Most of us have been taught to keep a to-do list for our tasks and projects, and our calendar for meetings and appointments. With a to-do list, certain items can get constantly pushed back for more “urgent” items in the moment. Often, at the end of the day we find that the list of uncompleted tasks has gotten longer, not shorter. Then, we have this feeling that we can never get enough done, resulting in guilt and stress.
But what if you instead used your calendar to schedule everything, including those to-dos? Have you ever heard someone say, “Hang on, let me check my to-do list.”? Putting something on your calendar is making a true commitment to it.
What gets scheduled gets done.
We all have lists of goals, plans, and tasks for both our personal and professional life – but how often do we actually accomplish all of those items in the time we initially think we will? I often consider this when I set my goals each new year. If I don’t set aside time for those goals, whether weekly or daily, will I truly be able to reach them? A well thought-out and prioritized calendar is the key to success.
Align your calendar with your priorities.
So often, our schedules get filled with meetings and leave us little time for the things we value. If you value learning, schedule 30 minutes a day of reading. If you want to prioritize your health, block off an hour on your calendar for exercise. With our young and growing family, I also make sure key family commitments are blocked out on my calendar. My calendar is less about ‘scheduling’ my time as it is ‘prioritizing’ my time. What this allows me to do is remain focused on what matters most, and the ability to say ‘no’ to those non-priority items.
Block off time to do…nothing.
As you begin scheduling more items, seeing your calendar fill up can feel overwhelming. This is why it is important to block off time that is dedicated to nothing in particular and intentionally keep clear of meetings. Use this time to catch up on anything overflowing or new, to tackle problems, to think or to simply decompress. Executive Chairman of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, stated that he schedules between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day, whether that be all at once or broken into 30-minute blocks.
I cannot emphasize this enough – if it’s not on your calendar, it’s a distraction. Time is the most precious resource we have. Regardless of your name, title, or company, we are all allotted 1,440 minutes every day. This is why your calendar should be nonnegotiable (aside from emergencies). Your calendar allows you to allocate your time to the most important tasks and to provides a truer picture of how much time you do have. Moving toward a more schedule-based approach to your day will enable you to be more realistic, meet deadlines, keep your word, and feel less overwhelmed. Does your to-do list do that?