I want to share with you one of the ways that I’m able to get so much done. A lot of people ask me, “How in the world do you do it all? You are a business owner. You are a mom of seven kids that are all still living at home. You are a pastor’s wife. You are a principal of a small Christian school. And, you go on speaking events. You travel with your husband and speak at ladies’ conferences. How in the world do you do it all?”
I’d like to share with you my number one tip for how I’m able to get so much done in a day — and it’s actually very simple: I live by my calendar.
I know you were hoping for something bigger and different. Maybe a big, red “easy” button that you could just push. But, I live by my calendar, literally live by my calendar.
I recently went back in my Google calendar and was reviewing how far back I started and I’ve been doing this since at least 2010. I found that, since 2010, I have consistently scheduled my time on my calendar in great detail, which is pretty cool, because now I can go back all the way to 2010 and know what I was doing on January 17 at 3 p.m., because it’s all right there on the Google calendar.
Here are a few tips on what “living by my calendar” actually looks like:
Number One: The first thing I do with my Google calendar is block off all my church and family events. This includes any time driving to and from a location and time to get ready. For example, every Wednesday night we have church at 7 p.m. My calendar is blocked off from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. to drive to the church. This also makes sure that I don’t have any meetings either, because it’s very difficult to have a meeting at 5 p.m. and then leave exactly at 6 p.m. Church is blocked off from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then, I also include time for the drive home from church.
In the mornings, I have blocked off every day Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. for the drive to school. And since for the last few years I’ve been the principal of our Christian school at our church, I have also blocked off time from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. to have a meeting with all the teachers. Then I teach English as a second language so I have blocked off from 8:15 a.m. till 9 a.m. every day. So, as you can see, all of these times are automatically locked up.
We drive home from school at 3:30 p.m. That means I have automatically blocked off from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. And then we have lunch really late here in Mexico. So I’ve blocked off from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for us to eat together and spend time together as a family.
While blocking off all of this time every single week might seem excessive, the problem is that if you don’t block these hours off, you might be tempted to think, “Oh, I can fit in this meeting. I can do this at exactly at 4 p.m.” But, then, you’re not going to be eating with your family.
And I actually have two calendars. One where all of my personal and church events are blocked out like I’ve mentioned above, and then one where I schedule all of the time that I’ve scheduled to work.
I like to schedule every single thing that I’m going to do. If I’m going to check my emails, if I’m going to shoot a video, if I’m going to write a blog post, if I’m going to map out a marketing strategy — every single thing is mapped out as to when I plan to work on those projects on the Google calendar.
One big problem I discovered when I started living by my calendar is that I wasn’t leaving any spots open for appointments. So, I created another calendar just for appointments. These two calendars are synced so that my activities can be overwritten by the appointment calendar.
So, number one, make sure you block off all of your time for your family events. So, for example, if you go to church for church events, consider the time it takes to drive to and from places. Get all that blocked off and then fit everything else in from there.
Number Two: Here you’re going to block off all new projects that come up during the week, scheduling exactly when you’re going to work on them.
Remember, several years ago I was extremely busy. I had a lot of phone calls. I was getting 20 or 30 leads every single week, and each of those resulted in a 30 to 45 minute consulting call. Plus, I had calls with clients. So, yes, I was very, very busy. If someone asked me to do something, I would always look on my calendar first. Sometimes I would have to say, “Well, I could do it in three months,” because there were literally no free spots on my calendar, and what they were asking me to do was a favor.
For me, it’s so much easier to understand what my days actually look like when I see everything visually scheduled on the calendar. If I don’t work on those things, they get moved to the next day. That is not good, however, because you don’t want to form a bad habit of moving things over and over and over and over. They never actually get done. You need to do what’s on the calendar. This is very important.
Number Three: It doesn’t make any sense for you to be scheduling everything in a calendar if you’re not going to be living by your calendar. Your calendar is basically a secretary that is right behind you saying, “Hey, this is what you have to do today. This is what you have to work on. This is your reminder.” Your calendar is what you need to be accountable to because, if you don’t live by your calendar, then you’re just creating it. And, sorry, but just creating the calendar doesn’t work. Actually doing the work is the only way to get it done.
So, block off your family time schedule and when you’re going to work on things. Then, follow your calendar. That is absolute. There is no magic bullet. There’s no secret. There’s no “easy” button to push. It is literally that simple.
What about when you don’t know how long a task is going to take? Usually, everything takes longer than expected. So, if I account for that, I will block off more time. If I think it’s going to take 30 minutes, I’m going to block off 60 to 90 minutes. As a result, I might have some padding, which gives me the freedom to move on to the next task or move other things around. And, of course, sometimes things take longer and you absolutely can’t push other things around on your schedule. This gets tricky because, if your days are scheduled like mine, you really can’t move unfinished things from one day to the next — there’s just no wiggle room. So, for example, I have to get this done in 30 minutes.
There is a principle that says the time it takes to get something done always expands to the amount of time you have. So, if you only have 60 minutes to study for a test, then you do what you can with that
60 minutes. But, if you have all day, then you’ll usually find a way to spend all day working on studying. Why? Because your work will always expand to whatever amount of time that you give yourself to do it.
Learn to schedule your time and say, “I only have an hour to work on this, so I need to get us as much as I can done in this block of time.” This forces you to become more productive. If you say, “Okay, I have all day to work on this,” you’ll never get it done. If you say, “I have 30 minutes to work on this, because after that, I have this. And after that, I have this,” then you’re mentally telling yourself that you don’t have a lot of time. And when you do, the pressure’s on to actually get it done in the time you have.
What happens when someone asks you, “Can you do this for me?” There’s a good chance that, because you’re a kind person who likes to help, you don’t want to say no. So, when someone says, “Take this and do this for me,” you’re like, “Yes, of course.” And you think, “I’ll get my stuff done later.” But, if you look at your calendar, you can see, “Well, if I don’t get these 18 things done, then I’m going to have to do them the next day. And there’s no free time the next day, because that day’s already scheduled. And this is Friday, and I have this other activity.”
So, when you’re saying, “Yes, I am going to do this for someone,” then you have to figure out what you’re going to say “no” to. You’re going to say no to the work that you already have scheduled for the day. You’re going to say no to something, and, unfortunately, usually it’s the family that you end up saying no to.
This is why it’s so important to follow these steps:
1. Block off your family time first.
2. Schedule when you’re going to be working on things.
3. Once something is on your calendar, live by your calendar.