I tell my clients that the tools of time management have not changed in thousands of years. The first and most important of these tools is a calendar. Whoop Dee Doo. A calendar. Is that the best you’ve got, Dr. Melissa?
Maybe, but stick with me. It’s going to get more interesting.
In early societies, documenting the passage of time was a task reserved for the best and brightest scholars. In the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, there is a domed building with windows precisely located to show the moon during designated times of the year. Mayan warriors planned their raids and battles based on the calendar created by the early astronomers in their culture.
Telling time is cool. Documenting dates has a mystic and fascinating history. Hello…Stonehenge anyone?
And now, we take calendars for granted. Calendars are just a piece of most email management programs – like a free car wash with fill up. We put our appointments on them and go about our lives.
But what if your calendar could be more? What if your calendar was the shield with which you defended your balanced life?
Let me tell you a couple of stories.
The Un-Calendared Artist
In 2014, I worked with a successful artist. Trey loved what he did, but not as much as he loved his wife and two boys. Being the creative he was, however, he had never in his life used a calendar.
Trey’s life changed when his wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Suddenly, he was facing the possibility of being a single dad. His wife had always been the one to keep the family on track and made sure that everybody got where they needed to be.
So there was Trey, feeling like his creativity would be squashed by a calendar, sitting face-to-face with a productivity expert telling him that he would not be able to successfully manage his life without one.
But then something interesting happened. Trey entered the boys’ soccer games on his Google calendar. Then, he entered his wife’s medical appointments. Then, he entered an appointment with a realtor. Then, Trey turned and looked at me with tears in his eyes.
“This is the most liberating thing I’ve ever done.”
For the first time in his life, Trey learned that a calendar is more than a collection of appointments. It showed him what was important in his life. It allowed him to remember things without having to ask his sick wife what came next. In the midst of the pain and stress of his wife’s illness (she recovered by the way), his creativity was enhanced. That simple Google calendar allowed Trey to be the man he wanted to be.
The Young and Arrogant Business Executive
She was 29 years old at the time and on an airplane for Kansas City to coach two executives in her company. She felt pretty important on this business trip and confident about the mission she was given. Melissa (cough, cough, sputter, cough) was reading a book by Stephen Covey as the plane took off.
Yes, this is my sorry story.
So, I’m reading and come across a passage where Covey asserts that our calendar is an outward manifestation of the things we value at the core of our being. I thought about my infant daughter and loving husband as I opened up my trusty Franklin Planner to take a look. I wanted to see what my calendar said about me.
The realization was a slap in the face.
If I were an FBI profiler looking at this calendar, I would have concluded that the woman who owned it was a single workaholic with no kids. The people I loved the most were not represented in how I was allocating my time. It was a brutal realization but an important lesson that I carry with me today.
A Call to Arms
You have a very powerful tool at your disposal. It is a bazooka that you may have mistaken for a fly swatter. I’ll say it again…
Your calendar is the shield with which you defend your balanced life.
Look at your calendar with the eyes of a stranger. What would you conclude about that person?
Think about what the phrase “balanced life” means to you. Does your calendar reflect that?
Recall your New Year’s Resolutions and/or other goals you have set. Can you tell what they are by looking at how you are allocating your waking hours?
Ancient Mayans lived and died by their calendar. While you don’t need to follow their example on everything (human sacrifice anyone?), do think about what your calendar means for your life.
Your calendar can be used to:
- Set boundaries
- Honor priorities
- Acknowledge reality
- Prevent procrastination
- Enable focus
- …and much more
How those things are done vary by person. But if there is a gap between the life you have now and the life you want, the answer may be found in how you are allocating your most precious, non-renewable, and limited resource…
How else are you going to manage that?
This post originally appeared on the Redbooth blog.
Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at [email protected] or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.