Why Calendars are More Effective Than To-do Lists

Srinivas Rao
Jun 11, 2016 · 4 min read
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If there’s one pattern I’ve come across in dozens of articles, books I’ve read, and the 100’s of people that I’ve interviewed, it’s that the most prolific, productive and successful ones don’t depend on to-do lists, they depend on a calendar. It’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again in my own work. The likelihood of me getting anything done goes up significantly when I put something on the calendar.

Our lives are dictated almost entirely by units of time:

  • Publishers give authors deadlines
  • Professors give students a syllabus with important dates
  • Google maps gives you an estimated time for how long it will take to get to your destination
  • When you get your car repaired, they tell you what time it will be ready.
  • When you ship something you are told how long it will take to get to the recipient

Given the role that time plays in our lives, it would make sense to focus on managing our time instead of our tasks. Using a calendar effectively can help you tap into the power of one focused hour a day.

Changing Your Behavior with a Calendar

Imagine if you have a calendar. And imagine that you say that are some things that get represented on this calendar and some things that don’t. On a regular calendar things that get represented are meetings with other people. The things that don’t get represented are things that will take 30 or 100 hours. Exercising or meditation. The things that don’t get represented are calling your mother. So what happens is that the moment you have a way to represent things easily like meetings and you don’t have a good way to represent something like writing a book or meditating, or exercising and so on, the things that are represented will be carried out and the things that are not represented will not get carried out. And as a consequence, your life will be filled with things that might not fit with your agenda. So the real question is how do we get the representation of our lives to fit our real objectives?

I actually downloaded the calendar app in an effort to do some research for this article and I can cite the following behavior changes:

  • I’ve always been a voracious reader but putting it on the calendar for 30 minutes each day has made me much more consistent.
  • There are interview series and personal development programs that I wanted to go through. Now that I’ve put them on my calendar I haven’t missed any of the days.

Just the act of putting these things on the calendar for some reason seems to significantly increase the likelihood that I actually do them.

Using a Calendar for Tasks and Reminders

Reminders, on the other hand, are great for things like paying bills, sending follow up emails and other low-value tasks. The great thing about reminders is that they keep popping up until you’ve actually crossed them off.

Using a Calendar for Goals

Calendars should help you make the most of your time — not just be tools to track events. So as Google Calendar turns 10 today (), we’re excited to invest in more updates like Goals, and to help you find time for everything that matters — from your daily must-dos, to exercising more, to just a little “me time.”

Scheduling Meetings More Efficiently

Since I’m asking somebody for their time, it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that they should work around my schedule. This is why I always say “if none of the times work, no worries. I can work around your schedule.” This way you’re considerate of their time and you still have the possibility of not having a million emails back and forth. With rare exception, people happily pick a time on my calendar and it doesn’t take 20 emails to schedule a meeting.

Millionaires don’t use to do lists. If something truly matters to you, put it on your calendar. You’ll be amazed at how much the likelihood of getting it done increases.

I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here.

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Srinivas Rao

Written by

Order An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake:https://amzn.to/2LVjgQa Listen to the @UnmistakableCR podcast in iTunes http://apple.co/1GfkvkP

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

Srinivas Rao

Written by

Order An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake:https://amzn.to/2LVjgQa Listen to the @UnmistakableCR podcast in iTunes http://apple.co/1GfkvkP

Mission.org

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple. Mission.org

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