1 Rule for the Most Productive Calendar Ever

I have a new rule for time management in 2016, and it’s a rule I plan to follow for the foreseeable future (or maybe even forever). This new scheduling rule is not a resolution or even a goal. Instead, it’s a guideline I can follow to align my schedule with my true self. It’s not about doing more, but about living more. It’s the best solution I’ve found for living a fulfilling and good enough life – and it’s very simple.

The only question I will consider when adding something to my calendar is this: “Will this help me become the person I want to be?”

If the answer is yes, then I will add the event or activity to my schedule. If the answer is no, then I won’t.

The rule is simple. What is a bit more complicated is the part about what kind of person I want to be. Who, exactly, do I want to be? There are two categories here – 1) the roles that I play, and 2) the character traits I wish to radiate. This is extremely personal and different for everyone, and it’s dynamic and ever-changing over time. Today, in the role-playing category, I know that I want to be a writer, an involved (not obsessive) mother, a loving wife, and a supportive friend. In the character category, I know I want to be healthy, content, patient, kind, loving, compassionate, and present. Oh, and happy! I also want to be happy. Starting today, I will not commit to anything that doesn’t support these goals.

This is a big change for me, as a person who likes to make To Do lists every day and then spends time at the end of each day checking things off, and then actually writing in the other things that popped up unexpectedly so I can also check those things off. So why am I characterizing this as a way to be more productive, if I don’t plan on focusing on doing anything in particular? In only committing my time to things that allow me to be the person I want to be, I’ll be concentrating my efforts on things that matter, not frivolous activities that do little but spin my wheels. I’ll be working toward something – toward the person I want to be – rather than checking things off a To Do list. That is true productivity.

I adapted this philosophy from the wise advice in Bill Hybels’ book, “Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.”  In his chapter on time management, Hybels recommends that everyone ensure their calendars make time for the things that matter and impact the person they wish to become rather than just ticking things off a To Do list. In particular, he recommends writing specific things on a calendar to help commit to doing them – such as writing “Home” down for a weeknight to commit to family time, or signing up for a course in aviation if one has always dreamed of being a pilot. With this in mind, it would make perfect sense to pencil in a weekly date night and write it on the calendar if my marriage is important to me, and schedule time for meditation every evening at a particular time if I actually want to meditate.  It may feel unromantic or even a bit rigid to schedule family time or date nights, but they are much more likely to happen if they are on the calendar.

Scheduling my time according to the person I want to be doesn’t mean I don’t have to do boring or mundane stuff. I want to be a clean person, so I have to schedule in time for laundry. I want to be a healthy person, so grocery shopping stays in. I don’t have to spend my entire day cleaning or shopping, though. I want to be an involved and present mother, so it makes more sense for me to commit to an afternoon of playing trains with The Professor and Huck Finn rather than sorting Legos into coordinating bins (also important, perhaps, but not necessarily efficient or productive in the grand scheme of things).

The timing for adopting this new rule couldn’t be better, considering a new year starts tomorrow night at midnight. Almost everyone I know is setting resolutions or goals for 2016. I don’t really do resolutions anymore. Traditional resolutions have a tendency to fall through the cracks – grandiose ideas that resemble the fireworks sparkling in the sky at midnight on New Year’s Eve. They are brilliant and sparkly and magnificent, and they dissolve into nothingness shortly after their ascent into the sky. I want to commit to something that I can truly follow through on and which will truly impact my life in a positive and permanent way.

In my quest to accept myself as good enough, gaining control over my calendar and scheduling activities that support the person I want to become just makes sense. I don’t want to settle for being a victim of time commitments that other people or institutions throw at me. In 2016, I will control my calendar, not the other way around – and my calendar will help me become exactly who I truly wish to be.

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