Opinion

Visualizing and Interacting with Time

Vanessa Shaw prioritizes her week in under 30 minutes using sticky notes to physically categorize, organize and prioritize work. I have a similar-in-intent strategy with my paper planner. Vanessa captures why I love my paper planner: it allows me to both visualize and interact with my time. 

As I re-read the article, I realized that Vanessa’s focus was work, rather than a holistic view of all priorities in a week. One of the most helpful aspects of my paper planner is that it integrates what is most important at work and at home. I don’t write everything in my planner, just the things essential to get done each day and week. Investing that bit of time to see what is critical each week (meetings that honestly couldn’t move) and what can be postponed (typically meetings with more than 8 people) helps both get things done and maintain healthy boundaries.

Luckily, I now have the competing priorities of a toddler (sorry, “big kid”) and a wife who’s busy season is the fall. Even with my paper planner, I’m still overwhelmed and not able to find the time I need to get to everything  important to me. First to make the cut are the things related to my own health: exercise, meal planning, getting enough sleep.

I took a page from Vanessa’s under-30-minute strategy and integrated it with my planner and my need to be healthier. So I…

  • made list of all the healthy things I “should be doing”
  • freaked out a bit because apparently I could make this a full time job
  • went through the brain dump, and made a top 7 list:
    meal planning, exercise x 3, yoga, writing, and a free space
  • realized setting the bar low (for now) would give me my type-A sense of accomplishment
  • wrote each one on a sticky tab and then
  • assigned each tab to a day of the week, depending on my week

Each daily sticky is The One Thing that must get done each day.
Once it’s done, I move the tab to the next week. And so on.

Capping my to-dos at seven – one per day – gave me a sense of relief. I don’t have to do everything, I just have to do something, and do something constantly. Daily progress is better than the overwhelm and avoidance that clearly isn’t going to lead to change.

Sticky notes and ruthless prioritization could change the world!

That might be dramatic, but that’s how I felt after figuring out this tactile way to make something that feels intractable actionable. Do you have ways you visualize and interact with your time? Tell me about them!

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