And even if is on my calendar, ain’t no guarantee that it will get done.
Alright, let’s cut the shit, people. I know I’m a
disorganized, lazy person by nature…
— Victor Mateescu (@OMG_Vee) June 24, 2017
I mean, have you met me? Even my basic conversations are all over the place; let alone the more important parts of my life.
I get it, some folks can just roll out of bed in the morning, with everything in their lives falling perfectly into place. And the world is their oyster…
They seem to get everything done right. And on time. The people they interact with seem to get out of their way to help.
And it always seems like these superheroes have at least 30 hours to work with every day, and everything in their lives is just so!
While the rest of us barely manage to do laundry once a month, because… you know, life got in the way of any sort of
achievement, commitment, basic hygiene ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Watching the 1st Alien ^_^ pic.twitter.com/ivz0DsgGpc
— Victor Mateescu (@OMG_Vee) June 10, 2017
Because… fake it until you make it sometimes works, that’s why.
What do they all have in common? Well, many a great things. But they all keep a damn calendar. Some do to-do lists. Some have secretaries. Some even hot ones, because, you know, egos and midlife crises and whatnot, but whatever, I try not to judge 🙂
Now, a lot of people in my entourage said something like this a million times:
- “yeah yeah, having a calendar doesn’t get my ass off of the couch to actually do anything…”, or
- “oh it feels like more work populating my calendar with tasks than actually performing the tasks without a calendar…”, or
- “well, it might work for you, but just accept it doesn’t work for everybody…”, or
- “seeing my calendar packed with too many things scares me into not doing any of them, because I feel overwhelmed…”, you get the point.
Buuuuuullllshit! These are all excuses, people. And I make it my job to not snort this same type of bullshit that you’re on. I mean we’re all full of it, at various times, but that doesn’t mean we should never try to be better, no?
The WHY of using a calendar
Here are some benefits why I jumped on this bandwagon:
- fosters focus. I led with this. If it’s not in my calendar, it sure as hell won’t get done. If it is, however, it stands a very good chance of me getting around to it;
- outsourcing part of my mind and willpower. We all know we start each day with the feeling that we can move mountains. But by the time 6 PM rolls around I can’t normally be arsed to figure out what else I need to be doing, let alone find the willpower to actually do it. But the calendar will pop up notifications on my phone, and this means I have less things I have to worry about, or remember;
- easy to plan long term. By nature I am a very visually oriented person. If I have a planner (either paper or digital), it helps me better deconstruct the big projects or goals I commit to, during the planning phase;
- also, allows me to say No. To BS stuff. Or things that don’t matter that much. The stuff that doesn’t make a dent in my bigger scale goals. Yeah, all those ambitious new year resolutions we all make in order to feel less shitty about ourselves? If I keep saying yes to all those “yo buddy, let’s go for beers”, I definitely won’t be doing anything to improve my life. Or big goals;
- also, forces me to constantly re-evaluate how I’m doing. Seeing the long term planner allows me to tell in an instant if I’m on the right path or not, with regards to what I want done.
- proactive (vs reactive). Cringe. I know how much of a cliché this overused word is these days. Similar to ‘synergy’. /puke. But realistically, it’s true. Objectively, I used to be very reactive in how I conduct my life. As in, life kept happening to me. Since I started running my shit based on a fairly strict calendar, I’m far less reactive. I find myself working on the right things, at the right time. I procrastinate less. Makes me more present in pretty much every situation, because I know it’s well planned, and there is some slot somewhere which is dedicated to procrastination, relaxation, and sheer time-waste 😉
- get to know myself better. When I started reviewing what I spend my time on, at first I got a bit angry. Then kind of sad. And then I started making changes. Prioritizing. Eventually found a sweet spot whereby I don’t feel particularly guilty if I don’t get to all the things in a day. But I do get to most of them. Whatever remains either gets deferred if it’s important, or cancelled if not;
- “time is the only currency you have” (W. Buffett). Got 86400 seconds in a day. It’s up to you if you want to let others spend it for you, or you get to spend it. Preferably on yourself and your significant others. And your immediate environment. And, if you still have plenty, think bigger – go after solving bigger problems for more people even. There’s always plenty to spend it on. The problem is always choice;
- as a byproduct, I learned to estimate better. Initially I had my calendar jam-packed with lots of small items. Always failed at dealing with everything. We all think a certain task will take less than it actually does. But in time, I’ve learnt to estimate closer to the real duration of most things I end up doing. It got way better.
The RESULTS of using multiple calendars and converging lists:
- got a very good daily routine that I follow because of it. Now, even if I stopped using any calendars and notifications, I would still continue with my routine. Why? Because it’s now habit. Which my lazy ass won’t mind keeping to.
- got consistent at working out. Also habit. See above.
- never missed another appointment since. You know, reminders and notifications are good when used efficiently. When you don’t get drowned in social media and all sorts of other useless (but very noisy in a no-signal-through-the-noise kind of way) ones, like “here’s 20 new things on binge on netflix”, or fakebook’s “hey, haven’t heard from you in a while, post something, come back and see some more ads so we make some money off of yo’ ass”;
- I kept most, if not all of my commitments. Used to stretch myself far too thin, by accepting (saying yes) to too many things, friends, noise. Since now I can politely decline most demands on my time on very valid reasons, like “sorry, it just doesn’t fit in my calendar this year/decade”, the commitments I do make – I keep. I’m more accountable this way.
