Who is not in pursuit of a productivity hack? It’s hard to immunize yourself from the illusion of self-improvement in this glorious era of Be a Better You, and so long as you’re not running the expectations you have for yourself into the ground, that’s probably okay. Set reasonable goals! Make them small! You’ve heard this before. You know it like I know the “What’s New” tab on Net-a-Porter. But in my experience, coming up with a concept for a goal (get better at time management, for example) is much easier than actually figuring out how I will see it through. It takes a process-oriented thinker to figure out execution and that is not my strong suit. Give me a blank piece of paper and I will dream! Ask me to road map those dreams and I might tell you I wasn’t dreaming — just trying to fall asleep.
But I do get about one good operations idea a year, and it is either a true gift or devastating that I’ve already used up 2019’s on this new thing I just started doing wherein I use my Google calendar as a to-do list. Yes it is cliché that the timing of this idea perfectly aligns with the universally acknowledged banner month for self-improvement, but I take what I can get. And will take the cliche a step further because the idea came to me on January 1st, when my calendrical woes reached a fever pitch while I was trying and failing to schedule a lunch date because even though there were a handful of purportedly empty blocks spaced out across my calendar, they were actually being used as invisible markers of time to accomplish all the tasks I let languish in my Notes. If only, I wished, these notes were synced with my calendar — and eureka! It occurred to me that I don’t have to wish, I could simply ordain myself and then marry the to-dos to the calendar.
Is this what growing up feels like? Reaching reasonable conclusions on how to optimize your time? Developing process oriented strategy based on an order of consequences? Best yet: Being okay with a calendar that is packed because you know that everything you can predict you will need to do that day is accounted for?
If you find yourself in a deadlock where the thought of time gives you the bad kind of butterflies and you know there has to be a better way to manage it but you just can’t figure out what the hell that way is, I invite you to browse the below hot tips (I mean: hOt TiP~z~), meant to be layered into your calendar, in order:
1. Apply placeholders where you can anticipate them.
I know I like to eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., for example, and that my kids are awake from 5 to 7 p.m., so by blocking off those two hours every day and re-allocating the time lost at work to another couple of hours, I get to feel like I am having my cake, I mean dinner, and eating it too. I know I like yoga. I set aside a physical health block for two mornings a week, too. I know I like an afternoon delight for no reason other than my being a slight hedonist so on Wednesdays this month, from 2-2:45 p.m., I am going for hot cocoa and reading two chapters of a book. (I resolve, this year, to read at least one book every two months.)
2. Spend the last weekend of the month planning for the next month.
They say spontaneity is key — that it is the province of youth, the essence of pleasure! They also say that spontaneity has its time and place. That time and place, I am positive, is not couched between your quest for better management and a true desire to get shit done. Something I did last week that relieved the hell out of most of the rest of the month: Scheduled time to write all my assigned stories for the next 30 days and reached out to four people I’d like to hang out with this month (also tied to a resolution I’ve made to see someone I like, who I don’t see regularly, 1x weekly) and set that up, too.
3. Sync your to-dos to the remaining time
Example: it’s Wednesday. I’ve blocked off time for yoga and to hang out with my kin. I scheduled a shoot to correlate with a story and to wireframe said story, and with the remaining 10 waking hours I know I have to: reply to three internal emails as they pertain to an all-hands meeting; order diapers and pancake mix and other baby shit; do some research on this “movement class” that my pediatrician recommended for Laura (my daughter) who is apparently unaware of her body in space; and I’d like to allocate some time to finding freelance writers on Twitter (always looking — hit me up if you like words!). Mind you that from 2-2:45, I will be drinking hot chocolate and reading, so (!) instead of letting the current empty space on my calendar remain empty, I’ve assigned periods ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours for the tasks not yet accounted for. I’m also plugging them into my calendar in an order that does not demand consecutive mental lifts because I am a snowflake and you know what happens to snowflakes under fire!
I might even have time to hit up Trader Joe’s to settle a dispute on a faulty pack of misleading beet chips and perhaps stop at Miu Miu on my way home to try on this blouse in order to reconcile whether trying it on is all I need to do to feel like it’s mine.
So that’s it. Me and my calendar are friends, no longer foes. Are you doing any cool new things to make your life more manageable? Tell me. I want 2 copy u.
Collage by Madeline Montoya.