Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Life on a Calendar - 3 Valuable Insights

In June of 2015, I began to plan my entire day from the moment my eyes opened to the moment they closed.  I moved my entire life to a calendar, including: work, study, fun, workouts, music, practice, meals, and yes, even showers.

Yes, it is color-coded (titles removed to retain a small piece of privacy), and yes, you may enjoy a free laugh at my expense.  I deserve it.

I was working for a healthcare company out of Woodland Hills, CA.  I traveled a lot, and with colleagues in different parts of the country, my hours were chaotic.  Things outside of work that I was passionate about -- music, health, writing, friends, dreaming, reading, cooking, etc. -- received sporadic moments of attention, if any at all.  

If I was going to piece together a life that included time spent with all of my passions -- a life I desired -- I needed an improved system.  

Back then, I worked from a list, which is a great start if you employ the system now.  However, I hope you will consider upgrading your life management system after reading this.  Where a list reminds you of the things you intend to accomplish, a calendar tells you exactly when it is time to begin said task -- and, equally importantly, when to stop.  

There have been a host of interesting and worthwhile insights.  For example, I have learned that my ability to set reasonable timelines for myself is poor.  Things always take more time than I forecast. (I am working on this.)

The 3 most important insights obtained:
(in ascending order of impact) 

#1 - Removal of Errors
Everything that I am committed to in my life -- for better or worse -- is laid out on my calendar. When a new personal goal or request from another emerges, it gets assigned a block of time on my calendar, ensuring that the task gets completed.  From writing a Spanish essay, to reading up on an emerging trend, to submitting a thank you note, to completing a workout, to a FaceTime with a loved one -- it all gets mapped to the timeline, and subsequently, gets accomplished.

As an example, I am currently building out my setlist as a solo performer, so my calendar is filled with half hour slots dedicated to learning new material.  When the clock strikes, I pick up my instrument and begin.  If I was unable to complete the task in the given slot, I can adjust to give myself more time at that moment or I can create a future time slot for that task -- nothing is left incomplete. 

#2 - Intensified Focus
With every task that needs to be completed (at least those I am aware of) having a spot on the calendar, I no longer have to worry if I am forgetting something -- my mind no longer drifts elsewhere, nor wastes time determining what to accomplish in any given moment.  Knowing that each task has a specific, upcoming time to be completed, I can remain committed to the task at hand.

#3 - Increased Honesty
This last one is my favorite insight, but it is also the most difficult to swallow.  

I can, at any given moment, look at this timeline and know with crystal clarity what is of importance to me.

“Action expresses priorities.” -Mahatma Gandhi (Attorney and Civil Rights Activist)

No longer can I assert blanket statements like, “I care about my health,” “Helping others is my greatest passion” or most recently, “I maintain great relations with friends/family back in the US.” The calendar does not lie.  

About a month ago, I looked at the week behind me and realized I had not connected with a single family member or friend from back home.  Inexcusable, and I might have missed that truth had I not been tracking my activity.

The approach continues to evolve and improve in various ways.  The tasks have become more specific.  In the past, a 6-7pm slot might have been labeled “Music.”  Now it reads, Sam Smith “Lay Me Down,” as that is the specific song to develop at that time.

Lastly, it is worth noting that there are several life management tools, programs and apps that are worth exploring to find what will suit your needs best.  (Tom’s Planner, Asana, Evernote, Sunrise, etc.)

Better to investigate a bit on your own, before implementing a new approach. 

$.50 Philosophy

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