He got the idea from Arnold Schwarzenegger or, to be more exact, from a book called A Perfect Mess, which explains how having no fixed schedule contributed to Arnold’s success.
It’s one of the quite radical and messy productivity techniques. But it can give you great results.
The main simple idea is that you don’t commit to any meetings, appointments or activities at any set time or date in the future. The idea is pretty crazy and radical, probably impossible for most standard and structured jobs, but if you can afford it, it can dramatically raise your productivity.
Having no schedule and no calendar enables you to work on the most important things or on the thing that interests you the most every single day. Even more importantly, it enables you to maximize your work in the flow or in the zone, the most productive godlike state, where you just learn, create and enjoy life.
You can also listen to your gut instinct about priorities every day. You can easily make themed days with no interruptions, and spend the whole day learning, writing, coding, designing, researching, brainstorming or working on a project you like. If you also turn off your phone and close your e-mail client, you can really have a whole day without any interruptions and distractions.
When people call you to set a meeting, you have a few options after explaining that you don’t keep a fixed schedule:
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- Sorry, I won’t be able to join a meeting, simply not interested
- Sorry, I won’t be able to join a meeting, is there any other way I can contribute
- Do we even need to have a meeting (or can you just let me know now what it’s about)
- Let’s meet right now (if it’s really important)
- Call me the same day you plan the meeting and I’ll let you know if I’m available
- Call me 30 minutes before the meeting and I’ll let you know if I can join
As I mentioned, few people in the world can afford such a time management technique and be completely without a schedule or a calendar. Even if you’re the boss and make decisions for how to spend time with stakeholders and your team, it’s close to impossible to pull off such a thing, if not even harder than for other non-executive jobs.
You have to be in a really unique position with a unique kind of job to pull that off. Since I’ll be in monk mode the whole next year, I can definitely do such a thing. That will be one of my experiments.
Well, to stay open-minded, you can also have a less radical approach with this technique. You can use the “no-schedule philosophy” only to better focus yourself and to more easily say no to commitments and appointments that aren’t the best use of your time.
On the other hand, you can still keep a schedule of really “must do” appointments. But to be as productive as possible, you try to group all of the appointments on the same day. That way, you maybe can have 3 or 4 days without a schedule and 1 or 2 working days full of appointments.
But to be as productive as possible, you try to group all of the appointments on the same day. That way, you maybe can have 3 or 4 days without a schedule and 1 or 2 working days full of appointments. Here is an example how you can organize your schedule if you can't afford to have no schedule at all.
I will maximize this technique in 2016 and see the results. My hypothesis for the experience is, to quote Marc Andreessen, “there is nothing more liberating than looking at your calendar and seeing nothing but free time for weeks ahead to work on the most important things in whatever order you want”.
I’ll let you know if that’s also valid for me.
There are definitely improvements you can do in your schedule to be more productive and to keep more completely free blocks of time for maximizing creating, delivering and capturing value. Here’s what you should do:
- Open your calendar and analyze the past few months.
- Look at every meeting and analyze whether the meetings were really necessary, if you had to be present, if the work could have been done in a more efficient way etc.
- Brainstorm on how you could group your meetings to have as much free time in your calendar as possible.
- Timebox a no-interruption day(s) where you forbid yourself to schedule any task or appointment.
The bottom line is, try to clean up your schedule as much as possible. If you’re super lucky, you may schedule a period in your life completely without a schedule. If not, try to group appointments on the same days in order to have as many free days as possible to create in the flow. If that doesn’t work, try to keep at least one working day as a no-interruptions day.
But really, stay brutal and precise when cleaning up your calendar.