I’ve been continuing on this journey to figure out a better way to calendar. That previous post is full of insights and learnings. Here’s my current, more streamlined system.
- My Map: I invested in coming up with a list of the general things that are most important to me to develop and maintain: connecting with others, staying healthy, and having a bigger purpose. Having vision statements about these and other areas of life settle prioritization decisions quickly and easily. This is the most essential part of the entire process.
- Routines: I created and captured my daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual routines. These apply for work, home, and health – the trifecta of things I aim to balance well. Having these routines established and already on my calendar help me understand my availability for additional commitments.
- Blocks: I set up a calendar with repeating events that fit my targeted time investments, and make it easy to accommodate other important life and work needs:
- Work – 9 or less work hours total, weekdays only
- around 20 hours of scheduled meetings per week, with no more than 6 hours per day
- around 5 2-hour focus time blocks per week
- 2 hours of async work each day, split up around meeting blocks
- 1 hour break each day, taken in one or two chunks
- Home – 5 hours on weekdays, and more flexibility on weekends and time off work
- 1 hour to get ready for the day
- 2 hours meal prep and cleaning
- 2 hours on todo items
- Health – 10 hours every day
- 8 hours sleep
- 2 hours exercise and leisure
- My Map Planning
- Revisit the objectives and keep them current.
- Go through each and determine strategies and activities to break them down and achieve them.
- Create Output Goals to pick up and further break down in weekly planning.
- Calendar Execution (no pun intended): Set up 4-6 weeks of calendar blocks, accounting for known routines and special events.
- Build a triage list:
- Start with blank list, and brain dump the things I want to have done this week.
- Break each down or assign/postpone/comment & close.
- Prioritize this broken down list.
- Review the My Map Planning: Pull it into the triage list in the right order, or assign/postpone/comment & close.
- Triage: Work the fresh triage list into my ongoing general todo list, rearranging the order and adjusting existing items as I go (break down or assign/postpone/comment & close).
- Review this and next week’s calendar to create Work Blocks. Aim for my most productive time of day (mid-afternoon).
- Eliminate calendar conflicts and make space for task switching, food breaks, and asynchronous/reactive work, especially after large meetings.
- Start at the top of my to do list, and schedule everything for this week and next, adjusting existing schedule items as needed.
- Note: tackle this in in two prep sessions – one on Sundays for Home & Health, and one on Monday mornings for Work.
- Interim Triage
- As new items come up, work them into the current schedule or add them to my triage list. Find time to repeat the triage/schedule steps at least a few times through the week.
- Review and celebrate accomplishments and capture learnings. What do I want to keep, stop, or start?
- Review outstanding items and triage.
- Again, I do this in two sessions. I do Work last thing on Friday afternoon, and Home & Health I do on Sundays right before I Prep.
I used to keep a long running text file for a todo list, and was able to easily schedule and quickly act on important things. Even without a fancy calendar or task prioritization system, I am able to get an incredible number of things done from managing a highly-productive team at work, leading various volunteer efforts at church and in the community, participating in various sports, completing projects around the house, and still spend some time with family and friends. Before you think that is impressive, please know that I didn’t feel really great about it all. Much of it felt honorable and was satisfying, and the spontaneity can be thrilling, but most of it came almost accidentally and with much sacrifice and burnout, and I wanted so much more.
This system sets me up to accomplish that much again and more. Not all at once, mind you, but in an order that fits what matters most to me: being present with my loved ones, focusing on a healthy and strong lifestyle, and putting more energy into my own growth and community service in all of my communities (family, neighborhood, work, world). It allows me to come up with ideas, take deliberate actions, and create high expectations and meet them. And very often, this system directs my energy into planning and executing my vision, instead of recovering from fatigue and avoiding competition and comparison.
Yes, please. I now love my calendar more.