Back to schedule, not back-to-back schedule


I’ve long joked that I have two settings: “full-bore” and “off.” Modulation and moderation, while lovely concepts, have always existed just outside of my grasp.

Okay, that’s crap. They’ve existed as concepts, period.

My own journals only reach as far back as freshman year of college, the ones extant, anyway, but still, you can map the signs of today’s all-or-nothing Colleen. The endless, earnest lists filled with things to purchase, in order to fulfill some very specific and lofty role I’d conceived for myself. The Big Plans and Serious Resolve which make their semi-annual appearance at the end of an old calendar year and the beginning of a new academic one. And then, of course, reboot after reboot mid-term, when something inevitably went awry.

I’ve learned my lesson about such foolishness as saying “never again!”, at least, I think I have. (See how I dodged that one? Progress!) I’ve definitely learned it in the area of relationships, where I was once foolish enough not only to literally utter the phrase “Well, I’m done!”, but to do it out loud, in front of a witness. Who, as I recall, actually took a step back from me.

I’ve also learned a fair number of tips and tricks about making work work. Accountability is a huge help, but the source must be frequently refreshed, because my modus operandi, honed by years of service as the child of parents with high expectations, is to choose stern taskmasters, then win them over with circus tricks and the old soft shoe. Doing the hardest (or most important) work in the hours I’m freshest is another big one, as is providing myself with the right space (quiet, usually, and fairly neat, and often private). And giving myself some time and room to putter, since puttering seems to release some sort of magical creative chemical in my brain.

What I’ve finally accepted that I suck at is figuring, as in “figuring out what I’ll want to do outside of the moment of commitment” and “figuring how much time it will take to do whatever I’ve committed to.” I’m coming around to the idea that contractor-type calculations, figure it out, add 30% of the cost and double (at least) the time, may not be conservative enough. Time after time, I’ve found myself back in the rather uncomfortable position I’m in currently: owing a lot of people I really like a lot of stuff that seemed like something I’d not only love doing, but have all the time in the world to devote to.

To steal and pervert a line of Will Rogers’, hoard time: you ain’t gettin’ any more of the stuff.

At my most calmly productive, I was mapping out a daily schedule for myself down to the fifteen-minute segment, a trick I picked up from my friend, Mark, one of the more successful and productive and still not insufferable people I know. I didn’t have to think about what I had to do next: I just looked down at my calendar and it told me. It kind of sucked, but it kind of rocked, too. The rocking part was obvious: holy CATS, did I get stuff done! And did I feel good at the end of the day for doing it! The sucking part seems obvious, lots of me rebelling in you are not the boss of me fashion, but I’m not sure I really got at the root of it. Maybe it wasn’t me wanting to fly free; maybe it was me being afraid of what would happen if I actually succeeded. You know, that whole Marianne-Williamson-by-way-of-Nelson-Mandela thing (or was it the other way around?).

In the spirit of scientific experimentation, I’m giving it another whirl, 2.o-style (i.e. with free online tools, not ugly, expensive Covey paper products). I spent the better part of 90 minutes of Sunday afternoon mapping out this week, slotting in the hard appointments and then the Quadrant 2 stuff and then all the rest, until I was looking at a screen which more closely resembled a really, really badly fragmented hard drive than a modest solopreneur’s Google calendar. I also had the closest thing I’ve felt to an anxiety attack just afterward, but that might just as well be a function of too little sleep filled with too-weird dreams fueled by a late-night screening of one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen.

All I can say is that we shall see. And by “we,” I mean me and anyone reading along here. Or here, or here. I’m covering my bases on this, since all y’all join me at different nodes.

I make fairly few requests here (at least, I hope I do, as a staunch proponent of the 95/5 rule, my, such a lot of rules in a personal blog post!), but I will make one now: what do you do, or have you done, to keep yourself honest? I realize the answer will be different for every human on the planet, and that you may look at this whole post uncomprehendingly (and boy, do I envy you right now if you do). I think, though, that if you’re reading this, chances are good that not only have you been down this particular stretch of road, but that you have stories to share, and stories of a personal nature are my favorite way of taking in new information.

Either way, I trust you will wish me luck, as I do you with your endeavors.

Oh, what a week we’ll have…


Image by psd via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. The trick as I see it, and I have tried what you are attempting, is keeping your commitments with yourself as rigorously as you keep a written contract with others.

    Wishing you all the best on your challenge.

