Put it on the Calendar? – Not so Fast!

One of the old saws that have proven suitable for me is the older I get; the sharper life comes into focus.
One example of how much more valuable I see time today than when I was young.
Jack Bauer summarizes this sentiment quite nicely when he says, on every episode of 24, “We are running out of time!”

Full Calendars

Initially, I thought the way to get more value out of time was to manage it well. Master that, and I will be happier and have no regrets.
Soon, Franklin Covey (remember them?) and then Outlook came along, helping us fill our calendars with style and ease. A full schedule, after all, was nirvana.
This whole calendar ethic was perfectly exemplified in an email I once received at work that showed a picture of someone’s Outlook with sixteen back-to-back appointments across an eight-hour day, along with the caption, “We need more of this!” Um, maybe not.

Meaningful Calendars

Then, overnight came some backlash to the entire calendar strategy. Going back-to-back, every day was not so much a road to nirvana as a direct route to additional stress, even if one of the appointments was for yoga.
I started seeing articles talking about saying no to “needless” meetings. I was also told to schedule some “unstructured time” to be more creative and bring higher energy to my appointments. “No meeting day!” became a thing for some companies in Silicon Valley.
It seemed the full calendar ideal was slowly being replaced by a less full one aimed at fewer, higher-quality appointments. I like this idea of a more meaningful and relevant calendar very much. But how?

Three Questions

So today, before I put anything on my calendar, I ask myself these three questions:

  • Is this required?
  • Is this something I want to do?
  • Will some good likely come from it?

Score and Pause

Yes, to all three? No hesitation; slap it on the calendar.
Two yeses? Pause. Please give it a little extra thought before committing and putting it on the calendar.
One yes? Give it serious thought. Be brutally honest with yourself. Check your motives. Still, feel strongly? Then, go for it!

The Goal

I used to say, “busy is good!” With age, I’ve realized “busy is just busy.”
The goal of this exercise is simple, create more space on the calendar by ensuring the appointments you have are necessary and have the likelihood of a good outcome. If they don’t, the answer should be no, thank you. My experience is everyone benefits if you take the free time instead.
Free, unscheduled time creates room for thought, reading, learning, and moments of spontaneity and creativity. Extra time will let you prepare for your appointments and be better equipped for them; your meetings will improve. With fewer meetings, you’ll feel less stress. Heck, you might even find some magic creeping into your day!
And when you have all that, you’ll be happier and more pleasant to work with.

One Final Thought

Wherever you are, commit to being there when you are there. Giving others your full undivided attention is one of the most incredible things you can do. It shows respect. Then, listen well. Resist the urge to interrupt. Look people in the eye. Sit in silence. Give people time to provide thoughtful answers.
And, please, don’t bring your cell phone. It isn’t nice if you must get it; at least power it down before the meeting. Again, respect.
And one last thing, if you conclude your business early, it’s OK to end the meeting early, “giving back time.” Because it seems everyone appreciates some extra time!

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