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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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    1 The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness 2 What Everyone Is Wrong About Achieving Inbox Zero 3 13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 How to Be Your Best Self And Get What You Want

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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