  2. I started the same thing two weeks ago (google cal and all). The first two days were great – as you put it: “holy CATS, did I get stuff done!”
    The third and fourth day I was so exhausted, I skipped half of my self-commitments (and was too tired to beat me up about it).
    Last week I planned more extra time for revocery and an extra hour a day for (external) emergency requests and it went far better.
    Allow yourself to get used to this kind of time management (I do 30-90 minutes segments, and one 60 mins segment where I squeeze in all the small tasks that take less than 15 mins).
    Good luck to you, and don’t give up if the system is getting too hard for a day or two. Rearrange and start again ;-)

  3. I started home schooling my son in December of 07. We then moved to Brasil in June of ’08. The biggest challenge for me is to NOT over schedule us. Like OTTLA above, I would get tons of stuff done the first 2 or 3 days, but by Thursday and Friday, I was just a burned out mess. I’ve had to learn to take a step back, stop thinking I have to do something every hour of the day and remember that play is just as important as work when it comes to mental health. I also walk for an hour everyday, just to get a break and think about things, or better, not think about anything at all. Nobody has ever pulled me aside and told me to take a break. I am solely responsible for keeping myself sane.
    I hope this helps.

  4. Just got back from my walk and I have to say I feel like a complete heel after re-reading my comment. Sorry, I sounded like a know-it-all .
    Anyway, what I meant to say was that it sounds like you have more to do than you “think” you can handle. Perhaps the issue has more to do with faith in yourself, than with the actual tasks at hand. You’ve quite simply forgotten how FREAKING AWESOME you are and need a little reminder!!!! Okay, here goes!! YOU ROCK! YOU HAVE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE INSPIRED BY YOU EVERYDAY! YOU HAVE THOUSANDS OF FANS WHO READ YOUR STUFF AND WANT TO BE LIKE YOU! YOU ARE GIFTED BEYOND WORDS!!!!
    There now, that was more along the lines of what I meant. And I really did mean it.

  5. Good luck!! Cannot wait to hear how it turns out. When I have tried this, I find my self rebelling madly….against myself. Comforting to hear I’m not the only one.

    Next time I have the energy (I am sick and in breakup mode), I think my scheduling experiment will be the “do the MOST important thing first thing” tactic. I’ve had sporadic success with that, as a morning person.

  6. Luck is for wimps! Don’t map out anything, fly by the seat of your pants and enjoy the ride! How bout we keep you honest, deal?

    BTW…Good luck! ;)

  7. I come to you via your friend Carolyn B. at Doing Work You Love. I have no recommendations as I always over schedule, over commit and procrastinate. I have come to realize that this IS my system. I do have a color-coded calendar ( on my refrigerator and I have adopted the policy of doing the worst job first.

    I also admit that I still work like a college student, pushing myself past my limit late at night until I get a second wind. That’s when my creativity flows, but I’m paying the price more and more often during the day. Good luck to you. I have failed PalmPilot101 and Google Calendar several times. I hate devoting all that time to organizing the work.

  8. “I have come to realize that this IS my system.”

    I think this is C’s system too! The over-booking, taking on too much, promising too much, pretty much spreading herself thin. It drives her to be who she is and won’t stop. That’s why we’re all here (& there), we love what she does. And so does she or she would have been long gone!!


  9. Susan – First of all, how much do I LOVE that you have a blog called “There are two kinds of people”? A lot. I’ve made so many “TKOP” jokes in my day, and that’s just a genius way of organizing your thoughts into a blog. Kudos to you, and to everyone else, GET OVER THERE NOW.

    Who Said That (and I think I know, even if no one else does!) – Busted! I love to work, until I don’t. I pulled another long one today, and what do I want to do? Come here and reply to comments! Check and reply to email! Knock a few more “to-do”s off of my list!

    Ultimately, I think the best solution for me is ONE BIG PROJECT—a book, a play, a what-have-you—with an understanding and competent editor/trix-wrangler, and copious free time to meander. Until then…well, plenty of antics for this space, right?

  10. ‘Kay. You are not allowed to make fun of me.

    It comes from Tony Robbins. (I said NO with the making fun of, … OK?) It helps. I do not pretend to understand the world in which the shiny-toothed one is this powerful but … there it is and here it is:

    You must get excellent reasons for whatever it is that you have elevated to the top spot.

    It must be something that carries with it a whole list of “I HAVE GOT TO DO THIS” reasons. They must sing to your soul in a way. Know your reasons and the task-doing will fall into place. The systems and the papers and the online tools and all are great. But they will not work if you don’t know your most excellent reasons why you MUST do this thing — this one awesome thing.

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