Last week started out a little chaotic. My daughter got sick and I had to drop everything on Monday to take care of her.
You know the feeling: something unexpected happens and your plans go up in smoke. Meanwhile your workweek slips away.
Yet last week I didn’t feel like I was losing my grip on the important stuff. And that has everything to do with how I use my calendar.
In an earlier newsletter on hard work, I talked a little about how I put all my work on my calendar. A block of time works brilliantly when you need to do some hard work, because you have a clear stopping point to work towards. But there are other reasons to take your calendar more seriously.
Your calendar forces you to make tough choices
We can make endless to-do lists, but our time is limited. After all, you can only fill this Tuesday afternoon from 2:00 to 3:00 once. Plan your work using your calendar, and you’re forced to make tough choices about your week. Are you going to work on a project for that new client? Or set aside time to submit quotes for those two big projects? A calendar makes it a lot harder to make promises you can’t keep.
Choosing ahead of time gives you the chance to weigh your priorities, instead of just doing whatever seems pressing at the moment.
I tend to be overly optimistic before I plan my workweek. My calendar works like a reset button. The limitations often reveal that I need to be more strict about what I want to accomplish (or what I don’t want to do) in the week ahead.
Your calendar shows what you didn’t get to
But doesn’t that kind of schedule mean you’ll panic whenever something doesn’t go according to plan? Nope, turns out a good calendar has the opposite effect. If things come up that you didn’t anticipate, it’s not your plan that causes stress, but the lack of one.
When it’s clear what commitments you can’t meet, then you know who to involve in finding a solution. And that brings relief.
Last week, I knew exactly which tasks and meetings I had to reschedule to free up time to be at home. I obviously had a less productive week than I could have had with that extra day, but I got done what I needed to and – even more important – my schedule helped me be fully present with my family.
When something urgent happens, you might not always have the time to reconfigure your schedule. That’s not a problem if you do a weekly review:
I wrap up my workweek each week by planning the next one. Part of that process is taking the time to go through everything I had scheduled the past week. That’s my safety net: I don’t have to worry about forgetting something. I know I’ll catch it on Friday. This way of working keeps me more responsive and flexible throughout the week.
Your calendar links the what with the when
It may seem obvious, but most to-do lists don’t address the essential element of when. And if you can link a task with a date and time, it’s an optional feature. I LOVE that kind of flexibility for tasks that aren’t relevant right away. But for important work now at hand, you’re going to have to choose your moment. When am I going to sit down and actually get this thing done?
A calendar combines the what with the when in a super simple way.
How best to let this system work for you? It all starts with one very important agreement: your calendar is sacred. What’s on your calendar, you do. Period.
Once you can count on yourself to do the work you’ve scheduled, then your calendar’s no longer a place to simply jot down reminders. It’s the rock on which you build your workweek.
Time for a hard reset?
Perhaps you need a hard reset in order to rely on your calendar for scheduling your own work. If you’ve got too many entries that you don’t actually do, clean house first. Throw out all the useless reminders and recurring appointments you don’t keep. Be brutal.
Start with a clean slate and only those items you reliably do. That’s the way to start building trust again, learning step by step to count on your calendar (and yourself).
Let me know if you run into any trouble – I’m happy to help. Next week we’ll tackle your to-do list.
For now, thanks for reading and have a great week!