Clear Your Calendar – Free Yourself Up For Unscheduled Productive Time

by Randy Murray on June 21, 2010

Do yourself a big favor: throw away your calendar.

There are so many elements of Getting Things Done that people struggle with. But breaking free from the calendar is possibly the biggest, and, surprisingly, the least discussed strategy.

So let’s get radical. According to Saint Randy, your calendar should only be used for meetings and events. You can use it to block days, for example, “gone fish’n,” but if it’s not a time where you promise to get together with someone, then it doesn’t belong on your calendar. Forget about fully integrated tasks. Just use your calendar for meetings and events. Nothing else goes on your calendar.

It’s difficult. I’ve often filled my calendar up with daily schedules named “work on project x” and “development time” commitments. I have deadlines on mine now (and I’m removing them). But I found that I was rarely using the calendar when it was filled up this way, and eventually, I’d remove all of those holding blocks and spaces. It makes your schedule artificial. Why lie to yourself?

I worked for a calendar and contact management company for seven years and I’ve thought about and struggled with this issue for far longer. The only thing that I’ve found that really works is to protect my calendar like a mother bear protecting her cubs. I try and keep it as clear as possible. My most productive days are the ones that have absolutely nothing scheduled on them. Things like projects and tasks I deal with separately. The calendar is only what I absolutely must do on a specific day at a specific time. All else, like a project with a deadline, can be done at any time before an agreed deadline. The more time I free up, the better I’m able to decide what I want to do at a specific moment, based upon what needs to be done, how much time I have and the mental and physical energy I have at the moment.

As a caveat for corporate calendar users, who are in danger of having others scheduling you into unwanted meetings, I have two recommendations: decline every meeting you possibly can AND query each person that invites you to a meeting about why you’re needed there, what will be accomplished, and how long the meeting will be. Yes, you do need to go to some meetings, but making sure that you have something to contribute and the meeting is fully necessary is important. The flip side is this: when you schedule a meeting, have an agenda, inputs and outputs, and only the critical people on your attendee list. Except for working sessions, meetings should be kept to under fifty minutes whenever possible.

I find that the more things I remove from my calendar, the more in control I feel.

How do you deal with your calendar? Is it an artificial construct or does it really reflect where you need to be and what you need to do at specific times?

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