scheduling in advance

Published on May 5, 2020

I have recently been experimenting with an empty calendar.

The idea is that, instead of scheduling events days or weeks in advance, I start each new week off with an empty calendar. I have a few ongoing events related to work which I have to attend, but aside from that I keep my calendar empty.

The idea behind doing this is simple. I don’t want to commit to something too far in advance, knowing that I may not be able to uphold that commitment.

Last year, I got into the habit of creating a busy calendar. The more events on my calendar, I thought, the better my days would be -- the more productive my days would be.

Now I realize that many of the calls I had last year could have been emails. In fact, many of them didn’t need to happen at all. There were many instances where I spoke with someone, sent them a follow-up email, and we never spoke again. There was still value in speaking with them -- now I can always say “we have spoken…” -- but not much.

When I am scheduling a call with someone, I like to ask myself: would I want to hop on a call with that person tomorrow? If so, then I’ll try to get a call on the books for tomorrow.

This filter encourages me to stay focused solely on the commitments that matter most to me.

When I planned out my week in advance, I found that I took on many commitments for the sake of having a busier calendar. It was easy to just add a new event. Now, though, I want to free up my time to have more meaningful interactions, and those interactions are most often those that happen in the moment, or on short notice.

This does not work with everyone -- many people have busy schedules and I just need to fit in where I can. But it does help me filter out what matters and what doesn’t.

I know that committing to a call next week is not a good idea because if it were really important, then we should probably be doing it sooner. Unless I think “there will be a clear value to be gained for either one, or, ideally, both of us,” then I am skeptical of whether we need to be on a call in the first place.

I like to think of every commitment as if I had to follow through on it tomorrow. If I keep delaying working on something until next week, I know it can’t be that important. But if I get a burning feeling that tells me I want to work on something today, or tomorrow, I know that it is worth my time and attention.

Do you have any feedback on this blog post? Send me an email.
Do you want to hear more from me? Subscribe to my weekly Coffee with James newsletter.
Made by @jamesg_oca. Code on GitHub.