n our armoury of productivity tools, there is one tool that beats them all when it comes to getting control of time and life. Your calendar.
While there are a lot incredible so-called ‘next generation’ productivity tools — more intelligent to-do lists, better notes applications to collect your ideas — the humble calendar is the one tool that will tell you where you are spending your time, how much time and whether or not you are wasting your valuable time. It’s simple and in one form or another has been around hundreds of years.
Sadly, so many people allow others to schedule stuff on their calendars, they give other people access to their calendars to schedule meetings that may or may not be important to them. It’s incredible when you think about it. Time is a limited resource and if you waste it, unlike money, you are never going to get it back.
Sure, you may think to allow someone to schedule a meeting on your calendar at 9 AM on a Monday morning is not going to cause you any problems, but 9 AM Monday might actually be the best time for you to plan your week so you are focusing on what is important to you. When you allow someone else to schedule a meeting for 9 AM Monday morning, you know you are going to spend the first fifteen minutes or so talking about how your weekend was and what you did. That someone else has seized your time and now controls what you do with that time. There’s also a good chance you are going to be given more work to do that now completely destroys any plan you may have had for the week.
I’ve been thinking a lot about calendar use over the last couple of days and I realise the calendar is quite different from other productivity tools in that it only allows us to schedule events for the twenty-four hours we have each day. It helps to constrain our enthusiasm for doing more stuff than we have the ability to do and it brings a sense of reality to our day. That means if we allow other people to have control over our calendar, we are delegating how we use our valuable time to other people who do not know what work we have on, do not know what is important to us and does not care anyway. Surely your time is worth more than that?
I have two calendars (plus a couple of subscriptions — Korean public holidays and my sport’s team fixtures list) I have a personal calendar and a work calendar. I don’t hide any calendars — I don’t see the point — I want to see everything I have scheduled for the day so I can be alerted to any conflicts that may cause me problems later. It’s simple and I have complete control. The classes I teach are fixed and are on my calendar, my writing time, podcast preparation and recording as well as my video recording sessions. These are fixed, non-negotiable events on my calendar. I know if they were not on my calendar they would not get done. These ‘events’ are important to me because they directly contribute to my purpose in life — to reduce the epidemic levels of workplace stress in the world by helping as many people as I can to become better organised and more productive. That is why these ‘events’ are non-negotiable.
I maintain strict control over my calendar. I do not allow anyone else to schedule anything. I use a booking service, Acuity, for clients so they can schedule call times with me at a convenient time for all of us.
There are a number of things you need to be aware of. You need to get enough sleep, you need some time each day for ‘me time’ so you have some time to develop new ideas and you need time with your family and friends each day. Again, these should be non-negotiable because they are important. When you give control of your calendar to other people they don’t care you want time with your family, or need time for yourself. They only care about their agenda.
All these important areas of life need time. And the only place you will find the time is on your calendar. Your to-do list is not going to tell you how much time you have in a visual format. All your to-do list will do is tell you what tasks you need to do. Only your calendar will give you a true picture of your day and where you are spending your day. If you give control of your calendar to other people you will lose that important control.
If you really want to take control of your time then take control of your calendar. Use it to schedule the things that are important to you and adopt a strict policy of what goes on my calendar gets done Schedule your exercise time, your family and friends time and never give control of your calendar to other people. If you do have a work calendar that allows other people to schedule meetings, then make sure you are blocking time out on your calendar for the times you want to get on with some focused work. If you know you are most creative in the morning, for example, then block an hour or two every morning for your focused work. Why would you want to give up your best times of the day to other people? That’s just madness.
It is very easy to use the excuse that you have to be available for your boss or clients or customers. But if you want time to work on what is important to you then you need to accept that you can no longer use that excuse. You have to take control of your time and the best tool to do that is your calendar. So don’t give up control of it to other people.
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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.
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