The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Is Calendar Based Productivity a Fad?

You may have heard these terms of late: zero based calendaring or time blocking. This latest trend is being touted by a lot of smart people (and I've shared a good number of links on the subject). What is it exactly?

It’s the practice of breaking the day into evenly spaced increments and then filling each and every one.

Why is this becoming such a repeated theme? Because as the Internet continues to expand and grow and absorb, one hard fact is becoming clear to the public conscience: time is our most precious resource. And zero based calendaring is one method that addresses this reality and attempts to help you make the most of the time you have.

Here are a few examples of people preaching this type of approach:

Now, not everyone will go so far as to schedule out every minute of every day. Other people have made the same realization about time, and have started to treat their calendars differently. But not to the point of planning each minute.

Instead, they are treating the calendar as a place to put the priorities of their life. The big tasks. The things that move their life forward in the direction they desire. Drew Coffman shares his take on this topic.

As with anything online, there are those who oppose the opinion being voiced. Ben Brooks is one such. He says:

Time boxing — setting aside chunks of your day for a specific category of work — is one thing, and while it doesn’t work for me, the purpose is noble. But planning each task on your calendar only works for the few people who have complete control over their schedules — otherwise life (kids, bosses, spouses, coworkers, pooping, etc.) gets in your way … I think this trend is stupid, and your time is far better spent learning how to stop procrastinating than it is planning out every waking minute of your day.

Ben’s point is understandable, but I think he slightly misunderstands the point. Plenty of people keep a running list of tasks (categorized and structured in various different ways) and accomplish much. But I believe the problem that has been defined and shared in different articles does require a solution.

The problem? Treating your task management system like a wish list without proper consideration of your most precious resource (time).

The approaches that people are sharing promote one key concept: use your calendar as a visual aid to remind yourself that the amount of time limits the amount of tasks that can be accomplished. In other words, to plan better. Your to-do list captures your desires, but the solution many are suggesting is to use your calendar to capture your realistic intentions.

The next level up would be what the folks behind the SELF Journal call zero based calendaring (aka time blocking). The idea here is to fill all your time with something, to be as intentional as possible. Including recreation, rest, and time to simply think.

Cal Newport practices this approach on the daily level and talks about it in Deep Work. Matt Perman recommends the same in What's Best Next, but on the weekly level instead of daily. That is the Shawn Blanc suggests in The Focus Course.

In the end, people work differently … so none of these ideas will please or suit everyone. But the vital concept to take away is to map that gigantic list of ideas and tasks to the reality of your life.

To be intentional with the time.

&