My to-do list was just not cutting it anymore. Some things got done too late. Some things never made it to the list, some got forgotten, or altogether missed. What I mean is, that for a long time I struggled to get a handle on the sh** I need to do.
Name a time management, or project management, or task management tool. I probably tried it. None of them worked completely. They do different things, but no tool had everything I needed in one place, that made sense against my ever changing schedule and list of projects. Working at home and over Zoom made it even more overwhelming for me, and so I turned to one of the busiest, and also one of the most productive people I know for advice. My husband’s advice was so simple, I thought he was pulling a fast one on me at first. It was a one word answer – calendar.
In his efficient way, he gave me the quick-n-dirty:
• Convert each to-do on your list into a calendar event – in other words, schedule those on your calendar.
• When you get a task done, it’s done!
• If you have not been able to start your task, slide it over to another time slot on your calendar.
• If you have partially completed the task and you need more time to work on it, you can immediately create an additional calendar event to give yourself more time.
• Rinse and repeat.
• Delete your to-do list!
In six months since I have started using this method, I have been the most productive, increasing my output by so much, I was blown away. I can only tell you how I do it, and what works for me. You take it from there.
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Sundays at 5pm, I am ay my desk, planning my week. One hour of planning saves me so much time and headache during the week. I use BusyCal for Mac, but you can use iCal, or any other digital calendar for this to work. If you are still using a paper organizer, you’re on your own…
I start by blocking my creative work time, or what is referred to as Deep Work by Cal Newport (see my book recommendation below.)
I’ve become more able to make educated guesses as to how long, say, it would take for me to write a blog post. I then block the time on my calendar. Some things I do regularly, like I work every day, and so some of my time blocks are repeat calendar events.
The first work day of 2022 is hours away, and I can’t think of a better gift than the gift of time and less stress. I hope you can find this method helpful in organizing your time to suit your style, and prioritize your Deep Work, which is another way to say Focused Work. It’s the kind of work artists, and writers, and academics, and pretty much everyone needs in order to create something like a song, or an article etc.
This is how I make my calendar work for me: My mornings are devoted to work that results in creating new content, including all my rituals that help me get there. Blocking the time is like making an appointment, and I do not miss those when I see the calendar reminder pop on my phone or computer screen.
When I am done with a task, I mark it done on the calendar using an emoji, because it’s fun and gives me a sense of completion, and who doesn’t like that? (see image); if it’s partially done, I immediately schedule more time later that day, that week, or whenever it works for me depending on deadlines etc. Speaking of deadlines, I often make them up for myself to keep myself on my toes. Works almost every time. If you are an artist of any kind, you know you gotta motivate yourself when no one is expecting your work.
After lunch, which is also scheduled on a shared calendar with my husband, I do the work that doesn’t require the full power of my brain. No joke, my brain is usually fried by lunch.
I schedule my meal planning time, my home related tasks, all the facets of my work go into the calendar. I schedule everything, and I do not miss those bright yellow stress-inducing to-do lists. When things don’t get done, they are moved to the next available slot of time. Simple as that! It’s key to be resonable and flexible with yourself. And that’s why I love this method, it adjustable. And I will admittedly say that it took a while for this to work for me, so don’t worry if your first week or even first month doesn’t feel amazing. It will get better. You get the idea.
We live in a world where distractions come at us from every direction, made worse by Covid, and the demands that this pandemic is putting on all of us. No day is perfect, but with calendaring and staying focused, I find that I am a lot more productive, while being a lot less stressed.
I hope you find this helpful in continuing to deepen your focus and your work, so you can create the best version of your work. I know I will keep working towards improving my productivity and time management today and every day in this new year.
Please share if you tried this calendar thing and if it worked for you, and what suggestions you might have. Or if you have something else that works for you… I’d love to hear about it.
I hope this year is productive and successful for you!
If you’d like to learn more about how to find focused success in the distracted world we live in, check out Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s an excellent book!