Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Living in your calendar

Have you got a to-do list that hangs over you like the sword of Damocles with all those tasks that you really should be attending to? I have both an app in my laptop and mobile as well as a paper notebook on my desk that remind me every day of all those nasty tasks that I somehow still take ages to get round to. I can set myself deadlines but it's equally easy to shift the deadlines when I don't like them. I've tried several types of to-do lists over the years but have never really warmed to any of them. They're simply not much fun, in sharp contrast to so many other apps that beg for my attention daily on my devices. I don't think they make me any more productive either.

So what's the answer to becoming super-productive? An article in Harvard Business Review, To-Do Lists Don't Work, offers the humble calendar as a solution. Instead of writing deadlines and reminders in your to-do list, you schedule a time slot in your calendar where you dedicate time to get the task done. Don't let that dreaded task hang over you for weeks, book 2 hours on Wednesday and devote that time to getting it done. One problem with to-do lists is that we tend to overload them and when we see such a long list the natural reaction is one of paralysis and we end up achieving even less. Your calendar has a very limited number of slots in the coming weeks and that means that you have to deal with a realistic workload instead of overloading yourself with false expectations.

"It’s an eye-opening exercise: you’ll probably find that it’s tough — if not impossible — to find a place for everything. But this is the reality of your life. You’ve simply used the calendar to paint a true picture of the time commitments you have on your plate. And whether or not you make these commitments visible, they’re there. After all, if you’re going to be run over by a truck, you might as well get its license plate."

It sounds convincing. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who works this way.

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