Everyone is familiar with using a calendar and or a schedule. Odds are you use one in some aspect every day. But do you really know what you’re doing? Do you know how to create and use an effective schedule?
I wrote a post recently about calendars and how easy they are to use in the modern digital world. But what good is a calendar if you don’t know how to properly use a schedule for your time? A calendar can either be tools for effective productivity or a crutch that slows you down. Your ability to use a schedule is what makes the difference.
I used to use a calendar to try to help me become more productive, but I soon found that the amount of time I had to spend entering information, editing, and rescheduling, was taking up more time than the calendar was giving back. I wasn’t getting more things done, I just had one more thing to do. That all changed when I realized how to effectively use a schedule to structure my calendar. The changes made me a better leader.
Structure – A schedule can create structure to your day by allowing you to organize your activities. I couple my calendar with Nozbe. For example, I will look at my “errand” tasks in Nozbe and combine them all into my allotted errand time on my weekly schedule. This type of structure lets me do all my errands while I’m out, rather than make several trips.
Buy Time – I mark my “alone zone” time on my calendar as if it were an important meeting. This helps me stick to it, rather than fill that time with something that seems urgent. It also allows my secretary to know not to schedule anything during that time. This alone zone time is often my most productive time of the day.
Blocks – Chunk your day into blocks. You can see by my calendar in the image below (coming soon) how I have large blocks of time dedicated to certain types of tasks. These blocks are flexible in terms of what activities I do, but not in terms of time.
Protect Productivity – Define different times in the week. For instance, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are open for outside meetings for me. Otherwise, I am not available. This means if a supplier would like to meet with me, in person or over the phone, they must do so on either a Tuesday or Thursday. These slots fill fast but if I allowed others to just come in or call whenever they wanted, I’d be so interrupted everyday that I would never be productive.
Rest – A schedule pushes me to be more productive and packs tons of activities into my day. But it also allows for retraction. It is vital to push yourself hard at work, then retract and rest. A good rule of thumb I use is 50 minutes of unbreakable focus followed by 10 minutes of rest. Add in activities such as flex time to a schedule to allow your mind to think freely rather than focused.
Quitting time – A schedule allows you to breath. Rather than showing up to work and performing the same thing for the next 8 hours, a schedule allows only so much time. If the task isn’t finished, I work on it again at the same time, tomorrow. This mixes your day up, keeps it fresh, and allows your mind to change gears and remain captivated rather than bored. Funny thing is, you still achieve all your weekly goals by weeks end.
Focus – A schedule provides focus. Before scheduling my days, I used to find myself jumping from one thing to another. I was often wasting hours on something that was interesting, but not productive. I love to research things. Medical journals facinate me, but they do not advance Allied Equipment one bit. Following a schedule forces you to focus your energies on tasks that matter.
“You’ve got to be smarter than what you’re working with.” This is a quote that a friend of mine used to say all the time, usually making fun of me when I couldn’t figure something out. That’s often the case with our calendars and schedules. We don’t really understand how to use them to increase our productivity and reduce our stress. Now that you know, all you have to do is implement a schedule into your day.
Question: How well do you stick to a schedule once you’ve made it?