August 24, 2016

Step 3: Accountable

Hi Friends,

So, how did tracking your day go? What did you find out? Was it pretty much what you expected? A constant flow of interruptions, task switching, and other things getting in the way of what you hoped to do? Well, if so, the solution to that is below.

OK, so, why are we doing this. Why does it matter if we put our tasks on the calendar? One word: Accountability.

The calendar is what we use you keep ourselves accountable to others. We commit to being at a certain place to do a certain thing at a certain time there. In general, once we commit, we follow through — the things we put there are things that we do when we say we are going to do them unless agreement is made by all involved to change them. Even in the cases of change, it is usually either moved to another time or decided to not happen at all.

Why aren’t you treating your tasks, and in core ways yourself, with the same level of planning and commitment? In my conversations about many, many, people about this I’ve come to believe that the one thing that keeps people from using their calendar this way, it usually boils down to this: Fear.

Fear that if you block out a time for a particular task on your calendar, something might derail it. Something more important may come up or your boss or significant other may propose something for that time. You may go to do that task at that time and you’ll get interrupted by other things. All of these and more are the excuses that people use to avoid committing to putting their to-do items on a calendar.

The fact is these things could happen to that meeting you have scheduled, that lunch date, or that doctor’s appointment. But, in general, if something comes up and you already have something scheduled, then you let the other person making that time request know. You tell them, “I’m sorry, I have a meeting at that time. Can we choose another?”

Because my bet is, with the time tracking you did in the last exercise, the things that were on your calendar are the things you actually did at the time they were scheduled. That all of the interruptions, task switching, and interruptions happened outside of those. Maybe not for all of you but for most of you, my bet is that this was the case. That you treated the things on the calendar as sacred, interruption-free, zones.

If you put items you have to do — things you’ve commit to doing at a certain time — on the calendar, then why wouldn't you treat those the same? If another request for that time comes up you say, “I’m sorry, I have something else on my calendar at that time. Can we choose another?” Treat the tasks on the calendar as sacred, interruption-free, zones

All I’m saying here is that putting things on the calendar keeps me accountable to my most important stakeholder — myself. Doing so gives the same equal treatment and place to myself and the things I want to do as it does to the things I have planned with others.

Fair is only fair if it is fair to everyone including ourselves. So treat yourself and your time with fairness.