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7 Ways You Shouldn’t Be Using Your Calendar

7 Ways You Shouldn’t Be Using Your Calendar
    photo by woody1778a http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodysworld1778/

    For some people, their calendar is the be-all-to-end, sacred tool of their productivity system. And for others it is just a dumping ground for anything and everything that they think they should do.

    And here is exactly where the problem is.

    Calendars aren’t meant to hold every piece of data that you need for getting things done. There are meant to hold time specific data that if it isn’t done at a certain time that is marked on your calendar, the task dies and it is too late to do.

    Let’s take a look at 7 different ways that you shouldn’t be using your calendar.

    Setting up false due dates

    Setting up false due dates will not only clutter your calendar, but will also make you frustrated and possibly even less productive. False due dates are those things that you add to your calendar when you say, “well, I think that I should have this part of my project done by this date here,” and then mark it with your fake due date.

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    What this does is help you put off tasks that are related to that project until you are closer and closer to the date.

    This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with milestones, but to put a hard date a piece of a project when it isn’t actually do will most likely set you up for failure.

    Time blocking

    This is another one of my pet peeves; something that I tried in school that never, ever worked. Time blocking is the idea of setting a portion of time in your calendar to devote to one specific thing that you need to get done.

    Maybe you have some work that you have been meaning to get done for some time now, so you “block” out 3 hours of your day to work on that one specific thing. Now, if you actually get through the 3 hours of working on that one thing that you need to do, you are a much better human than I and most others.

    The reality is that if you are a “knowledge worker” the chances of blocking out a portion of time to work on one thing is somewhat unrealistic and almost always gets ruined by something else that comes up.

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    Instead of time blocking, try something like the Pomodoro technique or just starting a task or project with no expectation of how much you are going to work on it.

    Checklists

    People love lists, but calendars are not at all where they belong. If you are finding yourself putting things like, “make lunch, take out puppies, grab wallet, grab watch” etc., as calendar items or notes of a calendar item, consider using a checklist application or a simple piece of paper to keep track of this data.

    What I have found, is that if you aren’t actually checking things off the checklist and just looking at the items on your calendar, sooner or later you are going to overlook something.

    Sorry, but checklists are meant to be checked.

      Taking notes

      Some people take meeting notes or notes during an even on their calendar within the calendar’s notes field. This is not bad place for putting more information about an event in your calendar, like a description of the place where your meeting is, or a little reminder of what the meeting attendees names are. But, this isn’t the place for full fledged meeting notes.

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      Try taking notes on paper or in a dedicated note taking programming (even a mass of text files will do). These are easier to link to or access later, rather than going into your calendar program.

      As a ubiquitous reminder repository

      This is an extension of the last two points.

      A calendar is meant for time and day specific things like meetings and tasks that must absolutely (and can only) be done on a certain day. Keeping all kinds of little pieces of data like reminders of things that need done in your day or even just information about something doesn’t really belong in your calendar.

      Once again if you need reminders of things try using a task management app and if you need to store information related to projects and things that need done, this type of data better belongs in a text file or even personal database.

      Keeping track of standard events

      This is something that I found myself doing up until just a few weeks ago; putting standard events like “Work” in my calendar. I think that this was to make myself “seem” more busy than I actually was. I mean why would anyone have to block out 8 hours everyday that says “Work” on it?

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      I say if you have something standard that you do everyday like Work or go the gym or whatever, don’t clutter your sacred calendar space with it.

      Not using it

      And of course the most important way you shouldn’t be using your calendar is not using it!

      Hopefully by now you realize that your calendar is like a holy place, it is reserved for things that are going to “die” if they aren’t handled at the certain time or day that they are placed on the calendar. And because of this realization, not using your calendar to keep this type of information is setting yourself up forget things and not get these important things done.

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      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on July 16, 2019

      How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity

      How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity

      We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

      With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

      So how to concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

      1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

      Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

      So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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      You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

      If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

      Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

      2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

      Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

      Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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      Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

      Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

      3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

      If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

      This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

      Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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      When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

      If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

      Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

      4. Get up and Move

      We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

      When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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      If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

      Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

      It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

      Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

      The Bottom Line

      It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

      Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

      More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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