The next crucial step to executing “what matters the most” is protecting the most valuable activities on your calendar.
Good intentions and thinking through potential challenges and outcomes are just what gets you to the starting gate. Execution and the capacity to win the race happen with consistency and excellence, when core behaviors are scheduled and implemented through skillful prioritization and calendar management.
Peruse the past few weeks of entries within your electronic or paper calendar; hopefully you use one or the other and not both! How did you spend your time? Did you spend it as you’d carefully planned out? Are the behaviors or activities that you want to do on a continuous basis appearing on your calendar on a continuous basis?
It’s possible that some of the goals you’ve drafted out for your most important roles are not showing up on your calendar in the form of specific activities. Or, as is often the case, they’re on your calendar but some other pressing need knocks them off your radar and you don’t get them done all the time.
If the former situation is your challenge, then devote a few hours to mapping out every activity, small and large, onto your calendar that will help you to find success in your identified roles. If the latter scenario is your problem, then spend time identifying and examining which types of competing priorities typically usurp your most important calendar items. What alternatives do you have for dealing with these unplanned priorities? How can you embrace the agility to shift your most important activities to other places on your calendar, to ensure that they still get done?
I use Outlook exclusively for all of my calendar planning, and I have a lot of recurring items that span the expanse of both my personal and professional roles, goals, and related activities. I even schedule time to meditate and time to read, because I’ve noticed that these “non-essential” activities often get pushed aside.
Each day, I move at least a couple of these important items to different spots on the calendar, in order to deal with competing priorities I wasn’t expecting. I’ve also started to build in “buffer” time slots specifically designated for accomplishing the unexpected. In other words, my calendar is very structured but it’s not rigid. I’ve learned how to plan for and execute the things that matter the most to me, while being agile enough to flex as needed in order to accommodate other needs that arise.
By no means have I perfected my execution. I’m constantly tinkering with my planning systems to make them more efficient and yield higher results. In general, the practices I’ve described in this blog have helped me a lot, and I know they’re also embraced by the most productive people I know.
We’re all busy, and all of our calendars are packed with items. The key question to consider: Are we busy doing what matters the most?