07:44 Monique: So, what makes time management really mission-critical for today’s high-achieving young professional?
07:51 Francis: Particularly for the high achievers, they like to say yes to their aspirations. So, it’s nothing more frustrating to high achievers, or even to anyone with aspirations, serious aspirations. They have to say no. They’d rather say yes and then say to themselves, “I’ll figure it out later,” or “I’ll find a way.” And that over-optimism leads them to over-commit, but it leads them to, even before they over-commit, take 23 or 23.5 to 23.9. They take it right up to the edge. So, as they look at a week of 168 hours, they’ll happily commit so many hours that they take out time for sleep, family, meals, exercise. Those are the typical ones that get recovery, rest. Those are the ones that typically get dropped out as commitments start to increase. And it’s a-- you’ve heard the saying: “If you want to get something done, give it to somebody who’s busy.”
08:46 Monique: Yes.
08:47 Francis: So, that person could be on a team and they get right up to the 168th hour, while everybody else is cruising around at 100 with lots of discretionary time and they’re having a good time, and they’re-- but give it to Monique because Monique could get it done.
09:02 Monique: Yeah.
09:03 Francis: And so, the boss develops a habit and eventually your reputation gets out, and people start to come to you and they start to ask you to do different things. And you being a good soldier, no is not the first thing that comes to mind when you’ve taken a job, it’s yes. So, inevitably, you start to commit to more than you can actually handle. And partly, it’s a function of-- mostly it’s a function of poor estimation. And for anyone who is a good performer, estimation will always be a challenge and a problem. It’s a problem for everybody, but for good performers, it’s more of a problem because it means that for the six projects that you’re on, if you’re underestimating how long each one takes, you’re going to be committing to more than 168 hours a week. Something’s got to give.
09:48 Monique: What are some of those common signs that indicate, “Uh-oh, it’s now a problem”?
09:53 Francis: Well, I actually have a list. I live with a list on the side of my computer, the common symptoms. The most common is a feeling of overwhelm and it even could turn into a surefire symptom. It’s if you wake up in the middle of the night and all of a sudden, your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty and your eyes are wide open. And you-- the reason you’ve been jolted awake is because some commitment that you have it’s about to fall through the cracks. So, you’re about to drop the ball on something and you all of a sudden realize, “Wait, I didn’t put it in place,” or “I already missed it,” or “I forgot to,” or “I should have.” A lot of people have that experience. And that’s one of the surefire feelings or experiences that something is way off.
10:40 Monique: Well, I was going to say, right now, I am working with a couple of high-performing individuals, and one is actually a new mom, right? And her son is about one years old, and she is still attempting to function at the level she did, even before marriage. And it’s really become apparent to her that, well, something has to give-- I mean, it’s almost as if she is embracing anger and bitterness and mad about the way things are. And she recognizes that it’s about this saying yes to everything. And so, from a coaching space, it’s, well, what is saying yes to you look like?
11:20 Francis: First, that’s a big switch that people like her have to make because there is this-- it happens in many people’s lives. There’s this moment when you either have a baby or you get married, or you take a promotion, or you join a task force at work, or you add on commitment in your community or your church, whatever it might be. All of a sudden, there’s a spike in your commitment and you need to recover from the spike. And there’s new skills that you need, new tools and skills you need to implement just to make it through. And she, the spike was the baby, and she’s probably operating with the same practices that she had before.
11:56 Monique: Yes.
06:01 Francis: And she now needs to pivot. And she now needs-- the part of the pivot for her is to probably, like you said, say yes to herself first and set up a schedule for herself that excludes everyone else and every other commitment. So, it has sleep time. It has food time. It has exercise time. It has all of the things that you need to be a basic functioning human being. But it’s that. So, that looks like a promise to herself. In new theory, it’s called “unscheduled” because it comes from the inside as opposed from the outside. And once you’ve done that, that’s your template for the week. Then you consider externals such as family members. Okay, well, this person needs this block of time. This person needs that. A job needs this, this project needs that. But you come from a different place. You come from the inside as opposed to the outside.
