I mentioned in a post last month that I've been utilizing a new method of managing my time, but I haven't had a chance recently to revisit that topic and post about it. I also feel like I've been still working on perfecting the approach, at least for my own personal uses, so I haven't felt ready to post about it.
It's ironic that I've felt too busy to post about it, considering this method is supposed to be helping me better manage my time, but I got really busy in November with NaNoWriMo, and it hasn't really let up much in December, even with NaNoWriMo over. We no longer have write-ins to go to nearly every day, but I am still working on my novel every night, plus we've had a myriad of other things come up in recent weeks.
A few weeks ago, I went on a flurry of listening to free webinars for tips and ideas for growing my various businesses. I did get some ideas (as well as a ton of marketing emails) and some of them were quite helpful.
One of the ideas I got has helped to revolutionize my to-do list. Remember recently, when I said I'd been using the task feature in Google Calendar to replace my written to-do list?
Well, this productivity idea basically built off of that thing I was already doing. Instead of setting tasks, however, the idea is to set calendar events. Rather than having tasks to cross off your to-do list, you schedule your day around the concept of working on things.
Part of the idea behind this approach is that having a task list becomes demoralizing when you routinely don't accomplish everything you wanted to do. We all have a tendency to make lists for more than we can actually get done, especially small business owners. Even knowing that you've put too much on your list, it can make you feel like you're not good enough or productive enough when you don't cross everything off on your to-do list, day after day after day.
So the idea of using calendar events instead of tasks means that instead of having a bunch of (and likely too many) tasks to complete, you're just scheduling time into your day to work on the things you want to work on. Nothing to cross off, nothing to make you feel bad about yourself.
Unfortunately, I felt like it's not really entirely practical for me to do it that way. I still need that satisfaction of crossing something off, for one thing - but also, I need that list to remind me of what I'm supposed to do. So instead of using only calendar events, I decide to use a mixture of calendar events and tasks. That way I still have my to-do list, but I'm also scheduling out time to do the things on that list.
I'm finding it's actually helping me to realize how much time I spend on things, and to build more realistic expectations into my day. I'm still routinely overloading myself, because a habit like that is difficult to break, but it's no longer by as much. Instead, I'm spreading out my task list throughout the week in a much more reasonable fashion, and by creating events for what I want to work on, I'm also able to see a visual representation of how long things take to do.
In addition, I also love the fact that my calendar is color coded according to my different businesses and personal endeavors, so I know just by seeing the color of a time block what I intended to work on during that time.
I'm not a rigid, stick-to-the-plan kind of person, so even with my day scheduled out, and even with some flex time built into it, I'm routinely re-planning as I go. I'm not sure that's how the technique is meant to be used, especially since it does often mean that I don't get done everything I intended to get done.
On the flip side, since it's easy to move around events even after they've passed, I can rearrange to reflect what I'm actually working on or what I did work on. It requires a lot of involvement with my calendar throughout my day, but it also means that I'm able to look back at a day and see what I worked on and for how long. And, more importantly, I'm learning as I go: learning to be more realistic about my expectations, to plan more time for tasks, and to leave time for things like coffee, lunch, dinner, and personal or flex time.
And actually, when it comes down to it, I'm not sure that changing my plans and rearranging my calendar on the go is a bad thing. It may just mean that I've taken a technique and adapted it to be more usable by me. I also think it's good that I am flexible with my time and can change my plans accordingly when I don't feel like doing one thing... assuming that I can get things done when I really need to, of course.
I've combined this approach with another technique that I think is equally important. I'll address the second part of my new approach in a future post, and then sum up where I'm currently at with it.