Key corner stone of productivity is habits. Productivity aficionados are familiar with weekly reviews which are part of GTD. Ideal week method consists of scheduling everything for upcoming week in your calendar during weekly reviews. Everything from work, leisure, exercise, up to and including sleep. This removes cognitive load of deciding what to do at any given time. Helps build positive habits. Nudges you towards productive tasks you committed to, rather then procrastination.
What to put in a calendar ? Most obvious answer is events that need to occur at specific times and dates. Stuff like dentist appointments, work meetings, gym, classes etc. With most people this is where the utilisation of calendar ends. However calendar can be leveraged as much more versatile tool. A tool to build positive habits, to evaluate the way you are spending your most precious resource on weekly bases, to plan projects, to automate decisions and more.
What gets measured, gets improved. Calendar can by used as a state of the union of your week and by extension your life. The less of the unallocated space there is the better. Start by blocking off large time blocks that are non avoidable. Create reoccurring event for your day job. Then create reoccurring event for sleep. It may get depressing really quickly, actually seeing how little time there is left after these two activities are allocated. Now allocate time for your side projects, for spending time with significant other / family / friends. Add events for personal improvement / learning a new skill. Allocate time for writing a blog post. Time for reading, watching tv, playing video games. Exercise time. These are just examples. Point is if you schedule all the things you would like to do in a week, you are forced to deal with reality of how little time there is in a week and not to fool yourself. It forces you to prioritise things that are really important to you.
Once all the data is in, apart from objectively dealing with reality of limitation of time. There is also a benefit of removing cognitive load. There no longer is a need to waste brain cycles on deciding what you should be doing at any given moment. Just look at your calendar. However it may not be as easy, due to our fallible monkey brains. They would rather lounge on the couch, playing games then work on the side project. This is fine. While you should try to follow scheduled events as much as you can. Don’t think of them as set in stone obligations. Rather think of them as guidelines. Nudges to what you should be doing. Then during the weekly reviews do an honest overview of how many of the events your were able to stick to and adjust the schedule accordingly. Key is to stay at it and objectively evaluate how time gets spent. Calendar becomes an ideal to inspire to. Over time it will help to improve and build positive habits. To make insightful, meaningful, lasting decisions.
More tips and tricks
If you are trying to achieve various multiple long term goals, like write an app, novel, loose weight, learn about machine learning etc. Create a “Goals” calendar and block off months of time for given goal / project. That way you are reminded, every time you look at the calendar, what is the priority. What is it that you are trying to achieve this month / quarter / year. It goes without saying events should be divided into multiple calendars based on the event category. Planing one week ahead may not be enough. There might be biweekly or monthly schedules. Scale really does not matter as long as you put everything in there.
Cool calendar apps :
- Google calendar – Calendar standard
- Fantastical – An excellent iOS & macOS app with natural language processing.
- Complical – watch apps that allows you to format appearance of calendar events in Utilitarian small complication. Designed with ideal week method in mind by yours truly.
Interesting posts about calendar and productivity :
- Cortex #24 – Podcast episode on calendars by mighty iMyke & CGPGrey
- Program Your Day to Defeat Distractions and Stick to Your Daily Routine – Life hacker post
- Deep work – Exceptional book on deep work by Cal Newport
- Why I put everything on my calendar – Kindred mindset
- Calendar Your Way To Success: The 11 Habits You Need – Calendar best practices