12:48 Monique: Outside. Right. Because that was one of the things I would say I discovered. I really had never given much thought to life with a spouse, life with a baby, it was all corporate, corporate, go, go, go. You’re traveling, you’re getting things done. You have certainly set expectations with all of those around you that you’re the “Get it done” person. And so, here comes spouse, here comes baby. You’re still trying to keep it all going. And there is this new thing I have to admit I discovered. It’s called sleep deprivation. That is so not pretty. So, deprivation is a thing, because I recognize sometimes things would just come out of my mouth in such a way, and it was like almost on an attack mode to my poor husband or people around me as if, “Wait, did I just say that?” It’s like you just don’t have as clear control over your thoughts and your words when you’re sleep-deprived. And so--
13:51 Francis: Being intoxicated.
13:52 Monique: Oh my goodness. Yes. So, terrible, terrible experience, that I in fact learned from and recognized, the only way to make a change was it had to come from within me and how I was going to bring other people along. But thinking about how these habits get formed, in particular, for high achievers, what I’ve witnessed is they get into the workplace. Yes, they start making the climb, they have their first managerial role, and they’re now responsible for the work of others and leading the way, and they find not everyone’s like them. Not everyone has that need for speed, that need for perfection, that need for getting it all done. And that just really is upsetting. And so, then you come to blame, what’s wrong with those people? And so, if we could just step back and if you can invite us into that process of how are time management habits formed. Because I think understanding how things begin helps to then do something about them when it’s time to detour.
14:52 Francis: Right. Well, they have their origin in our teenage years, but mostly, they start from adolescence when we start to make commitments to ourselves, which in other words means we start to make time commitments. But the habits start being formed in our teens for the most part. So, by the time you get married, you’ve already gotten these habits in place. By the time you join the workforce, you already have a pattern that you’re following. Now, if you’re a manager, you may not even know your pattern and you may not realize that they have their pattern. While there’s a commonality to all of our patterns, each of us apply them in very different ways. Each of us uses our-- it’s almost like we all can walk, but we all look very different when we’re walking. So, we apply them very differently.
So, a manager needs to appreciate that the person in front of them or the person who works for them may have patterns that are less effective than the managers. But that doesn’t tell you very much. That’s like saying, “Both of us are sprinters and you’re faster than I am. That doesn’t mean I should copy you. It just means that what’s working for you is what’s working for you, and I need to find what works for me.” So, the manager needs to up his or her own level of awareness and understanding so that they can help the person see for themselves how to make improvements that would make sense in their world. Now that’s much, much harder than telling them, “Oh, you just need to buy-- you need to use a calendar on your phone or you need to buy this app that I use, or you need to--” because those kinds of prescriptions, they’ve never worked and they don’t work in this particular instance. And it really is about empowering the person to be a great diagnostician. Now, if you empower someone to be a great diagnostician, that’s a skill they’ll have for their entire life. So, whether they’re in their first job, they’re 22 years old and they have just started and they’re just learning the habits of the workplace. At that point, they’re going to have to make many, many changes throughout their career that rely on this diagnostic capability.
So, the best gift you can give someone is not being a role model in terms of time management, although that’s somewhat better than nothing so that you be good than bad, better than worse. It’s not to tell them to go read a book. It’s not telling them to pick up an app. It’s not time to do any specific thing. It’s to have them be able to sit down and understand where their own behaviors are getting them into trouble, diagnose them, change them so that they can implement changes and therefore make a switch. And that’s true for the manager also, but the manager would have to know that for themselves, I guess.
17:28 Monique: Well, and that was going to be my next question. That’s exactly-- that’s where I was going to go. So, two things come up for me as I hear you unpack that, Francis, and the first is, ooh, that sounds like that takes time. It takes time to be more proficient at managing time, right? Because it’s easy. “Hey, I use this app, it works for me. Do this.” So, from a manager-- a first-time manager in particular’s experience, you think that I’m going to just tell them, “Why aren’t they listening to what I’m telling them to do?” Well, like you said, they don’t walk like you. They walk, but they don’t walk like you. And so, it’s about that other person wanting to do that for themselves and discovering their patterns and things that are getting in the way for optimizing their performance in the workplace. And I imagine that takes time. So, that’s the first part of my question, is speaking more about that process of supporting someone else and unearthing that pattern, and the second does become with, how do you manage up when you have a boss or senior leaders who don’t have healthy time management practices?
