You probably have heard multiple times that scheduling has enormous benefits to your productivity. Its power goes way beyond scheduling an appointment with your dentist. It helps to beat procrastination and distractions by providing a mental landscape to your week.
The GTD method assumes that you use your calendar for stuff that fits one of the following categories:
- Time-specific action
- Day-specific action
- Day-specific information
So, what’s the problem here? When it comes to taking action, the question is how far you would go to respect your calendar. This is the topic for today. I’ll address the problem by providing two case studies. Let’s dive in.
Case study No. 1 – Going to the gym
You have a task manager for your to-do list and a calendar for your appointments, right? Some experts recommend that you schedule every task that takes 15 minutes or more to accomplish. The bar minimum―and that’s what I practice―is that you schedule your One thing, which is the most important task that you want to accomplish in the morning.
When it comes to exercise, however, I often get into trouble mode. Should I put exercise into my task manager, into my calendar, or both? Should I schedule it as a time-specific action or a day-specific action?
I’ve experimented with all scenarios and figured out that the most reliable predictor of whether I would attend the gym is scheduling my exercise as a time-specific action. So recently I created a recurring task in my task manager to ensure that I get a one-hour workout. Since my task manager syncs with my calendar, my training session will appear as a time-block in Google Calendar. (My task manager allows setting time and duration to each task so that it will sync with my calendar.)
Now I have both a dedicated task as well as a calendar entry to remind me of my priority: health. That’s not the whole story, though. Before I share the secret, we should dive in the second case study.
Case study No. 2 – Dealing with admin stuff
I have to admit that I’ve been procrastinating on an admin task for over 8 months, despite the task sitting on my to-do list. This task was neither urgent nor important to me, but it spied on me each week during my weekly review. Although I knew that it might take some 15 minutes of researching plus an appointment at the bureau, I couldn’t overcome procrastination for over 8 months!
Honestly, I never scheduled that task. I scheduled similar tasks multiple times and failed to accomplish them. What I did this time was that I assigned the “Free time? Do this now” category to my task. I use this category to tag low-energy and seemingly low-importance tasks in my task manager. When I get a little free time or a time window that doesn’t allow focused work (e.g. some minutes before lunchtime), I would check my tasks under that category.
So I did the research in my “free time” and scheduled the appointment at the bureau. It was such a liberating experience that it initiated a domino effect in my home projects.
That leads us to the heart of the scheduling paradox…
The power of taking small action steps
I’m a heavily GTD-fed guy and yet I still wonder how powerful it is to take small action steps on my projects.
As common sense as it sounds, taking baby steps toward your goals and projects frees up your procrastinating mind and that’s the time when you gain momentum.
In order to realize those small steps, however, scheduling could be of help. Whatever scheduling method you use, it doesn’t work unless you respect your calendar. Failing to honor your calendar is listed among the seven mistakes people make under the umbrella of productivity. And I’m guilty too!
Treat your meeting with yourself as it was a meeting with a third party and commit to taking small actions on your dormant projects each week. That’s kind of a self-prophecy but it definitely works.
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Your one takeaway: Look at your to-do list and schedule a dormant task now to get it accomplished by the end of the week.