Having trouble getting everything done? Come along with me on a trip. We’re going to the calendar.
“Going to the calendar” is a strategy I often recommend for leaders who want to make changes but aren’t quite sure they’ll be able to stick to them. Going to the calendar means literally
- opening up your calendar,
- turning on the PDA,
- getting out your schedule,
or in any other way physically putting in front of you the written, concrete system you use to organize your life. Then you write down the commitments you’ve made, transferring them from your head to the page where they become real.
For example, Gloria wanted to set up what she called “Customer Contact” hours five hours a week, during which the only thing she would do would be to circulate among the customers in the winery she ran to discover what their experience was like. After three weeks of “flaking out,” as she put it, I made her go to the calendar and schedule those five hours a week. She wrote “Customer Contact” between four and five o’clock each day for the rest of the year. From them on, customer contact wasn’t just a good idea, it was an appointment she was scheduled to do. Her calendar never let her forget.
This strategy is most helpful if you use a calendar system that matches your strengths. Most calendars are arranged into tidy hour-sized boxes into which you’re supposed to compartmentalize your life. When you go to the calendar, give yourself permission to break out of the boxes. Just as you can control your time, you can also control your calendar. Don’t let it control you. Some examples:
Ann: Every year I get a fresh paper calendar. I claim the days I want for myself and block them out with an opaque permanent marker. Then I use those “blackout dates” however I choose.
Nico: Once I took a whole month of pages out right out my calendar. I had been wanting to take a vacation, but somehow it always got bumped. When the pages weren’t there, the time stayed free and for once I actually took that vacation.
Rick: I gave a list of times to my assistant that I wanted to keep free for working on projects. Now my assistant turns down all requests for my time that interfere with those parameters.
Mitch: My PDA locked me into a very linear way of thinking. Now I do all of my planning on a white board where I can scribble and draw and make diagrams; later I pin the ideas down into the system.
Peter: I don’t like calendars at all. I think in terms of projects. I started a project wall where I can pin up all my action plans instead. If you want to maximize your time, you do need to keep track of it by going to the calendar. You decide what that calendar should be.
Think of something you’ve been wanting to do to achieve your vision. Go to the calendar now and figure out how you can make it happen. Be sure to put it in writing.
The ideas in this article are drawn from The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership and the accompanying eBook called The Extension. The eBook is designed to give you simple, engaging personal leadership exercises and activities to help you be a better leader, and lead a better life. Get your copy today! Click here for a Preview and to Order.