18:43 Francis: Well, that’s a huge, huge problem.
18:47 Monique: I have a thought on that, though.
18:48 Francis: Yeah. I mean, you can fix the-- sometimes you’ll have to compensate for them. So, if you’ve been in a meeting with someone who claims to-- who believes that they’re capable, and they’re starting to give out action items, and the person is going, “Yup, yup,” you’re looking to see, are they typing it in somewhere? Are they writing anything down and nothing is going down? And somewhere around the fifth action item, you start to get nervous.
Now, you could be the boss or the employee, but in a situation like that, you’d better start writing stuff though, because that person is not going-- probably not going to remember. And your intuition is probably correct. So, just compensating for what they’re not doing. And capturing these commitments that require time is a core behavior that some are really, really good at and some are really, really bad at. And I’ve seen CEOs who are really bad at it. But there’s no one holding them to account and they get bad in other areas, and they’re really smart, and--
19:41 Monique: You surround yourself with the right people who fill those gaps.
19:44 Francis: And they compensate for you. Exactly. So, I’m not saying it’s fair. I ‘m not saying it’s right.
19:48 Monique: Oh, there’s nothing fair in the workplace.
19:55 Francis: Yeah. But if you’re-- you got to get to that level of skill where you can see problems happening right in front of you, other people creating problems. And if you can see that, then when it comes to time management, you can compensate to some degree for them. Ultimately, if you can have a conversation with the person to have him or her look at their own system and be that diagnostician I talked about before, power to you. Great if you can. Not easy to do because we’re not talking about a simple skill here. The skill of “managing your time” is complex. It’s not taught in any standard way, self-taught. And by the time we get into adulthood, we’re at all kinds of levels of behavior. And diagnostic ability is something that’s just not taught.
20:41 Monique:Okay. So, let’s take that forward. Where do you learn? Now, I’m going out on a limb and saying, you’re prompted to want to learn, to have to learn because something just was broken. Something fell apart and your lack of time management proficiency contributed significantly to that thing happening. And so, some people may just feel like, “Oops, do better next time.” But for those who are committed to that process of wanting to do something different, where do you start? Where do you start?
21:41 Francis: Well, to be honest, this is what I’ve been working on for the last decade.
21:18 Monique: That’s why you’re here.
21:21 Francis: Let me share with you the state-of-the-art at the moment, which is the rapid diagnostic that I’ve created. It’s a rapid assessment at mytimedesign.com, and it offers in 20 minutes the ability to learn how to diagnose your 13 core practices, 13 that we all have. But from this diagnosis, you’re able to understand what you should be improving first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. Let me actually take you through steps to help you to diagnose your own profile. So, it’s not trivial. It’s not as easy as just download an app. Downloading an app is much easier. It just doesn’t work.
22:00 Monique: Right. Do you want something that works?
22:02 Francis: If you want something that works, you’ve got to take that. And if you don’t want to take a training like that, my book, Perfect Time-Based Productivity, is another place that you can find diagnostic tools that’s much longer than 20 minutes. I did a heck of a lot of academic research to figure out, how do you come to this level of personal awareness? If you’re familiar with-- we’ll be going with another lane here, but if this is really a sports analogy, for football players. If you’re a great football player, you may think you’re all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips. But usually, there’s a coach there who can tell you whether you’re good or not. And if you’re really good, as you get to higher levels of the sport, you go through the different levels of personal individual diagnosis. And one that caught my attention was the NFL Combine. The NFL Combine, for those who may not know, is like a camp that you go to. I think it’s a week or two weeks, and it’s for those who hope to be drafted. And after you go to the Combine, or at the Combine, they do a battery of diagnostic tests. And you come away understanding, your mind is blown by how much you discover about yourself and your ability based on the feedback that you receive. But it’s not about giving you feedback. They want to diagnose how well you’ll perform at the next level. So, they’re trying to predict, are you going to be a great NFL wide receiver, quarterback? And these tests are done by NFL, are shared with all the teams, and the teams look at the tests and they figure it out.
