I have a question…
Are you a slave to your calendar? Does it make you feel like an underperforming employee just waiting for your next bad review?
Changing my perspective
A few weeks ago on a call with a mentors talking about electronic calendars when a couple of key things became very clear.
- It is to hit the complete button and begin focusing on the next task
- No matter how many times you click complete on a task the calendar will remind you of more
- How completed tasks seem to vanish from thought after the button has been clicked
These calendars were meant to be a tool providing ease of accessibility and organization. They were meant to work for us. Well in my experience the opposite is true. I am it’s employee and it is a very ungrateful boss. Have you found the same? That you feel dictated to, that you forget how much you’ve done and only focus on what you have to do?
Let me tell you about what I did to change all of this
Taking the role of the employer
One question changed it all for me. “If your calendar was your employee would your relationship with it be different?” Once again a powerful question from a mentor opened a whole new range of possibilities.
So what would be different? Well the first is that we would definitely have scheduled check ins. We would talk about what’s working and what isn’t. We would set up a co-developed action plan for change. Of course results would be expected and it may take more than one employee to get the job done.
This new perspective lead me to question exactly that, what was working and what wasn’t.
What was working?
The ease of use was definitely there, shared calendars on all devices. Sharing it with my family, friends and peers as needed. It helps me realize the time as it passes and keep track of what’s important.
What wasn’t working?
Have you ever noticed that your calendar won’t tell you if you forgot to leave time for lunch? Or that it won’t send a warning to say “You have booked more than 8 hours of work, did you want to move something?” Or even a “are you sure it won’t take longer” message. Sounds funny right, but what would be different if any of those things happened?
I also noticed that I can move around with a simply mouse click. Sounds helpful right? But what about how easy that makes it to push off things that are important so we can put out fires or get caught up in busy work that all of a sudden has taken up our entire day.
And lastly and the most important for me, clicking that button made it easy to forget what I had just accomplished. Whether big or small each task we do hopefully is getting us one step closer to our goals. By only looking at whats next how can I possibly celebrate or even recognize all that I’ve accomplished?
How I making this calendar work for me!
Our calendars are there to help us block out time for each of the things that are important to us. To notify us when time has passed, when it’s time to end our day. It helps us remember meetings and conversations so we can be on time. So in the end if I utilize this employee of mine for all it’s strengths we will have a great boss/employee relationship.
But by expecting it to also help me with things that it isn’t capable of, I am simply setting myself up for disappointment and an unhappy employee.
I won’t profess to say what I did next will work for everyone, the best part of self-awareness is recognizing our own needs. So I invite you to read it simply as an exploration of possibilities and then ask yourself what would help you.
My new employee’s role
What I needed to see was a visual of my long term and short term work. I wanted a way to see the balance between short term and long term time spent. And most importantly to see how much I had accomplished both in weeks where I felt I got nothing done, but also in weeks when all I could feel was tired.
To find the best tool I went very old school… in fact you likely remember these from school yourself.
That’s right… good old paper! Now I know what you may be thinking. The whole point of electronics was to remove paper, to protect our environment so let me assure you that I am using recycled paper and will recycle it when I’m done.
Okay so… each week I write out my to list, the left side is my long term items to be focused on. The right side those short term projects to be managed and limited. And when I do one of those urgent not important things… I make note of it. You see, now I can see how much of my time is spent where each week. If I find myself stuck on one side I can see it so quickly and course correct.
Want some insight into this thinking? Check out this great series from Franklin and Covey “Act on the Important; Don’t react to the urgent”