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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.

    More by this author

    Francis Wade

    Author, Management Consultant

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    Last Updated on March 31, 2020

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes & How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

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    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

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    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

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    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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