The Best To-Do List Is Actually Your Calendar

Follow this secret advice to better manage your schedule and time.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #375

Only Limited Pro Bono Time

Forcing himself to identify time blocks to do stuff means that he limits how much work he does for free. He's happy to help out a friend or colleague pro bono (after all, Secret Agents have great instincts for tracking down criminals, kidnappers, and lost library books). But he only schedules two hours a week as his pro bono time block. If you ask him for help, he'll say "Sure!" and then he'll say, "My first free pro bono time slot is in February 2023." This lets him do volunteer work and work that's motivated by pure altruism and values, while insuring that it doesn't take over a disproportionate amount of his life.

Schedule Back-to-Back

Richard takes special care to schedule meetings back-to-back. At each meeting, his colleagues know he has a hard stop at the agreed-upon time. That forces them to use their time well. It also gives him an excuse to duck out when the meeting was scheduled to end. "I have a prior meeting which I must respect, even as I respected this one," he can always say. This means he can always be on time, too. When you're meeting a shadowy figure at 1:23 am in downtown London to exchange a mysterious briefcase for "the papers," only back-to-back meeting discipline can insure you'll make it on time.

If a meeting does run unavoidably long, Richard immediately reschedules the meeting that got delayed. This way there's no mysterious, unaccounted-for time-owed-to-someone-else hanging over his head.

To-Dos Are for Less Than 3 minutes

This seemed reasonable. Suspiciously reasonable. And then I spotted the flaw: did Mr. Whiting seriously expect me to believe he scheduled his time all the way down to returning a quick phone call, or dashing off a handwritten memo to Natasha, giving her the location of the sinister blueprints? Indeed, he did not. Tasks that would take less than 3 to 5 minutes, he adds to his To-Do list. Unlike my To-Do list, however, he keeps his short and immediately actionable. Then he schedules a block of time to work his way through it, confidently secure that he can zip through the whole list.

If you wanted to live life as cool as double-oh seven with a chilled martini (shaken, never stirred), use your calendar as your to-do list. You'll never overbook your self again, and we'll exhibit the kind of steely discipline that will make you a Secret Agent in no time. 

This is Stever Robbins. Follow Get-It-Done Guy on Twitter and Facebook.

I run webinars and other programs to help people be Extraordinarily Productive, and build extraordinary careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com

Work Less, Do More, and Have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

You May Also Like...