Part 2 of this series can be found here: Part 2: Tasks
We have goals and tasks. All that remains is to tie them together with a framework that we can hang our individual days on. That’s what we’re wrapping up with today.
Opening with a disclaimer: I didn’t invent this method. The inspiration for my own calendar came from a Lifehacker article about the Seinfeld technique. You can sum it up like this:
- Decide what it is that you want to be good at.
- Get a big calendar and a few thick sharpies.
- Every day that you work at that “thing,” take a marker and draw a fat “X” through that day.
After a while, you start to get a streak going . . . and you don’t want to break it.
I keep four colors on my calendar, one for each category of goal: money, writing, adventure, and health. Every day that I complete a task for one of the goals in these categories, I put a check on the calendar. Here’s what this month’s looks like:
I also gameify it a little more for myself by keeping track of “longest streak” and “7 in a row” counters for each category. Your mileage may vary.
This is the necessary missing piece between your goals, tasks, and your day-to-day life. It’s instant feedback on whether or not you’re heading in the right direction, and it’s a good way to see what major life changes do to the way you structure your days.
Why does this work? Our calendar takes the big strategic decision-making out of our day-to-day lives, which is something we need to do (just like Obama only owning suits that are black or blue–the less he has to think about what to wear, the more he can think about being the leader of the free world). The more we think about the strategic situation, the less we’re actually on the ground putting words on paper. So do your thinking, prepare your goals and tasks, then put it all away and let your calendar take care of it for you!
Speaking of major life changes . . .
More Free Time != More Productivity
Interestingly, since I started working full time in September, my ability to successfully put check marks on calendars has dramatically increased. Here’s a monthly calendar from when I was freelancing:
And here’s one after I started working a 40-hours-a-week desk job:
See the difference?
It’s a clear indication that having more “free time” doesn’t mean that you’ll be more productive. In my life, it’s exactly the opposite! That’s why it’s important to keep track of this stuff.
One Last Thing
I keep all of this stuff (Goals, Tasks, and my calendars) in a master notebook for each year. Then, at the end of the year, I conduct an annual review (thanks to Chris Guillebeau for the inspiration) in the back of the notebook and plan my next year.
Have any stories of success/failure in planning your own year? Leave them in the comments!