The magic trick? Schedule everything on my calendar. No longer do I have a never ending and overwhelming list of “someday I’ll do these things” when I have time items. I now have a scheduled time for anything important and when things are looking 3, 4 or 10 weeks out, I’m forced to prioritize and eliminate.
Advantages of a Calendar Over a To Do List
- I wake up and see my full day/week/month in front of me. I know how much time I’m going to dedicate to do various tasks and activities and when they will occur. Every task is an appointment I keep with myself.
- I remain flexible. I schedule only 6 hours of work per day. This usually means 8+ hours of actual work, a few breaks and eating. I’m not perfect and often get distracted, discover a new opportunity or misjudge how long something might take. All of which are perfectly OK. I can move things around, but the thought of really bumping that task to next week? That’s when I grind and really get it done. If it were on a ‘someday I might do this list,’ it would probably never get done.
- Forces me to break down large projects into smaller, manageable ones. I generally schedule 30-60 minute tasks. There may be one big project that will take 20-80 hours, but each task scheduled on my calendar is maxed at 60 minutes. It’s a manageable number that doesn’t overwhelm me or make want to put the whole project off another day/week/month. Oftentimes, the first task in a project is mapping out the first few hours of that project and scheduling them.
- I get to check things off!!!! Yes, there is a satisfaction to checking off that list. Calendar reminders allow me to dismiss an appointment when it’s complete.
- I get to look back at how I’ve spent my time and measure it against results. I publish NYCInsiderGuide.com for a living, so when traffic or income goes up or down, I can look back at exactly when and how much time/effort I spent on activities that contributed to the result. If I were working for a company, as I did for many years, I’d have full documentation for my performance reviews, meetings with the bosses and would be armed and ready for that next salary negotiation with a long list of my accomplishments.
- Color coding is pretty. Yes, I enjoy looking at my calendar. Blue for work, Pink for the gym (one of my personal greatest challenges), yellow for meetings. I know a blue activity can move from say, 10am to 2pm that day. Pink and Yellow cannot move and must be met at those times.
How to Use a Calendar to Maximize Productivity
- Tools – I use a PC, Android and Google Sync. I’m sure most of you use Apple. No matter what hardware and software you use, there are dozens of tools that will sync all your device calendars. On my set up, my color categories don’t sync to my phone, but I spend most of my work time on my computer. Regardless, the full calendar synchronizes constantly and I always know what’s up next.
- As I work on an appointment, I keep all my notes/changes in the description or notes field of that appointment. When I’m done with that hour, I replicate the appointment and schedule the next portion of it. So, let’s say I start Project 1 on Monday. On Monday, the headline for the appointment is “Project 1 – Map Plan” and I complete that. As I’m working, I usually think of 20 other things I need to do for that project. I keep them all in the notes section. The last thing I do before I can dismiss that appointment reminder is replicate the appointment for a future date with the next task as the headline. So, in this example, “Project 1 – Complete Job Descriptions” and so on.
- Where is my “some day” list? I keep mine on Microsoft OneNote. It’s also where I keep my Grocery, Drugstore lists and a dozen other reference notes I use all the time. I have a scheduled time on my calendar (the 2nd of every month) where I run through all those “maybe” projects and review them hard core. Delete, schedule or outsource. No project sits in Notes more than 2 months (you choose the time frame for yourself). If the block to getting something started is time, I prioritize and eliminate. If it’s outsourcing or finding the right talent, then that gets scheduled on the calendar as Step 1. If I can’t figure out any of it, delete.
- Weeks/Months getting too busy? That’s when you know you have to prioritize, eliminate or delegate. Oftentimes, I’ll come up with a new idea or discover a new opportunity for my business and want to implement it immediately. But my week is already full. Now I have to choose – bump or eliminate something else? Outsource? Whatever the answer, it doesn’t get added to a long, never-ending list, the way you would a To-Do List, because I can see how it’s going to play out and I need to make a decision before I add it anywhere.
- I schedule the gym at the beginning of the week (or recurring weekly, depending on how fixed or committed your time is). If I want to attend classes, I mark them all on my calendar and include travel and shower time. Meditation? Daily Rituals? All scheduled. Most calendar apps and programs will let you schedule recurring appointments in a variety of ways. Every Monday, every other Tuesday and Thursday, the 1st or 15th of the month.