Those empty slots in your calendar

Some say, “if you believe everything is important, nothing is.” That resonates deeply with me because that used to be me! My belief was if I was able to cross of 20 things off my list I’m productive and getting a whole lot done. The result — a burned out, disgruntled and grumpy me. My practice of slotting out your calendar was greatly inspired by some of my friends and the art of time-blocking.

Just to clarify, my friends were morons just like me who didn’t know any better. (Thankfully, we’re much wiser. We would like to think so.) Time-blocking is still an art that I greatly admire and practice. But it’s not about blocking out your calendars for days, weeks and months at stretch! The idea is to create blocks of time to focus on the your top most priorities. The ones that cannot be delegated but ought to be executed to avert disaster. And you cannot possibly be doing just that around the clock no matter who you are or what you do.

I believe time-blocking is the ultimate weapon to create those empty spaces that will help you to reflect and plan ahead. I know that’s counter intuitive but that’s the whole point of almost every productivity system out there. From getting things done (GTD) to the bullet journal (or the latest trendy “system” out there), the principle is to get so efficient that you’re spending much less time at the tasks/projects level and a whole lot more about your goals/objectives, vision and purpose. And all of that requires a lot of whitespace in your life. A whole lot than you think.

What I’m suggesting is that productivity is a mindset just like it is a practice. The ultimate goal is not about the tasks that you accomplish every day but to get a point where the tasks are relevant to your higher goals, vision and purpose in life.

Of course, some people get a high by crossing off those things off their lists. I get it. But let’s not confuse that with productivity. And stop cluttering your calendar with those blocks, please. The only person you’re fooling is yourself.

P.S. I’ll be honest. My calendar’s stacked with time blocks but I do that for white spaces as well. Why? My public calendars (for coaching and consulting) and work calendars are all connected. I would rather have a placeholder for white space than leave it open. Thought of clarifying this before you start calling me an educated bystander (aka — hippocrite).

P.P.S. I highly recommend you read David Allen’s The 6 Horizons of Focus®. Get the latest edition of his seminal book, “Getting Things Done” for a deeper dive.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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