“When I am doing one thing, I’m really focused on that one thing. I have no to-do list. I put everything on a calendar, [which helps me] know that this call is going to take 15 minutes or that this is a 25-minute project.” *
When I read this quote by Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box, I was reminded of a common principle I teach to my clients. There are two very different schools of thought surrounding execution in the productivity realm: force dates onto a calendar for all you have to do OR make a to-do list and block time in your calendar.
If you decide to take the route of Andrew Ross Sorkin, you will need to estimate the projected time of your project and make commitments on your calendar by scheduling an appointment with yourself to get it done. Then you can be assured what you must remember is in one place [the calendar]. It is even better if you can search your actionable items in the calendar tool you have chosen. Yet for many of my clients, this method leaves them feeling boxed in which makes them want to rebel. Or if a day goes awry for them, then they are forced to move things around and adjust their projections.
If you decide to adopt the to-do list habit, be aware that your list can grow and grow if you do not allot time slots for what I call ‘focus time’ to address these actionable items. You may spend your day simply getting the easy things done, and the temptation can be to wait until co-workers go home or come in early to address what you have to get done. However, with this system you can be flexible with your time and figure out when you are in meetings and then simply tuck in the ‘focus time’. Yet, I find many folks are challenged with this ‘focus time’ as a true appointment with themselves.
You may find one of these options suits you best. Be assured that there are multiple differences, even amidst the organizing and productivity gurus. The solution they think is best is typically introduced by, “Well, of course…”. Yet, isn’t it wonderful that we can experiment with ideas that work for other people and then find our own rhythm?
* Article published in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Fast Company.