I have had this time management conversation with a few coachees lately, so I thought I would share what is an old but still useful principle:
I love to mow the lawn. I’ll push mow, or ride. Why? Well, there’s the therapeutic white noise, rhythm, exercise, etc. But the primary reason is that I love the visceral experience of seeing progress as I mow. Once I start, I just can’t stop. It’s addicting, challenging, and easy, all at the same time.
Seeing your handiwork at the end is satisfying, isn’t it? Pulling up in the driveway the next day is equally satisfying. The yard looks so nice, and the neighbors can stop being ashamed now!
Several years ago, I figured out how to replicate that simple joy and fill a time management gap at the same time. I was like everyone else. My to-do lists just grew and grew. The week drove ME, instead of my driving the week. This is terrible time management. So, I simply rolled out my virtual lawn mower — Microsoft Outlook.
This is so simple, it’s almost silly. I created two calendars. I use one calendar for the “hard” appointments. These are the meetings, calls, or other appointments that are not flexible. They are fixed times that can’t be moved without involving a rescheduling with the other parties involved. The items on this calendar are blue (like water). This is the calendar I share with anyone who needs to know my hard schedule.
The second calendar is where the magic happens. Its items are green (yep, like grass). This calendar is the place to which I transfer my to-do items. In other words, I make an “appointment” with myself to accomplish specific tasks.
When I complete a task “appointment”, I simply remove it from my calendar. As I remove items throughout the week, my “lawn” is being owed. The blue items remain, because I want to be able to refer back to when I met a client, attended a conference, etc. So, those items are blue, as if I had little ponds in my yard that I had to mow around. (Note: It is important that these two calendars overlay visually in Outlook, for this effect.)
Here are the steps I use:
- On the weekends, I build my “lawn” by filling my calendar with tasks. My week then appears almost solid green, except for the blue “ponds” – the hard appointments.
- On Monday, I begin mowing. I am in control. I have already programmed the entire lawn for the week.
- As soon as I complete a green item, I remove it from the calendar.
- As I remove items, the green lawn gets “mowed” right before my eyes.
I get the same satisfactory feeling I get at the end of a REAL mowing session, and….. wait for it……
I GET IMPORTANT THINGS DONE!
You can use a white board, a paper planner, even post-it notes to achieve this effect. Try it! You’ll find yourself procrastinating less!
That’s MY perspective!