argue that a schedule is constraining but there’s other research cited at FastCompany which shows that constraints can spark creativity. It’s a similar argument made by those who insist that creativity is a function of professionalism. That is, people who treat their performance achievement like a job they show up to every day are said to produce better results, just because they follow a regular discipline.

In other words, they don’t create when they are “in the mood.” They do so when it’s penciled in their calendar.

New apps page

Just in case you haven’t noticed, I just launched a new Apps page which lists all the software available for Total Task Schedulers. I list both auto-schedulers and manual calendars suitable for the goal of scheduling everything.
So far, it’s the first/only list I’m aware of and I plan to update it regularly.
Check it out here.

Perfect Time-Based Productivity in Audio, Spanish and Portuguese

As you probably realize, ScheduleU is one of the first (and so far few) websites committed to the idea that people can learn how to schedule everything.

The second edition of my book, Perfect Time-Based Productivity also may be the very first to share what it’s like to make the transition to Total Task Scheduling via the use of an auto-scheduler. In the first chapter, I share the shock I went through, just after the first edition was published, to discover SkedPal. It offered a steep learning curve back then, as I truly was entering territory no-one had even described to me before.

Fortunately, there’s some help available today here at ScheduleU. No-one need be alone as they transform their habits and software.

The book is available as a Kindle or paperback on Amazon, but there’s more.

Via the diligence of others, it’s also available  in Portuguese and Spanish.

Furthermore, I spent the early part of this year finishing up the audio version, which can be purchased here.

I hope one of these versions fit in with your learning needs.

P.S. The French version only covers the first edition, but if it’s ever updated, Kindle promises to update the buyer with the new version at no cost.

Kindle / Paperback Audio / EnglishSpanishPortugueseFrench (1st ed)

How CEO’s Optimize Their Time Budgets

If you are a top executive, you face a unique challenge: The weekly demands on your time regularly outstrip 168 hours. Yet, as you know, most CEO’s receive little formal training in time management on their journey to the C-Suite. Fortunately, new research can help close this gap.

Harvard’s Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria recently published the results of a multi-year study of CEO time usage. Their findings can help you allocate time more efficiently, even despite variations by industry, nationality, and tenure.

Four Major Findings

1. CEO’s schedule a whopping 75% of their working hours. Most of their day is occupied with meetings, translating into precious little time spent alone in blocks of uninterrupted time. Recommended: use your calendar as a tool to carve out quality solo efforts.
2. CEO’s work, on average, 62.5 hours per week, which include 3.9 hours per day on weekends, and 2.4 hours per day on vacations. They also spend about half their non-working, awake time with family. For many, this pace isn’t sustainable. Given their long days (9.7 hours per weekday) they must be strict to meet their own minimum standards. Recommended: Follow a set schedule on both off-hours, and off-days. Include time-slots to do “nothing.”
3. CEO’s spend some 43% of their time on their core agenda, and the rest on routine items or unplanned surprises. Recommended: Use your administrative assistant as your partner to ensure that your schedule continually reflects your priorities.
4. On average, few CEO’s track their time. Sadly, they have no idea how they’re really doing against these average numbers. While they know much about their financial budget, its time equivalent remains a mystery or at best, a vague gut feeling. Recommended: Commit yourself to this commonsense habit, via the use of suitable tracking software.

The CEO’s Two Social Problems

However, applying the researchers’ recommendations isn’t enough. Every CEO I have met faces two ripe areas for improvement which are difficult to tackle: They spend too much of their precious time processing email and attending meetings. Fortunately, these twin problems have a common root.
Case 1: The CEO who replies to every email within five minutes may seem, at first blush, to be “on top of things”. To wiser heads, it’s a clear sign that he’s doing little else but playing an elaborate, wasteful game of email ping pong.
Case 2: The CEO who avoids calling meetings, may think she’s making the most of her time by working on tough problems behind a closed door. However, her lack of communication leaves people guessing about her true priorities, causing a level of infighting she pointedly ignores.

Both of these practices are typically hard to solve. Anyone who has rolled their eyes while suffering through a pointless meeting or email message knows the feeling. The demand on your psyche it creates slowly creeps up, robbing you blind of time and energy. Before you realize it, you have become trapped in a sticky web of social waste.

Furthermore, this all takes place on an open stage. People watch what executives do in meetings and email for hidden cues as to their true, unspoken intentions. As such, they represent far more than personal logistical challenges. They are public performances undertaken by actors who are mostly unaware of their platform. It’s why their unwitting, mixed signals quickly become other people’s marching orders.

Where is the escape?

Launch Improvement Projects

Fact: The average employee spends two hours per day processing email. She also devotes four hours per week preparing for status updates meetings, 67% of which are failures.

However, individual employees who try to solve email or meeting problems frequently fail. There’s just not much a person can do on his/her own if they are part of a wider culture.

Fortunately, the CEO is in a unique place. As the sole person who unifies all employees, he is in a position to affect this kind of change. Therefore, a CEO who fails to launch campaigns to improve these twin evils is allowing productivity to erode.

While specific causes and remedies to these two complex challenges are beyond the scope of this article, there’s a mindset every CEO can initiate immediately. It starts by declaring the truth about this rampant loss of productivity. It continues by creating a series of company-wide games to “Achieve the same results, using far fewer emails and less meeting time.”

As the CEO, if you engage a critical mass of your staff in such a goal, it should provide an immediate, positive impact on your time usage. Instead of losing steam in email and meetings, you should be able to create more long blocks of solo, creative problem-solving, plus more time with your family. This should be a welcome start, but it requires all employees to cut away the wasted time and effort inherent in these two practices.

This article is adopted for one published in the Jamaica Gleaner.

Why Auto-Schedulers Are Like Magic 8 Balls

You may recall the Magic 8 Ball.

This gimmicky toy was popular after the 1950’s, when it was invented. The player would ask a question, and the game would “reply” with one of 20 pre-set answers such as “It is certain” or “Very doubtful.” The answer would pop up through a transparent window after a  quick pause.

Why are auto-schedulers like SkedPal, Focuster or Futurenda like the familiar Magic 8 Ball?

At the end of most tasks and sometimes right in the middle of one) we ask ourselves, “What’s Next?”

It’s shorthand for “Of all the time demands I have created, which one should I start to work on next?”

A good auto-scheduler responds within a few seconds. Unlike its real-life counterpart, the answer it gives is just not a random choice.

Instead, the auto-scheduler goes to work in the background using the attributes you have provided to come up with an optimal response. In the beginning, the task is suggested probably won’t make sense.

Perseverance is a must: over time, this digital companion to your calendar must be trained to give improved responses; to meet your specific needs. Then, it behaves exactly as you would expect and you won’t have to rely on your memory.

As you may already know, this frees you from the Zeigarnik Effect .

But this only happens if your auto-scheduler can be trusted. This emotional bond won’t be built the first time you use it – it takes time, training and continuous use to get the app to provide the support you need.

On Using an Executive Assistant

Check out this podcast (or transcript) which makes heavy reference to the role of an executive assistant.

As you may know, here at ScheduleU we realize that the only thing better than an auto-scheduler is a competent executive assistant. In my book and the training on this site, we refer to the fictional Mrs. Landingham as our role model. (She was the President’s secretary on the television show The West Wing.)

The article is linked from the ScheduleU page on Facebook, so make sure to “Like” it while you’re there to receive similar updates.