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My Own Change: Scheduling

In my recent post, Make Your Own Change, I noted three ways that I was trying to reevaluate my behaviors. This was predicated on the fact that I am in a new house in a new neighborhood in a new year. Newness of environmental factors allows for conceptualization of what else can be made new through choice and change. My next few posts will lay out what each behavior looks like in practice and how the change affects a portion of my daily life. For reference, the list is below; I will start today with number one.

  1. Purposefully schedule time during the day where I can explore something different, refresh myself through curiosity, reconnect with lost loves, read instead of watch.
  2. Disengage from the streak culture and focus on the intended outcomes, e.g. refocus on actively being healthier instead of just closing rings or stop playing the daily game if it has lost its luster.
  3. Diversify where my focus is, redefine old goals or start something new, review stale behaviors or to-do items that aren't leading to anything.

Aspect one of my journey toward making old things new again revolves around scheduling. What happens if you start to build your calendar to suit your needs, instead of leaving it wide open for someone else to do what they will with it?

Enter tentative lunch meetings. Back in the late summer, I started purposefully setting time aside for "lunch". I tentatively blocked my calendar with something called Lunch, which was an hour where I could do what I wanted with it; I didn't technically have to be eating lunch. People could see it was a tentative hold even if they couldn't view the details, which normally would prompt them to ask me if they could schedule something and I could make the decision for myself. The whole idea was done on a whim, but it has largely worked out. I am reminded to take a break each day and I can spend that time shifting my focus away from my to-do list.

I have a sense that I will be expanding this in the new year. Recently, I created a new calendar and filled it with prescriptive chunks of focused events; I called them Time Elements and they looked something like this (the order has changed once already, so this is alphabetical):

  • Cleanup
  • Learn
  • Plan
  • Prepare
  • Relax
  • Review
  • Think

Each timeframe was used for specific tasks associated with the element. I noted that one of my behaviors (one that I really like and will keep doing) is my work of resetting every morning. I wrote about this back in July. I literally wrote, "I use the first hour of the morning to center myself on the work." During that first hour, I am cleaning up from the previous day or week:

  1. I open all the apps and webpages I need for the day using a Shortcut I wrote years ago in Automator, but migrated to Shortcuts when that came to the Mac.
  2. I check my outstanding notifications from the previous day or leftover to-dos in Things.
  3. I check-in with the desks I supervise and the personnel I support, sometimes physically, most of the time via chat.

This is just one example and since I have been consistent with Cleanup since July, it feels like that one will stick.

The way I prepared myself for the list of elements was by planning out two to three activities that are associated with each one. To provide a good example of one that might be less obvious than Cleanup, Prepare is a time when I am looking to the future and focusing some time on those to-do list items that may get lost in procrastination or deprioritized due to the daily things that come up. During that time, I might:

  1. Review upcoming meetings for the coming weeks, generally set to two weeks ahead of time, especially noting where I might have an action item that has fallen off my radar.
  2. Set agendas for committees; this is specifically for meetings I lead, but could also be about going into any meeting with potential items I want to discuss even if they don't happen at the next session.
  3. Look at my long-term goals can prepare or prepare for any next steps that are coming along. Think of this like preparing a communication that is supposed to go out at a specific time as a part of a set communication plan; perhaps queuing up the next set of blog posts.

The reason why Prepare was a good example here is the fact that the elements are not intended to be marching orders or step-by-step approaches to time. I need flexibility, I may miss or intentionally skip one of the elements because I don't have time or need for it. If Cleanup takes five minutes one morning, I don't have to twiddle my thumbs for fifty-five minutes, I can devote time to Review or Plan instead.

I have also noticed that filling my calendar with hour-long chunks is too chaotic and restrictive for me, especially for days when I have a lot of meetings or days when I am feeling spontaneous. This was the main reason I did not add them to my main calendar, but have them in a hidden calendar for those times when I need a reminder of what I could be doing or to get unstuck.

All in all, even if the methodology changes, I think this is the right approach to our time. We should all be questioning how our time is spent and how to get more out of it, even if that means that when I see the sun out in the middle of winter, I make a beeline for the door and count that toward my unscheduled focus time. These things make me a more productive employee and a happier person.