Where did time go? Swept away by all the rain, wind, hail? If you try to catch time, it slips through.
Some years ago I participated in a personal effectiveness program, rolled out throughout the company to comprehensively benefit everyone and set common standards. It is obviously handy if everyone is on the same page regarding the “rules of engagement”. For example if you put someone’s email address in the Cc: field, do not expect that person’s action. If you want someone to take action, use the To: field. It seems small and simple, doesn’t it? But often something that simple does not work effectively in practice and can thus cost a lot of time. How many emails do you get a day or a week? Exactly.
Still I use various elements from the program, which is a testament to its usefulness. One is blocking time in my calendar for tasks and activities besides the usual suspects in a schedule: appointments and engagements. Things easily slip through or get minimised because of pressing things that come up each day. Need to work on a proposal? Review documents? Explore a topic in preparation for a meeting? Develop a presentation? Conceptualize solutions? Placing these activities in your calendar and estimating their duration for a complete activity overview is liberating. The impact of new things coming up is instantly transparent and you can re-prioritize and plan accordingly.
A bit nerdy, my delight is colour coding the activity categories so in one snapshot I see what I am planning most of my time on. I can compare this time to what I actually want to spend it on and perhaps decide to rearrange the calendar before jumping into activities. Also reviewing my calendar in retrospect is useful. My time estimates are sometimes, often, optimistic so insight into real timings is valuable feedback. Besides, I likely spent time on things not previously placed in the calendar. One of the lessons for me is to allow slack time in the calendar for little tasks, for coffee, for a chat, etc. Importantly, create conditions for things to emerge as well. So the calendar is not fixed and rigid but a tool to create time and space.
In recent weeks I have written various posts in my head, partly, abandoned before getting on “paper”. How often does that happen to you that thoughts and ideas are there but do not materialise? Where did your time go? Time easily slips through. I open my iCal so I can catch my time, partly, with the things I placed there. And this post just emerged in the open space.