Since June 1, I’ve been on and off 40 planes in 20 different cities. Needless to say, this has killed my schedule and made me feel totally unproductive and “busy” – that awful word everyone keeps using like it means something. Let’s be honest here: You aren’t busy, you are just disorganized and things aren’t a priority to you. That’s it. When things become a priority, you want to invest in them properly, and starting with intentional time management is the best way to get out of that faux-busy lifestyle.
So, here’s some tricks I use to keep myself on task and productive:
1) Use a calendar you love to look at. Part of why I used to hate calendaring was because I hate looking at Google Calendar, and that’s what our company mostly uses to plan stuff. Then I started using Sunrise and my whole life changed. Suddenly I want to put everything on the calendar! This is such a simple change, too! Having an awesome calendar app makes me enjoy planning things and looking ahead to what’s next and doesn’t cause me dread. Here’s a list of the best calendar apps for iOS, and here’s some others for Android.
Just look at the huge difference between looking at our next company call in GCal and in Sunrise:
2) Partition your day in chunks of time. DON’T COMPROMISE. If you’re ready to go hard-core on your calendar and really, really commit to being productive and on task, there is no better way to start. Every day I have exact tasks partitioned out on my calendar at the same time every single day and nothing interferes with those time slots. I keep blocks of time partitioned off with nothing scheduled so I always have time during the week for impromptu calls or hangouts. This way, I have specific times I can offer to people when I know I am free, and people sharing my calendar know when they can schedule something on my behalf.
I also have an hour at the end of every single day that I call “office hours” where I work exclusively on business-running type of stuff and review (payroll, employee check-ins, future planning, etc). The end of my day isn’t a mad rush to get things done and get out the door, it’s actually a wind-down and decompressing time of reflection.
As much as I hate looking at GCal, it’s easier to show you my whole week in it, so here’s what it looks like using this method. So amazingly un-busy!
Imagine that – I have a bunch of stuff happening in my life and actually have *free time*, too!
3) Get your social life on your calendar. There’s zero reason to not intermingle your personal life with your work life when you’re trying to get control of your time. Look up at my schedule for this week and notice that I have my meditation schedule on my calendar. And I have therapy Wednesday, right smack between my book writing stuff and my office hours. And if you check later in the day, you’ll see stuff like this happening at night:
But wait, wait -you mean for business stuff, right? NO! Make calendar events for everything. That coffee date you set up over text last night? Yeah, that. Put it on your calendar. Do what my friends and I do and actually send a calendar invite to the person. Include the name and address of where you’re meeting and make sure a reminder is set for all parties. We actually send each other calendar invites to hangout, and instead of life feeling uncontrollably busy, suddenly social and personal time feels incredibly intentional and important:
It helps if you also have friends who are really, really, ridiculously good-looking.
4) Finally: Make time for things that matter. If you go through all the motions of getting organized and calendar happy but don’t really make time for what’s important, you’re just wasting your time. Meditation is on my calendar because it’s something I need to do every single day, just like going to the gym. Not only do I have these things on the calendar, I have 4 nagging alerts set for each one! When you have these things staring you in the face and reminding you every 15 minutes by text and email alert, you tend to start actually doing them. Before you know it, these events become muscle memory and alerts become a high five for following through instead of that nagging voice. And when you get something important on your calendar, don’t compromise. Don’t compromise. Don’t compromise!
Setting a schedule like this is really tough at first, especially if you’re like me this week and just don’t have a lot going on. You’ll find, though, that if you start listing everything that’s keeping you so busy right now, you’ll actually have way more manageable room in your day that you even realized. As Kathy Sierra says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.“