Are you always feeling like time is getting away from you? Do you always feel like you are behind on things?
A little while back, I gave you guys a little glimpse into how I stay productive and deal with emails (One Tip To Get To Inbox Zero) and how I organize my todo list (Finally, A Decent Shareable Todo App) and I teased how I stay super productive. So here is it: If its not on my todo list or in my calendar, I don’t do it.
Think of people like celebrities. Or Obama, for that matter. How do they get as much done as they need to get done? Their lives are ultra scheduled, down to the minute. Sure, they have all sorts of people around them who make those schedules and keep to those schedules, but there is no reason why you can’t use some of those techniques yourself in order to make sure that you get done what you need to get done. For example, Yahoo recently posted an interesting article called Inside President Obama’s Secret Schedule and if you look at a little portion of his day, things are scheduled down to the minute:
- 10:00-10:06 – Do this
- 10:07-10:14 – Do that
Is there any reason why you can’t do that same thing? I’ve instigated this policy myself, when I was being inundated with requests for meetings: if you don’t schedule it on my calendar, it doesn’t exist. Yes, I’ve missed meetings because the organizer didn’t book a meeting and just had it ad-hoc, and when they ask me why I wasn’t there, I simply say “it wasn’t on my calendar”. Pretty soon, if they want me there, they learn that they have to book me for it.
How about those of you who have an open door policy? Just set times for that in your calendar and advise that anyone who wants to just drop in, they can drop in during those times. It works great for college professors, why can’t you do the same.
Try it out for a bit – since you probably use some kind of electronic calendar, or multiple calendars. So this is your plan:
- Pick a single electronic calendar which you can access from all of the devices you use – smartphone, tablet and laptop, where everything is synchronized. Personally I use Google Calendar, on all three devices.
- If you have more than one calendar say Google and Outlook, buy and install some software which syncs everything to that single calendar you picked. Gsyncit is one package like that.
- Schedule everything. Book when you wake up, when you should go to sleep (you are getting a good 8 hours aren’t you?), book your travel time to work and back. Use repeating items as much as you can. Fill it all out with all of the standard daily stuff which doesn’t usually change. Don’t just stop with your business life – schedule out as much of your personal life as well. If you have to drop off your kids to MMA at 4:00pm, and it takes you 10 minutes to get there, schedule an item from 4:45 to 4:55 – Travel To MMA. Book yourself out as much as you can.
- Once you’ve done this, review your schedule. Block out times to work, to think, to rest, for TV etc. Once you have everything booked out, you can see where your time goes as well.
- Tell people that you are doing this: you won’t attend meetings unless they book them in your calendar. Always ask people to send you a meeting invite if they want to meet with you. In turn, always use a meeting invite to book other people. Try to train others that this is how they can get time with you.
- Tell people when your “office hours” will be, if you want people to just drop in and talk to you.
I’ve always skirted around doing this – always thinking that would me less accessible to peers and reports but after reading Greg McKeown’s excellent Essentialism, it’s given me the impetus to more fully apply this to my life. And guess what – everything works so much better – even the interpersonal relationships that I thought might suffer by being so highly scheduled.
So I’d say, try it for a bit – see how it works for you. You’ve got nothing to lose but your wastes of time.