Parenting and agency life lend themselves well to the making of lists, but not so much to the doing of those items unless they have a hard-and-fast deadline. In both cases, unexpected situations often arise and must be dealt with quickly, if not immediately. So those short and long-term goals often take a back seat. Parenting adds another layer to this which is anytime you get 30 minutes to yourself you’re really taken with the notion of doing nothing.
I’ve found the best way to make something a priority is to give it the distinction of a calendar entry.
Without a digital represenation of the activity during the day, it’s way too easy to put it off and think ‘I’ll make time for it somewhere else in the week.”
In my personal life, I’ve recently been trying to make more time for reading, writing, running and listening to new music. None of these has a real deadline. If I don’t run three times a week or listen to music at all, nobody cares. There are consequences (poor circulatory health and an underdeveloped knowledge of culture) but nothing falls down.
But when you see a calendar appointent that says you have to write a little on Tuesday night, not Monday night, because if you can see that if you stay up late writing on Monday you won’t be able to get up early for that scheduled run on Tuesday and listening to music should happen on your way to work on Monday mornings because everyone needs quality tunes before starting their work week…things start to create their own deadlines. And the way to enforce this is to actually write in in your calendar.
As a workplace tactic, I definitely recommend doing this for anything you have to get done on a certain day as well as any of those ephemeral tasks you should be doing but are easily pushed aside, like industry research or diving into analytics. Since other people will see your time marked as “busy” it ensures it won’t get pushed aside for a meeting. Plus, a standing hour of right brain thinking makes it easier to tackle left brain work.
There are productivity gurus who will tell you this is a terrible idea – I think there’s a portion of Getting Things Done that specifically says not to do this. But anytime I follow this rule, I get more done and feel more relaxed and in control. I even go so far as to use this tactic to remind myself to eat oatmeal three times a week. (My blood pressure isn’t going to reduce itself.)