- gamified my life. As such, like the naturalist ‘drug addicts’ that we all are, I too get a nice dopamine hit to my brain’s reward centers when I check something off of my list as done;
- avoided spreading myself too thin. Yeah, we are all inclined to kind of say Yes to pretty much anything. Sometimes because of FOMO (fear of missing out), sometimes because some of us are wired to please, and sometimes even because we think too high of ourselves. And that’s how we end up over promising and under delivering. Or breaking our promises, if you will. But with a calendar running most aspects of my life, just before I promise somebody something, I can tell right away if I am realistically able to meet that commitment. And most times I can’t. So I say No. Maybe I need to work on the way I say that No, but ultimately it’s better than the alernative. There’s a saying “if it’s not a ‘hell yeah’, then it’s a ‘no’!”. I like that.
The HOW of calendaring… Aka the meat of “This Is How I Roll”:
- Google calendar. Just my preference. Use iCal. Or Outlook. Or a paper month/year planner. Or simply pen and paper, whatever you fancy. It’s not a ‘tools’ problem. Face it: it’s a laziness problem!
- here’s a walkthrough:
- many calendars, overlaying the same whitespace (don’t overdo it, causes conflicts and weirdness); I use small specific tasks that overload the big chunks of time allotted generally for a vague activity, like the “10” over the “KJ” slots… What “10” stands for, well, there’s a hint below, in the paper planner section
- colors; again, being visually minded, I can tell at a glance that red stuff in there are bill payments; green for anything health, life, etc; grey for commute and demands on my time from other sources than myself; violet for Monthly/Daily/Yearly goals (or tasks thereof); blue for habits and personal calendars, for a better me, you get the point…
- reminders: I mean, just common sense. I use them for big-ticket things, like doctors appointments, you know, one-off things that I may forget if I have to keep it in my head. This way, I have this thing send me an email and a push notification a day in advance, so that I prep if need be. By then, in my weekly review of the upcoming week, I would have noticed a big event coming up in advance of the day before anyway.
- notifications: need I say more? Again, these only serve their purpose in moderation. Most events in my calendars don’t have them going out. That is, shit that formed as habit already I don’t need to be reminded of. Nor negotiated with my brain into not doing/attending. Only stuff that’s not a habit (yet), or it’s periodic but seldom enough, like weekly, that I need to be notified I should be doing. Also, again, get a notification audit on ALL your phone apps, and remove/turn-off most of them. If you’re drowning in crappy and useless social media notifications all the time, you’re not going to give a shit about yet another notification. From your calendar, of all things. You end up not doing squat, because of instant gratification that you get from… anything else really 🙂
- sharing calendar invites/events: well, some events I have to attend with people. Too easy and effective to not use. Also awesome for group notifications of certain things with friends and family. Like “yo, rent is due tomorrow” or “concert @ whatever place, let’s roll” notifications.
- keyboard shortcuts. If anyone knows me, they’d confirm I’m sometimes obsessive about efficiency in most things. I love google products for their efficiency and well thought out shortcuts. Nuff said.
- natural language processing. Small dropdown part of the Create button in google calendar lets me Quick Create an event by typing stuff like: “Dinner with Bae 7pm tomorrow”… It will create an even of default duration (in my case 50 minutes in most my calendars), at 7 pm, tomorrow based on my location / time-zone. What’s not to love 🙂
- natural language processing from voice commands. I mean, everyone must have heard of “ok google” by now, unless they’ve been living under a rock. I use it for much more than just calendars, but in this context, works like magic.
- labs. Additional software, like plugins, for google calendar, that modify the default behavior of the vanilla google calendar application/website. Like World Clock. Auto-decline invitations when marked as busy block in my calendar. Etc.
- recurring events/time-blocks. Every end of the year I sit down and plan my big events of the next year, aligned with what I’m trying to accomplish (big rocks type of goals). If I had to manually put down each block in the calendar, for the whole year, I would drop it faster than a bad habit. I just create ONE event at one specific time during one specific day, and then I determine how often should it repeat, and make it so. Save. The google calendar now has created independent events (albeit as part of a series, of which it is ‘aware’) as many as I’ve chosen to repeat. Even daily. Which often of my timeblocks obviously are. Like sleeping block, eating block, etc.
- week numbers, day of year, weather, moon phases, even fun things like the ‘star date’ (ref. Star Trek) are easily selectable.
- here’s a walkthrough:
- methods, depending on what are you trying to solve:
- zero time: I like and use this one. I’ll let Bryan from videofruit walk you through the nitty-gritty of it if you wish; but basically you block all 24h in your day (yes, all of it) with blocks of time dedicated to activities. I even include sleep, even if just for visualization purposes… Then big chunks, generically named (like “KJ”.. which means I work for my employer, at an office, see the screenshot above)
- empty cal: like the original G that’s Warren Buffet rolls.. Leave most of his calendar empty. That’s “Thinking Time” for him. Alas, he’s got an army of people answering his questions before he can coalesce them in his mind. He only thinks about mostly abstract things, strategy, often non tangible things, and as such, he is not forced to keep a really busy calendar. But he still keeps a calendar, nonetheless. You and I, the ‘muggles’? Not so much. We’re telling ourselves we’re too busy for that. See excuses above 😉
- big rocks: some prefer to only mark big things, events and reminders in their calendars; I mean macro-goals, while the rest is empty. It’s a method that’s still better than nothing. It only works if you are an innately thorough and organized person mentally. I found it doesn’t give me the results I want.
- ghetto daily planner – in conjunction with google calendar. Custom made from pen and paper. A simple notebook. À la Neville Medhora. Has pretty much the same ‘format’, but smaller size, because my handwriting ‘font’ is quite shitty BUT at least it’s small:
- top: date
- top-left – TASKS:
- top-right – APPOINTMENTS
- right – DONE EACH HOUR
- bottom – DAY SUMMARY
- bottom-right: SCORE (this is mine)
Anyway, this is what I use to get off my ass and get (some) stuff done. Seems to work well. YMMV.