Inspired by Daniel Markovitz’s Harvard Business Review article “To-Do Lists Don’t Work”, I have been “living in my calendar” for a few weeks now. While I’m still a long way from becoming as productive as I’d like to be, I’m definitely getting more done, and I’m also getting a clearer sense of my capabilities (read: my ideal productive self may as well have been born on Krypton).
In a nutshell, my (evolving) process works like this. At the beginning of each week, I assign upcoming tasks to days (breaking up bigger tasks into pieces that get spread over multiple days), and at the beginning of each day, I assign its tasks to specific timeframes. I leave some breathing room here and there for responding to e-mail and other little things that might pop up and need immediate attention.
So far, I have yet to accomplish a day’s tasks according to my schedule, and that failure is very valuable. On one hand, it lets me see precisely how far off my time estimates are for various sorts of tasks, and on the other, the pressure applied by the specific timeframe constraints (which Markovitz calls a “commitment device”) makes me more aware of the inefficiencies inherent in my work habits. The goal is to meet in the middle, where tasks are budgeted a bit more time (I don’t expect myself to be Superman) and my efficiency increases (I try to be a little bit more like Superman).
As I said before, my process is evolving and I’ve still got a long way to go, but, unlike my experiences with other time management methodologies, this time I actually feel like I’m on my way.