Redeeming Productivity

Should You Use Your Calendar as a To-Do List?

Published 9 months ago • 6 min read

Your weekly roundup of insights and resources to help you on your journey to becoming a more productive Christian.

Read on the Web

In Today’s Issue:

  • Calendar as to-do list
  • Dealing with laziness
  • Note-taking lessons from a biographer
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Help for your mornings

Dear steward,

That was the single most exhausting vacation I’ve ever had…

We took the kids to Disney World last week, driving the 16 hours from Michigan to Florida. We battled long lines in the parks, got beat down by the Sunshine State’s uninhabitable levels of UV radiation, and had a really great time as a family.

We got some nice pictures even if the kids won’t remember any of it. So that has a count for something, right?

In all seriousness, it was tiring, but it was a lot of fun. This was our first big trip with all three of the little ones. And it certainly was an adventure.

At any rate, I’m glad to be back at work so I can rest.

Now, let's get into this week’s link roundup.

Reagan’s Roundup

Calendar as Your To-Do List (8 mins)

Tim Ferriss & Sam Corcos

In this clip from the Tim Ferriss Show, Levels CEO Sam Corcos shares his unique approach to managing a to-do list using a calendar. It's quite ingenious.

Here are some of the highlights:

1. Use time as your constraint, not your list.

The amount of things you can fit into your to-do list is infinite, but the amount of time you have in a day is finite.

So, instead of filling up a database with to-dos with dates he hopes they’ll be completed, Sam puts everything directly on the calendar. The finite time of the calendar then acts as the constraint. If it can’t fit on today’s calendar, he knows he wouldn’t have been able to get it done anyway, so he schedules it for another day.

This is a creative solution to the common phenomenon of always kicking to-do's down the road because we're unrealistic with how much we think we can do in a day.

2. Factor in 50% slack into your day.

As I wrote about recently, we are terrible at estimating how long things will take. So we should account for that in advance.

It’s easier to pull things from tomorrow if you have extra time today than to overschedule today and bump everything into the future when you inevitably run out of time to complete what was planned for today.

Sam does this by only scheduling 50% of his work day.

3. Set up repeating blocks for things you need to do every day.

Sam has a 3-hour deep work block and a 2-hour email time block that are on his schedule every day. All his other tasks and meetings have to fit around these.

I do something similar and find it incredibly helpful for ensuring the most important stuff gets done and not just the urgent things.

4. When you get an email you have to deal with later, put it on the calendar, then delete it.

If you’ve ever had an email that just sits in your inbox for days because it will require a lot of time and focus—either more research or the focus to write a thoughtful reply—this is a great way to stop that one pesky email from clogging up your inbox.

Instead of using your inbox as a to-do list, Sam says to plan time on your calendar for dealing with that email.

  • Put it on the calendar
  • Reply to the person, “I’ll get back to you on Thursday,”
  • Then mark it as done.

Now that you have it as an appointment in your calendar, so you know you won’t forget about it.

One Caveat…

I like Sam’s approach, but I don’t think this method would work for every situation. For someone in a CEO role like Sam, it makes sense. Tons of new and unique tasks are constantly rolling in. And if you don’t get to them fast enough, you’re the bottleneck in your company’s operations.

In other cases, however, just having those big time blocks for doing the critical work may be enough. And getting super granular, scheduling every task may actually be overkill.

Laziness and the Christian (22 mins)

Alisdair Groves / CCEF

Enjoyed this brief look at what the Scripture says about how we are to respond to laziness in our lives.

I especially appreciated the diagnostic questions Alisdair uses when he's feeling lazy.

  1. What is it that I want? (or don’t want?) - In other words, what am I trying to get or avoid in relation to my laziness?
  2. What am I not seeing about the Kingdom of God right now? - God’s world and my mission in it is incredible. So, if I’m feeling lazy or bored, it’s a perception problem. I’m not thinking correctly.

Carve out some time for this episode this weekend. It’s a great listen.

Note-taking Lessons from America’s Greatest Biographer (8 mins)

Jillian Hess / Every

It is a deep dive into Robert Caro’s methods for researching and writing his massive biographies.

From the little notes he leaves himself around his room, to the massive file boxes, to the outlines he lays out on physical cork boards, this provides a great peek into how one man approaches getting his head around a massive amount of information and turns it into something both accurate and compelling.

Aside from how he takes notes, the rigor he applies to his research is really inspiring as well. This is a man who cares about excellence.

This is a delightful read, with tons of photographs showing Caro's methods in action.

A Book I’m Reading: Leonardo da Vinci

Last week on vacation, I started listening to Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.

I’ve always been interested in polymaths like da Vinci, who excelled in multiple arenas. Getting into the details of not only his painting but his exploits in engineering, anatomy, and more has been really inspiring. It makes me want to pursue more outstanding excellence and attention to detail in my own work.

There is little indication that da Vinci was a believer (quite the contrary, in fact). Still, it’s interesting to see how his curiosity about the world and man’s place in it drove his creative output and ingenuity. It seems many of the great people of history were driven by an insatiable curiosity for the world around them. And I believe this is an admirable quality for believers to emulate.

One big takeaway for me from reading the book is I want to spend more time observing God’s creation. I believe one of the most under-appreciated consequences of our screen-maximilaist age is our disconnection from creation. God reveals Himself through the things He has made (Psalm 19; Romans 1:19–20). Therefore, exploration of the natural world is worship fuel for the believer. And I, for one, want to do a better job getting outside and filling up my tank.

If you enjoy a good biography, are interested in the Renaissance, or just want a little inspiration, Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson is a great read.

Help for Your Morning Routine

The single most significant point of leverage in my own journey to becoming more productive for God’s glory was getting my mornings under control.

Over ten years ago, I started experimenting with morning routines that would help me:

  • Do my devotions more consistently
  • Get daily exercise
  • Begin my day with a plan

What I eventually landed on was something I call my POWER Morning.

That’s just a cheesy acronym for 5 activities I do every morning before beginning the day:

  • Prayer
  • Organize
  • Word
  • Exercise
  • Reading / Writing

I created a course about how to craft your own POWER Morning, and it has been by far the most popular course I’ve ever created. It's been taken by over 500 people at this point.

Here’s an email I received from someone who took the course:

If you want to get control of your mornings for the glory of God, crafting a POWER Morning is a great place to start.

Plus the entire POWER Mornings course is now included in Redeeming Productivity Academy membership.

Learn more about POWER Mornings

Quote of the Week

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Final Word

That's all for this week.

Thanks so much for reading.

For His glory,

Reagan Rose

P.S. I'd love to hear from you. Just hit reply to let me know what you thought of this week's newsletter, share link ideas for future issues, or just say hello!

Redeeming Productivity

by Reagan Rose

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