Until very recently, I was one of those people with calendars with no empty space: Every time slot filled to the brim with multiple tasks, events, and reminders. This January I decided to abandon my calendar and try switching to a paper based way to organize my stuff.
My calendar is now mostly empty, and things are going very well. Here are my learning to date:
Benefits of an empty calendar
- Less interruptions: I don’t have to keep glancing at my phone or computer to see “what’s next”. Which means less chance of being interrupted by a notification or clicking on a link and going down a rabbit hole.
- Less time boxing / More of doing less, better: Time boxing stuff is good and useful for some things. But when you are trying to get deep meaningful work done, that requires deep thinking, time boxing can be your enemy. With time boxing I would start and make progress on lots of things, but never really had the time to fully complete them well. I was always rushed for time. Now when I start something, I finish it properly.
- Less Management Overhead: A busy calendar comes with the overhead of managing all the activity. Previously, every week on Sunday morning I would spend 2 hours scheduling time for all the things I wanted to get done that week. If a day went by where I didn’t manage to get all my stuff done, I would then try and schedule them into the remaining week day, moving stuff around where needed.
- Happier. Less Stress. More fulfillment: I now tend to work on things as I get the urge to work on them. Meaning I am always working on something that inspires me at that point in time. In my previous way of doing things, I would have scheduled this inspiring thing to some point in the future, to work on it when I am no longer inspired.
- More Serendipity: By not being “busy” all the time, you expose yourself and have a better opportunity to take advantage of positive random events.
To be fair…
To be fair, when you see someone with a jam-packed calendar, it’s usually not all meetings and appointments. I used my calendar to track tasks and reminders, and to block off time when I planned on working on those items. My calendar is now empty because I’ve moved most of the stuff into another system (an analog notebook in my case). Jason Fried’s calendar is empty because most of his stuff is in Basecamp (so it’s not like he doesn’t have anything to do, just that he gives himself the freedom to do it when he feels inspired to do it).
But in any case, moving away from your calendar and to a more asynchronous time management system seems to have many benefits.