On scheduling stuff to do

I’m a productivity junkie in the sense that I’ve been reading articles about productivity and productivity “hacks” for a long time. At one point, I was even reading more articles about productivity than doing  anything productive, but it’s become “the period that must not be named” part of my life. I’m kidding of course.

The reason that I’m writing about this is because I got myself in a bit of a pickle with posting twice to the blog last month. Somehow, I ended up doing the second post just about in time (1 day left). This time too, I thought I’d get a head start and we’re just over halfway through October and this is my first post.

I think that this is because the two posts per month “guideline” is fluid and at the beginning of the month it doesn’t look all that bad and then suddenly I’m scrambling [1]. The reason is that I don’t schedule a time to do the blog posts. I’ve told myself that I’ll do them over the weekend, because I can’t make time during the week but I don’t tell myself that I’m going to do it this weekend–you see, the weekend’s fluid too.

Contrast this with two tax-related things that I had to do this Saturday, which I scheduled and wrote down on Friday and did on Saturday. I’ve found this true with tasks at work as well; the moment I schedule something and tell myself that I’m going to get something done by the next morning or whatever, I tend to get things done. When I don’t, I end up feeling like I’ve been doing a lot of tasks but not the important stuff.

Here’s the big idea: Scheduling tasks, i.e. giving them a concrete date and/or time, makes you more likely to do them. This is not a new idea or even my idea; people have been saying this for quite a while now [2] but it’s so simple in its elegance and effectiveness that maybe it seems too simple. Also, my brain, being the monkey brain–no disrespect to monkeys–resists scheduling because there is an impending deadline and a sense of commitment that is now attached to a task.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that you have to schedule everything–that would be extreme and like anything taken to its extremes would likely be counter-productive. What I am saying is that it makes sense to schedule your important tasks because if you don’t, other urgent, and possibly unimportant, tasks will take away your time your attention.

Just to reiterate that this is not new, it seems pretty obvious, and you probably already know this, but, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the things we know because we forget them. So, try it out, schedule an important task or two and see if that helps you get the task done.

PS: If you’re interested, there are a bunch of articles around scheduling that you can read. Here are two from HBR:

When to Schedule Your Most Important Work

How to Schedule Time for Meaningful Work

[1]: Yes, I know it’s two posts a month and maybe I’m being a tad dramatic

[2]: I’d cite research on this but I’m too lazy to do so and I didn’t really schedule research time for this blog post.


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