If your calendar is full of meetings and not much else, explains Mike Monteiro, you’re using your calendar wrong.
The essence of productivity is knowing what you have to do, deciding when to do it, and then having the follow-through to execute. Depending on your personality, you might struggle with one of these three steps much more than the others.
Dreamers have lots of abstract ideas but never translate them into concrete goals. (For them, I recommend “3 Lists That Will Make You a Productivity Badass.”) The lazy or the procrastinators might know exactly what they have to do and when, but have trouble getting up the motivation to do it. This article is for the middle problem: knowing what you have to do and being willing to do it, but simply not finding the time.
In his Medium article “The Chokehold of Calendars,” author and designer Monteiro explains the fundamental problem of calendars: we schedule the interruptions to our work (meetings), rather than the work itself.
“In the case of a business like ours, what clients pay us to make and do happens in the cracks between meetings, or worse, after business hours.” Does this sound familiar?
While meetings get priority of place on our calendar, the actual stuff we need to do is just expected to happen (somehow). And when it doesn’t, we’re left wondering why we weren’t more productive. The answer is simple: because we didn’t decide when to do the work.
The solution, according to Monteiro, is to put work on your calendar. Break down a project into chunks, and schedule them over the coming days and weeks. (If you can find a software tool to help you, even better.) Consider work time sacred, like we now think of meetings – non-interruptible and non-negotiable. Say no to meetings to protect that sacred time. And for goodness’ sake, don’t request meetings willy-nilly of other people.
“Subtracting an hour from the life of another human being isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s almost violent. It’s certainly invasive,” says Monteiro.
He wrote that Medium article in 2013 but, it seems, we still haven’t learned our lesson.