The Hyper-Scheduling Experiment

For the last month, I have been conducting an experiment with more deliberate scheduling of my time. For lack of a better word, I have been calling it hyper-scheduling. 

Historically, I have kept two things in my calendar: 1.) appointments and 2.) big rock-style projects. For example, if I've been meaning to write a certain complicated client contract for a few days and it wasn’t getting done, I would set aside several hours in my calendar specifically for that project.

With this hyper-scheduling project, I have taken that to a different level. For instance, here is my schedule from a few days ago:

6:00 – Shower, shave, and meditate

7:00 – Bicycle to Starbucks

7:20 – Write Smith contract

9:20 – Review email and social media

10:00 – Write Field Guide

11:00 – Bicycle to bank, market, and home

11:45 – Lunch

12:15 – Capture “Flags”

13:00 – Legal Work

15:00 – Field Guide screencasting

17:00 – End of day email audit

17:30 – Daily shutdown 

21:00 – Jones call 

A few of these require further explanation. 

  • I have a cool bike that I use for most of my local transportation. Anywhere within five miles of my house, I am probably biking. (Hooray for California!) I have to build that time into the schedule. All the pedaling also helps me fill my rings.
  • Flag capture is the process of knocking down flagged tasks in OmniFocus. Every day I have 5-10 tasks that I have flagged to make sure I get done.
  • “Legal Work” is me working through OmniFocus tasks in my legal perspective that are not flagged. I don’t truly hyper-schedule time in that block of time for each specific task I'll work on. When I set up the day, I am not even sure what I will be doing during that time except that it will be legal work. I just have a block set aside to make calls and get non-critical client work done.
  • One of the biggest advantages of this practice is the commitment I am making to spending time on the next MacSparky Field Guide. Before I started this experiment, there never seemed to be time to work on my books. Now it is built into the schedule.
  • Shutdown is a whole thing I do (which I will write about another day). Relevant to this post is that as part of that shutdown, I hyper-schedule the next day so I can wake up and hit the ground running.
  • Normally after I do the shutdown, I am done for the day. On this particular day, I had a conference call with a client in India so I had to get back on my horse later in the evening.
  • Not all of my days are this ideal. Some days I spend driving all over Southern California meeting clients or going to the dentist. The system still works on those days too.

After doing this for a month, I am sold. The extra work involved with planning the day gets paid off with interest in productivity the next day. 

A couple of things I have learned along the way with this experiment is to make sure and set up my schedule the night before. I am pretty sharp in the mornings, so I want to spend that time on client or creative work, not scheduling. Also, there is nothing wrong with setting a block of time as a commitment to types of work as opposed to a specific task, such as generally getting client work done as opposed to a specific client project.

Another thing is to accept that despite my planning, none of this is carved in stone. If a client calls in with a true emergency or I find out a friend is in the hospital, I can blow the daily plan up fairly easily. Because of the planning, on this day I knew I had about 45 minutes of flagged must-do tasks. If something came up, I would know that I need to find 45 minutes in the day to deal with the flags, and the rest could be scratched.

Most people who have thought a lot about calendars and planning preach that you must put space between events on a highly scheduled day. That is probably good advice, but a month in, I still haven’t done that and I am not feeling particularly bad about it.