The Comprehensive Calendar: how 72 hours of focus is saving us thousands of hours of wasted time this year
Howdy! This is a write-up about our Comprehensive Calendar Immersion program. Read below to get the skinny on how we discovered our methodology, and click here if you’d like to download our deck with more information about it.
Effective executives do not start out with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes.
Like many organizations, Blue Sky Partners capped 2017 by doing some reflection. We counted our wins, analyzing missed opportunities, and tried to figure out how we could be just a bit better in 2018.
As part of that reflection, we took Peter Drucker’s advice and did a thorough audit of our time as individuals, and as a company.
What we found was pretty staggering: a large portion of our time was going to things that don’t move the ball forward on our long-, or even medium-term goals. Beyond that, there was a pretty sizable misalignment between the values we said were important to us as individuals and a company, and the things we were actually spending our time doing.
Apparently this isn’t just an us problem, either. This is a we problem. According to a study done by Atlassian, we spend 60% or less of our “work” time actually working, with most of our time spent responding to an overflowing inbox (36 times every hour), sitting in unnecessary meetings (31 hours of unproductive meetings every month), and getting tapped on the shoulder for no clear reason whatsoever (an average of 56 interruptions per employee, per day).
Goodness, that’s depressing.
The question is, how does one actually deal with distractions like that? Communicating well is good business—and it may very well be a large part of your job description—and how else are you supposed to do that outside of email, meetings, and the random tap on the shoulder?
After debating it for a bit, we came to the conclusion that we weren’t ever going to be able to get rid of those distractions, but we could quarantine them, depending on what our goals and job responsibilities actually were. We didn’t have to be compulsively checking our email, taking meetings, or making ourselves available to be sidelined by the funniest YouTube video so-and-so found that day.
With all of this in mind, we bought a ton of Post-It Notes, found some blank walls, and started brainstorming exercises that might help us get more clarity around our personal and organizational values and goals, and then operationalize those values by time-blocking the year by quarter, month, week, and day based on a bunch of different factors.
What we ended up with was a process that took us three days to get through, and it looked something like this IRL:
We spent 72 hours mapping out a whole host of things. From our personal values and goals, to commitments, job descriptions, and habits, the people and companies in our networks and the opportunities all of those things—when looked at comprehensively—presented to us.
Once that was all out in the open, we did some measurement exercises to quantify whether or not we wanted our time to go to certain things, and prioritized the right things, based not only on what we had to get done every day, week, or month, but in light of our five-year goals. (That meant making sure we had designated time where it was ok if we were interrupted, or spending time on email, etc—but only in between us doing the real, important work.)
After we had finished preprioritizing our lives, we went to work time-blocking 2018, starting with things that needed to be done yearly, then quarterly, weekly, and monthly. This included personal goals, as well as professional ones, insuring that we were spending our time in exactly the ways we wanted to be. The end result looked something like this.
In short, in just 72 hours we saved ourselves thousands of hours of wasted time in the future.
Not simply by removing the clutter, but by reducing uncertainty. We were no longer fuzzy about what our values or goals were, and therefore were no longer in a position where we had to sit back and wonder if the opportunities, relationships, or commitments in front of us fit into that picture. So not only did we give ourselves a kind of permission structure to say no to a lot of things we would’ve otherwise felt bad to say no to, we also gave ourselves permission to say yes to things that may have felt “selfish” previously, when we lacked that clarity.
We call this program the Comprehensive Calendar Immersion, and we’ve been doing it with local leaders around Austin over the last few months. So far, the feedback has been super positive, as entrepreneurs, executives, and managers seem to have so much more clarity and purpose represented in their schedules—not to mention a system for managing and aligning or rejecting opportunities that come their way based on what’s most important to them.
One client of ours, Servable, had this to say after we went through the program with their leadership team:
We always knew the work we did together, as a team, was most impactful to our business. But with so many balls in the air, we struggled to push our ‘Big Rocks’ across the finish line way too often. After going through BSP’s Comprehensive Calendar with Nate and Tim, in two short days, we were able to cut through the clutter and identify where we should be spending our time as individuals and as an organization. We’re really excited to continue implementing the calendaring system they introduced — specifically as it relates to making time to prioritize our most important, shared projects, and make sure they’re on our schedule well ahead of time.
At Blue Sky Partners our mission is to help put systems in place so companies can scale and make a more lasting impact on what’s most important to them. The Comprehensive Calendar Immersion represents where we think true clarity starts for most organizations: with the individual.
If you’re clear on who you are, why you do what you do, what you want to see in the world, and how you should spend your time to accomplish those goals, you’re going to be a lot more effective in doing so—and those around you will notice the difference.
Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to sign up, or visit ComprehensiveCalendar.com to download our deck and get more detailed information about the program.