“Let me check my calendar.”
“I’ve got an opening from 1:00 – 1:30, but then I’m booked until Thursday.”
“You need 15 minutes? How does two weeks from now work?”
Ever uttered similar phrases before? Of course you have! And that’s OK because you’re just like millions of us who get consumed by a calendar and let our schedule dictate priorities and activities on a daily basis. You are likely feeling over-scheduled.
This happens because you’re human (at least I’m inclined to believe you are. Granted – the AI is getting pretty advanced). Over-scheduling is so common entire industries are built on helping us take ownership of our calendar, better organize our work and personal lives, and become scheduling ninjas. Unfortunately, it’s an effort in futility. Those efforts only teach us to avoid multi-tasking, which by the way, is a great strategy since research shows we lose 40% productivity the minute we try and accomplish two activities at once.
But the scheduling solution won’t entirely ease your stress levels. The root issue is likely related to a lack of priorities. After all, what is mort important? Your calendar? Or your priorities?
During a recent workshop I was leading, like many before them, I asked participants how they prioritize the important parts of their life. After the customary blank stares or nervous laughter, one of the participants said they schedule it on their calendar. Perfect! Step 1 of the trap was set 🙂
I then proceeded to ask this person to play along and read, out-loud, the last week of scheduled activities from their calendar. They included:
- Roughly 21 meetings
- Daily lunch breaks
- A few social activities
- Their kid’s after-school activities and games
When I asked how many of those scheduled activities were a stated priority, like most participants and perhaps readers of this article, this person struggled to answer. They were all, sort of, a priority.
Or maybe – just maybe – the problem was……
None of them were a priority.
We can’t have 21 priorities. Our brains don’t have the capacity for it! Research has shown the brain does a funny thing when presented with so many options (or in this case, priorities). Instead of making a decision, our brains shut down and do nothing. That’s right. Nothing. It’s called the Poverty of Choice. When presented with multiple options, our brain can’t decide between all the options and alternatives and chooses to do nothing. Doing nothing becomes an easier decision.
Unfortunately, that’s what is happening when we over-schedule. It feels like we’re accomplishing a lot, but we naturally end up giving time and “priority” to increasingly lesser valuable activities. We literally start scheduling lunch 😉
Now before some of you start freaking out and say, “Matt, I have to schedule my calendar because……” Stop. I’m not saying eliminate all appointments on your calendar and let the wind decide what you do today.
I’m saying schedule your priorities first. Or – if you can’t verbally articulate them – back up and figure out what your priorities actually are. These will likely be 2-5 stated and consistent priorities in your work and/or personal life. These are the activities which deserve to be scheduled first and with the most importance on your calendar. Mark them in red if you have to because these meetings or appointments don’t get moved because someone needs 15 minutes of your time.
Then, be flexible with any other scheduled activity. These are the ones you can cancel, move or adjust throughout the day. Life will happen or someone else will pull on your time unexpectedly and you’ll need the flexibility, but without sacrificing the most important parts of your life or goals.
So there you have it! Stop feeling overscheduled by intentionally scheduling your priorities. The rest will fall in place and you’ll feel more accomplished than mindlessly checking less valuable appointments off your calendar. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I scheduled lunch today because I have a stated goal of eating more sandwiches this year and I don’t want to get behind my goal.