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How to Use 6 Calendar Views to Be More Productive

How to Use 6 Calendar Views to Be More Productive
    Project View

    In my last article here at Stepcase Lifehack,one of the comments I received suggested that there is a fine way to get around the question of having a “sacred’ calendar.

    Popular books like Getting Things Done and others advocate the use of calendars for appointments, trips and other activities that “must” be performed on a particular date. Unfortunately, the word “must” is imprecise, and likely to be interpreted differently by each person.

    The principle that they are attempting to reinforce is more clear: don’t populate your calendar with commitments that aren’t firm. Instead, treat the calendar as “sacred” – a place to put commitments that you dare not break.

    Fortunately for us, the technology is fast approaching in which you can, at the same time, maintain a “sacred” calendar, a “profane” schedule and every-calendar-in-between!

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    In Outlook, for example, it’s easy to create, with a few clicks, any number of calendars that cover the same dates. However, because these calendars seem to be different files, it’s easy to believe that they represent different entities.

    Not so. Instead, three different calendars of September 2011 are actually three views of the very same set of 30 days.

    With that possible snag out of the way, it’s not too hard to see how Outlook and other programs like Google calendar or Yahoo calendar can help us “see” our schedule in ways that can help us to prevent overlaps and miscues, and give us a deeper understanding of the time demands we must confront each day. For example, I have been experimenting with the following 5 views of my schedule. (I didn’t try using them all at once!)

    5 Views of One Calendar

    View 1: A “Default” week’s view – before any appointments, deadlines or one-off activities have been created, there is an underlying schedule that I use as the basis for every single week. It includes the basic activities that I need to live my life, and I only move them or delete them in emergencies. These activities include time spent sleeping, eating, exercising and relating to close family members. These are items that I do regardless of the work I do, where I happen to live, or the time of year. For example, going to bed early is important for me due to the triathlon training I do. Before it became a habit, I scheduled the time to go to bed and also set an alarm on my watch to beep at 10:20 pm.

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    View 2: The “Hard appointments” view – this view consists of scheduled activities planned with other people. The criteria for placing an item in this view is that “there are sharp consequences for myself and others if the appointment is missed.” Dental appointments and coaching calls are examples.

    View 3: The “Deadline” view – when there are deadlines I have that produce negative consequences if they are forgotten, they are placed within this view (e.g. due-dates for my company’s tax deposits)

    View 4: The “Blank-time” view – this is the time that I schedule each day for the unexpected. These slots of dead time act as buffer against all the things that can go wrong, and their length and frequency depends on the environment I’m in, and the kind of work I’m doing. For example, I have found it difficult to schedule work on travel days, so I would set up huge chunks of dead time in the expectation that something is likely to go wrong. If nothing goes wrong, then it’s easy to reach into future days for time demands that I can start working on now. Using this view helps to prevent (but might not cure) the popular fault of over-scheduling, which most ambitious people commit.

    View 5: The “Activity” view – in my last article,I focused on the switch that needs to be made by people who have a great number of time demands i.e. from learning to place tasks rather than lists. The Activity view is the one in which the most action takes place as time demands that come into my life are placed directly in my calendar. Most of the schedule juggling that happens each day takes place in this view.

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    Paper’s Shortcomings

    Viewing a single schedule in five different ways can be quite confusing to those of us who think of calendars in the traditional, paper-based way. Throw in the ability to access your scheduled time demands on your laptop, smartphone and tablet and you may realize that there’s a need to see calendars and schedules quite differently…. perhaps as a set of tasks that are organized by date and time, that reside in the cloud. At any point in time, the calendar-view you are looking at is filtering tasks, and helping you to focus on the few at a time that you really need to see.

    This filtering is important… it might never make sense to combine all the views in one, any more than it makes sense to watch more than one television channel at a time… even with the latest PiP technology. Each view serves a different purpose, providing a layer of information that’s important to maintain separately from the others, or to combine selectively. For example, I combine the “Default” view with the “Activities” view on a day to day basis, while I use the “Blank-time” view as a planning tool that’s filtered out once my day starts.

    Of course, there could be other views. For example, Dezhi Wu’s groundbreaking research suggests another possible view for Projects. In her book, “Temporal Structures in Individual Time Management” she explains that a project manager should be able to craft a schedule of activities for each team member that can be downloaded right into a planning device. To me, this suggests an additional view is coming.

    View 6: The “Project view” – when you have a group of inter-connected tasks that are designed to produce a particular result. It would be nice to take a look at each project as a separate thread of activity. You could see, for example, what happens in your life when there’s a change in final due dates. This is a far cry from the mental, unreliable estimates that often fly around.

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    Technology Limitations

    Unfortunately, the core technology of managing multiple views isn’t maintained on all calendars. My Blackberry’s calendar doesn’t allow for multiple views from one program. Hopefully apps are on the way that will correct this, and allow me to synchronize different views with the cloud.

    However, with tools that are already available, it’s possible to keep a “sacred” calendar if it’s seen as merely one possible view to manage. With improved tools, we could do much more scheduling and less listing, even as we stick to the GTD principle of maintaining and managing firm commitments. Doing so would help relieve us of the job of juggling our calendars in our minds, and delegate the task to tools tapped into the cloud.

    P.S. I used Yahoo!.Calendar to generate these views, and the instructions for doing can be found here.

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    Francis Wade

    Author, Management Consultant

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

    More About Stepping Out of Comfort Zone

    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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