The Power of Scheduling

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.

 – Henry Kissinger

If you ask most successful people how they accomplish their most important priorities, you’ll hear one answer again and again – they schedule them. All of them. Meetings. Exercise. Time to work on big projects. Time to think and reflect.

I have to confess that even though I’m a planner by nature, for a long time I fought the idea of scheduling my days. I was already pushing so hard and doing so much that adding a daily schedule seemed too regimented. In fact, the thought of it made me want to scream.

Ultimately, however, I decided if there was any chance a schedule could help me accomplish the things that really mattered to me, it was worth a try. That was several years ago and now I can’t imagine going through life without a schedule. My schedule allows me to approach life with a sense of calm that I previously thought was outside my grasp. What’s more, it allows me to focus on my key priorities without being swept along in the rush of email, appointments, and other distractions.

In case you’re still on the fence about whether scheduling can work for you, here are a few lessons I’ve learned, both from my own experiences and in helping clients tame their own days:

Scheduling is about flexibility, not perfection.

The first objection I usually hear when I suggest to someone that they start to use a schedule in their daily lives is “I can’t. My work is too unpredictable. I don’t have control of my days.”

This statement reflects a basic misunderstanding about the purpose of a schedule. At its heart, scheduling is not about creating a perfect timetable for your life. Most weeks you’ll probably find yourself off schedule at least once or twice. But, like most other things, perfection isn’t really the goal when it comes to scheduling.

Rather, scheduling is about giving yourself flexibility. It’s about gathering the things you have to do, the things you most want to do, and being sure they get captured somewhere in the time you have each week. It’s knowing that you can change the schedule if you need (or even want to) without losing track of all those important priorities. It’s about the ability to bend and flex and evaluate new opportunities without the need to suffer through that horrible out-of-control feeling creeping in. Who wouldn’t want that?

Scheduling creates freedom.

The second objection I almost always hear (and one I still struggle with personally every once in a while) is “Scheduling is so boring. Is it really necessary?”

I get it. Schedules aren’t all that glamorous. Writing down what you want to get done a finding room for it on your calendar can feel regimented, stiff and a little dull.

What I’ve found, however, is that scheduling is actually the secret to greater freedom. With a schedule, you’re clear on what needs to be done and when it’s going to happen. This means you’re also clear when you’ve done enough, when you have some free time, or when you are ready to move to the next priority. You know exactly when you have time to sneak away for a long lunch, when you’ll be able to get around to that project you’ve been putting off, and whether you’ll have time to attend the conference that seems so interesting. And if you aren’t happy with your ability to get to these things? You’ll know exactly what needs to change to make them happen. That seems like freedom to me.

Scheduling keeps you honest.

By writing down your commitments and priorities and slotting each one of them into your calendar , you’re forced to really face your own reality – maybe you are simply trying to do too much.

Whoa, what?

It’s true. Scheduling isn’t a magic wand. It isn’t the trick that’s finally going to help you do everything your heart has ever desired, personally and professionally, right now. The real power of scheduling is exactly the opposite. Scheduling is the number one way I know of to bring you face to face with the choices you’re really making in your life.

You say you want to get that certification, but you’ve spent every night this week watching bad television and not one minute studying.

You claim you want to be in great shape, but not one hour of your week has been spent exercising.

You profess to value the culture of your team, but you’ve not set aside any time at all to meet with them this month.

Scheduling makes all of these things painfully, brutally clear. (Which is why I suspect is the real reason some people avoid it so doggedly.) Then the choice of what really matters most is up to you.

 

Have I convinced you? Are you ready to give scheduling a try? If so, but you’re not sure where to start, check out this week’s newsletter where I’ll give you my best tips and tricks for designing your schedule. (Don’t receive the newsletter? No problem. You can sign up here.)