Your Calendar Is Full. Congratulations, You’re Doing It Wrong

Congratulations. You block out your time in your journal, calendar, or diary. Then you work on those priorities during that time to get things done. You’re now much more effective at accomplishing the most important things during your week.

But . . . and this is a big but . . . that’s not how life really works. Stuff happens, issue arise, your boss assigns unexpected work, employees interrupt with their emergencies, children break their collar bones on the playground during recess, opportunities come along that need your attention. How do you plan for interruptions without throwing all your careful coordination out of wack?

You don’t want to spend all your time re-arranging your calendar. That’s not the most effective use of your time. Or worse, making the effort to organize yourself and then abandoning those efforts the first time something unplanned for comes along.

What Aren’t You Going To Do?

So don’t fill your calendar.

This may sound counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t your calendar be full of all the things you’re going to do? Are you so far behind that the only way you’ll ever catch up is to never die?

Trying to fit more hours in the day, or believing that you’ll be more effective by just working harder is a false hope. You’ll be more effective, less stressed, and more responsive if you understand and accept that you’re not going to get it all done.

Now you have the simple (and sometime difficult) but critical decisions to make. What are you not going to do? What are you going to say no to? What are the most important, valuable, and effective ways to spent you time?

The fact is you can’t manage time. You can’t manage 5 minutes and turn into 10 minutes. You can manage your attention and focus. What are the most important things really?

Spending some time thinking about this is an effective use of your time.

The 75% Rule

Now plan your time, but only three-quarters of it. Leave space in your day, week, and month with nothing in it. This is the time you’re going to use to deal with interruptions, rescheduled meetings, emergencies, and opportunities. This “slack” time will get filled up, and lets you be responsive. It makes you more effective.

Things that should be in your calendar:

  • your obligations to your boss (remember – she controls your addiction to food, clothing, and shelter)
  • developing your people (they’re the ones doing the work),
  • helping out others (and building relationships),
  • down time for you (you’re fooling yourself if you think lack of sleep or cancelling vacations make you more effective.)
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