Category Archives: Blog

1+1 = more than 2?


We know about Sir David Brailsford’s “incremental gains” approach to development – improving 100 things by 1% instead of trying to improve one thing by 100%.

But 100 things…that’s a lot to focus on…how do we know where to start?  Is there an optimum order for the 100 things?

Does it matter if I do 5 a week for 20 weeks, or more at the end, or more at the beginning?

What if changing the sequence, or the timing had an impact on development?  This would mean that it’s not just about incremental gains, but which gains, in which order, and how long to spend on each. The result could be that 2 people developing identical skills, looking at the same 100 things could see a performance differential between them. Isn’t that the holy grail of performance development?

Research currently being carried out hopes to answer these questions; or at least start to answer the questions.

The research is titled “Topical sequencing and spaced practice – their impact on task performance, motivation and learning” and is essentially asking whether the order in which we develop aspects, and the timing of the development have an impact on the overall development.

If you’d like to be kept up to date on the research, please email me:

Why time management fails


Why does time management fail? – Because we all see the allocations of time differently…we see time as either a target, a budget or an estimate.

When we go for a meal at a restaurant, we have different outlooks on the cost of the meal. Some will be trying to spend under a certain amount – they have a target in mind and if they have enough for the cab fare home instead of having to walk, that’d be a win.

Others will have a budget; they simply don’t have any more to spend and once they’re all spent, that’s the end.

Our final group have estimated how much it will cost, and the estimate often bears no relation to the final bill.

When you allocate a chunk of time to a task, how do you perceive the time allocation?   It’s worth exploring the differences to see which you default towards, as this can have an impact on your productivity and your sense of achievement, but the biggest impact is on the deliverable, and whether you will be routinely early, on time or late.

Let’s assume for all three scenarios that the task is the same, and the length of time that you allocate before starting is the same.

Target: You set yourself the target and aim to beat it. If it’s a repeated task, you’ll be aiming to beat the time you did last time around. If it’s a new task you’ll give some thought to how long you think it’ll take and all the way through be hoping you can do it in less…  What do you do as the time allocated draws near?

How does it feel?  Like a race.

What happens as the end draws near? If you can beat it, you speed up. If you’re nowhere near, you may slow down. A race that can’t be won isn’t worth entering.

How do you feel when you go over the time allocation? A failure. If this was a meal in a restaurant, you’re saving money for the cab fare home.

What do we routinely perceive this way? Routine tasks that we expect to improve at over time.

Budget: Much like monetary spend, when viewed as a budget, time is finite. There is no more, and the budget is there to prevent over-spend. Software development or problem-solving is often viewed in this way. Let’s say I’m developing a new feature for a piece of software. I budget 8 hours for its development on the basis that if it can be developed in 8 hours then it’s worth doing. It’s not worth doing if it takes longer.

How does it feel?  Initially calm and measured.

What happens as the end draws near? Pace increases in order to meet the budget.

How do you feel when you go over the time allocation? You can’t. You’re deflated that so much work is potentially wasted as you have to draw a line under this and move on to the next thing. This is turning up at a Michelin-star restaurant and having to stop after the first course.

What do we routinely perceive this way? Low-value (or limited-value) tasks, where it’s just not worth spending more time. Good enough is good enough.

Estimate: The estimate is a best-guess. Unlike the budget, the estimate may flex as we near the original limit, but it’s a conscious decision and the estimate is there to help – it guides our awareness of how long the task is taking and as the limit approaches, we can make decisions to flex other allocations.

How does it feel?  Very calm and measured.

What happens as the end draws near? Stays calm and measured. There’s no rush; more time can always be added.

How do you feel when you go over the time allocation? Like an all-you-can-eat buffet. You’re still hungry so you go up for more.

What do we routinely perceive this way? Perfectionist tasks. Where only the best will do.

It may be that you often see time in any of the three ways depending on the task, but if you’re not consciously aware of your perception, then the knock-on effects of over-spending will almost immediately lead to failures in any chosen time-management system.  If you habitually choose one over all others (e.g. always see time allocations as an estimate) then you will routinely never have enough time for all the things you’d like to do.  You may also lack the ability to be “good enough” on lower-value tasks.

Time management systems fail because we allocate the time, then fail to notice how we perceive that allocation.

To do, or to be?

I missed Chris Evan’s Radio 2 breakfast show today but heard a comment about his “Pause for Thought” slot; the speaker posed a question about our “to do” lists and asking what we would write if they were “to be” lists.

This resonated with me, especially as our company name is a hint towards us spending more time “being” instead of “doing”.  We are, I suppose, the sum of our actions, and as such what we “do” is critical, especially as the cumulative effect of our actions paints the picture of our life.

So, I’ve tried to re-write my to-do list today; (I’ve kept the old one just in case!) and started to think about why I’m trying to do all the actions…are they all aligned and taking me in a direction that I want to be?  I also noticed that there’s rather a lot on there, and as such I could be better focused by shortening the list to the things that I will actually be doing. The rest of the list that is just things I don’t want to forget, or will do when I get time, can go n another list.  I’m going to re-name the headings and aim to have “being” titles rather than “doing” titles.

First step; instead of having an action under the “website” heading to write a blog post (which I’ve managed to ignore for a week), I’ve renamed the section “thinking and writing” and I’ve written this piece…

Being or doing?

HBL is a consultancy dedicated to developing high-performance people, organisations and results.

Do you work at your best every day?  Do you know what makes the key differences on the ‘good’ days? Would you like to have an occasional conversation with someone who can help clear some of the fog, who can help you refocus and have a few more good days?

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In short, our consultants are world-class, and we work with any organisation at fee rates to suit, to help people and therefore the organisations they work for, to become even better.

If you wrote a ‘to be’ list instead of a ‘to do’ list…what would you write on it?