In essence, the higher you rise in the sport, the more important diagnostics become. And that’s where time management is also, a very basic level, little tips and tricks to do work because they’re moving you from a basic level. But above that level, there’s no more that you can get from little tips and tricks. You’ve got to become a great diagnostician. If you could hire someone to diagnose you like a coach, power to you. Spend the money if you can afford it. It’s not inexpensive. But for most of us, regular people, we really need to be doing our own examination, our own self-evaluation. And that’s where we come up with the improvement.
24:15 Monique: If you-- just doing that simple task of almost slowing things down to the point where you say, “What am I doing in each, I don’t know, 10-minute, 15-minute block of the day to discover for yourself?”
24:29 Francis: That kind of level of shock insight is exactly what a good diagnosis provides you because then it gives you-- you’re never the same again after that, right?
24:3 Monique: I don’t think I’ve asked you yet, but what’s your motivation for pursuing this field of expertise for yourself?
24:44 Francis: Failure. Personal failure.
24:47 Monique: Awesome. Nice motivator.
24:51 Francis: Yeah. When I had a context shift, like the ones I mentioned, like having a baby, you’re getting promoted. My context shift was to move from Florida to Jamaica. And when that happened, I went from someone who was I thought pretty effective. I taught time management programs before I moved back to Jamaica, moved here to Jamaica. And when I moved here, I was unproductive and I couldn’t-- I was struggling and I couldn’t figure out why. So, it took two years of research to figure out, and some wrong turns. I tried going back to, what did the guru say? Maybe they’ll tell me what I need to be doing. But none of them have been living a life in a third world country, in a developing country. They have no idea what I’m going through. And I went Googling “How do you manage your time in a war zone?” That was desperate for any kind of assistance. And there was nothing. I said, “It’s not the same. It’s not the same.”
So, I started to do this diagnosis for myself seriously for the first time. And I started to get answers, started to change my behavior accordingly. And that led to better use of time. So, time management is a misnamed word. You really can’t manage time. But you manage your behaviors or your behavior. And they lead to different time usage. And so, I had to sort through a whole bunch of stuff to get to the behaviors. And that’s what led me to the diagnosis first approach that I really want to be-- I want it everywhere in the world because the problems that we are talking about are universal for people, just for people who work because I focused on those alone. But working moms have the same problem, people who commit to high-performing athlete-- high-performing athletics or sports have that problem. it’s a universal problem for people who have aspirations.
As long as their commitments are big enough to take them to the edge, then they’re going to have a time management problem, but they need to be diagnosing their behaviors. The same when they diagnose the areas that they’re good at. Sports people diagnose their ability to throw the ball, catch the ball. We need to do the same thing in our behaviors that underlie our time management setups and systems.
26:59 Monique: And I love what you said Mr. And Ms. Wrong Turn are powerful teachers. When you take that wrong turn, you got to hit that bump, hit that wall, whoops. That’s a lesson. So, as we’re drawing to a close for our time together, Francis, share with us a story of someone you’ve supported or what you’ve witnessed in terms of someone who has approached that diagnostic process or gained clarity on their patterns, and what happened as a result of investing in that process, or in fact, maybe a possible failure, someone who started, and what were those things that got in the way of what prevented them from being successful?
27:40 Francis: Sure. I had a fellow from New Zealand actually, who was working here in Jamaica. He was managing a bunch of people in a manufacturing company and he brought himself and his direct reports, all of his team to the training, because they were struggling, and he couldn’t figure out why. He just knew that things were different in this culture that he was in. But he didn’t know why and he couldn’t explain to them because there were a lot of things that he was taking for granted coming from New Zealand, that once they were taken away, he couldn’t figure out, “Why am I struggling or why are we struggling so much? And I can’t take them all back with me to New Zealand and have us work there. So, it’s something I need to figure out here.”
