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How to fix your fragmented schedule

Hi! I’m working on something this month that I’m super excited about: On December 27, I'll hold the v

Work in Progress

December 9 · Issue #12 · View online
The newsletter about work

I’m working on something this month that I’m super excited about: On December 27, I’ll hold the very first edition of my jaarplandag. Literally, this means YearPlanDay, and everyone there will be working on their own plan for 2020, using the framework from my book as a starting point. The tickets sold out in just two days. Exciting!
Taking a day this month to look back on your year and make plans for the year ahead is something I can recommend for everyone. Now’s the ideal moment to set aside that time, and next week I’ll be sharing a brief version of my format with you in this newsletter.
Now on to making room in your calendar…

I was going over my calendar for this week and I realized: my time is way too fragmented. Each day I’ve got a couple of appointments and phone calls scheduled. Often right smack in the middle of the morning or mid-afternoon. On days like that, I know I’ll get little else done.
But you don’t have to just accept this kind of workweek. Instead of getting to the end of the week and thinking “I got almost nothing done!”, you can do something about it today. Here are four questions that can help:
What can you get out of?
Start by taking a critical look at your calendar. Which appointments can you cancel? What commitments don’t directly serve your priorities? Sounds self-centered, doesn’t it. And that’s precisely the point. We’re often generous with our time to begin with. But I believe it works better for you and the place you work if you’re a little stingier. Don’t be afraid to guard your calendar and claim your time as your own.
Cancelling at short notice, of course, is not all that classy. Some appointments are scheduled weeks or even months ahead of time. But more often than not, turns out it’s not really a huge problem, we’ve just got it in our heads that an appointment can’t possibly be nixed.
See if you can contribute without being present at a meeting. And if you choose to cancel, you can say: “I’m looking at my schedule this week and I’m in a bit of a bind. I have to cancel the meeting we planned for Thursday. Sorry!” 
What can you postpone?
If cancelling isn’t an option, then postponing is a good alternative. Can you reschedule the appointment for another week? Then you clear some space this week. See if that works.
If not, then try to rearrange as much time as possible for yourself in blocks with no appointments. One meeting in the morning and one in the afternoon breaks up your whole day, but if you can move them both to after lunch, you have the morning to yourself.
Perhaps you can attend remotely, or change the location so you don’t have to travel across town (or navigate from one corner of a big office complex to the other). And see if you can shorten your meeting blocks. It’s an easy way to keep reclaiming valuable time – well into the future.
Do you have a clear sense of your priorities?
Regardless of whether you manage to bring some order to your fragmented week, just knowing what’s important makes a world of difference. What are the things – no more than 5 – that have to happen this week? What will move you forward?
Fragmentation isn’t only a calendar thing, it also arises when you have too many loose ends to take care of. That’s often the result of focusing our time and attention on all kinds of things that aren’t in our priority Top Ten.
Are your priorities on your calendar?
Here comes the practice I swear by: Your priorities should be visible in your calendar. That’s it.
When “Organize the YearPlanDay” is clearly at the top of my priority list, and my calendar is full of other things, that’s hard to ignore. Otherwise, it’s easy to work on everything except what’s actually most important.  
Also: I can predict whether or not my day will be productive just by looking at what I’ve called the blocks in my calendar. A block called “YearPlanDay” will leave me swimming, while “Arrange catering for the YearPlanDay” means I’ll know exactly what to tackle first.
Something that works well for me is to make sure the next step for each priority on my list is clearly defined. Then all I have to do is get started
Claiming your time can feel a little uneasy at first. But press on. When it comes to getting more out of this week, this may well be what has the most impact. 

Good luck and have a brilliant week!

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