It doesn’t matter if you keep a paper to-do list or use an app of some kind, if you don’t have the time to do what’s on your list, it’s pretty pointless.
I’ve written before about needing to give yourself time to breathe throughout the day, as well as giving yourself regular time to create or do other deep work. I block time every week that’s in my calendar as “work time”. Sometimes when I create that block I already know what I’m going to work on, but often I don’t until a day or two before (that work time never starts without me being clear about what I’ll be working on). I book this work time at least a week ahead of time, but often two to three weeks ahead of time to make sure that my calendar doesn’t fill up with other things.
I also block time for doing a weekly review and time to write these posts or prep for a podcast.
I’ve recommended this technique to a few people who have expressed frustration at other people filling up their calendars with meetings, leaving them frustrated about the lack of time to get work done, or even take the time to breathe. I’ve been doing this for a while and it helps a lot in keeping my stress level down. Most of the time I treat that time as if it were a meeting that I need to be at and can’t be moved.
Late in Neil Pasricha’s book, You Are Awesome he talks about Untouchable Days. He wrote an article about it about two and a half years ago that is almost word for word what’s in that chapter of the book. According to Pasrichas, untouchable days are “days when I am literally 100% unreachable in any way… by anyone.”
He started off scheduling one per week, but he doesn’t plan them a few weeks ahead of time, but rather a few months. His untouchable days are when he does his deep work, including producing large chunks of writing (5,000 or so words).
Now Pasricha is self-employed, giving him more say over his days. I’m not sure how many of us can persuade our supervisors to allow us to be completely disconnected for a day during our work week, every week, but I can certainly be better about disconnecting during my blocks of work time, and perhaps I can make the case for an untouchable day once a month or so.
I started Better Me with the intention to write about my own experiences and share what’s worked and what hasn’t for me, BUT with a reminder that everybody is different and you have to find what works for you. You might be able to take untouchable days every week (Pasricha now takes two per week) or maybe just a couple of blocks of work time each week. Look at your calendar for the next six months and see what might work for you. The important thing is that you get intentional about what’s filling up your calendar and when you’re going to work on important things.