Well, he did figure it out. In a couple years, he went from what we call a white belt to orange and then a green belt, which is a very high level of attainment in a very-- a matter of a couple of years. And they were able to take the approach and apply it to them for themselves. Whereas before he was trying to tell them what worked in New Zealand and what was working for him. Now he could coach them and do exactly what you described, which is, what do you think the problem is based on the tools that you have at your disposal? Where do you see your weakness? Let’s take a look at your profile. Where do you see the gaps in your profile? Because they don’t have a written profile or diagrams, and they had the whole thing. So, that made a world of difference.
29:02 Monique: Was it them trying to perform there in Jamaica?
29:04 Francis: Yeah.
29:05 Monique: From-- okay. And so, two things stand out for me in that story. One is you mentioned over a two-year period, so there’s time and there’s degrees. You mentioned going from like white belt to the different levels. So, I just think that suggests that once you give themselves some grace for the journey and it’s not just a, “I need to stop that and start this today,” but it is a journey with varying degrees that give yourself some grace, you’re not going to get it completely right. But over time, you will establish what works and is productive for you.
29:48 Francis: Right. It took you-- whatever age you are now, it took you the age you are now minus 13 years, because at about age 13 is when you started to develop habits. You’ve been practicing the habits that you’ve been using for that long. And to unlearn those habits is no small feat. There’s research that shows that even after heart attacks, something 40% of those who have had them don’t change their behaviors. We have a-- even in the face of imminent death, we have a hard time changing our behaviors, let alone, just for time management purposes. So, if you have the highest commitments, it takes time to learn these new behaviors in a couple of years if you’re looking to make progress. And even at the end of a couple of years, technology would’ve changed. You probably would be in a different job. You may-- your life situation would’ve changed. So, the volume of your commitments may even be higher. So, you even got to go beyond where you get to two years and then say, “Okay, well, what do I need given my life right now?”
30:49 Monique: And the other thing, when everything came to a stop and it was shelter in place, remember in those early months, and people no longer had that commute that now all of a sudden, they have this newfound time on their hands. And for some, it got really good. Like, “Oh my, my gosh, I don’t have that drive. I don’t have to get dressed. To the degree, I don’t have to go through all of that, and I have more time.” And some use it wisely. And I think others were probably filling it that time, probably trying to work and keep the wheels spinning only to really be working themselves into a really bad situation, working from home and not having the approach.
31:30 Francis: It’s what the research says. More hours is the result.
31:33 Monique: More hours dedicated to work as a result.
31:35 Francis: Yeah. Unwittingly working longer hours without realizing it.
31:40 Monique: Yup. And so, my motto is, there’s an off button for a reason. On all of this stuff, all the devices, all, everything, there is an off button. So, good. Thank you, Francis, so much for your time. What final thoughts do you want to share with our listeners as it relates to this topic around time management?
32:01 Francis: Become great self-diagnosticians and it’ll open up a whole different world of opportunity for you.
32:08 Monique: And what are some-- just thinking along those lines, what are some just quick suggestions for folks? So yes, there’s an online resource that you offer, but what can individuals do starting today for themselves?
32:21 Francis: We touched on the one behavior that-- of being in a meeting with someone who doesn’t write things down, doesn’t write down their time commitments – it’s to capture your time commitment. So, that’s an easy-- if you’ve never even thought of the topic before, capture your time commitments as soon as they enter your consciousness, as soon as your mind says, “Oh, I got to pick up the bread later.” Do not allow it to sit in your mind. Take it from your mind and capture it in your phone or in a paper pad, or if you’re fortunate to have an admin assistant, have your admin. Everything that you think you should remember for later, the answer is, we thought we should remember. Well, when it comes to demands on your time and these commitments, the reverse is-- the opposite is actually true. Do not try to remember any of them. The more you try to remember, the less effective you will be.
33:12 Monique: Good. Good. Well, Francis, thank you so much for your time and for your expertise and for adding such wonderful value to our listeners.
33:19 Francis: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.