Default diary: Making productivity so much easier

As I go around Australia delivering productivity workshops to corporate clients, I ask the question: How many people use a default diary?

The response is a couple of nods, and if I am lucky, one or two hands go in the air. I must admit that until early this year, I too had not heard of it. 

So what is a default diary? A default diary is where you specify your key activities – the most important activities – in your diary and then you sort the rest. It is about taking some control in a meeting-induced environment where you can be chasing your tail all week then get to the end and think: what did I really achieve this week?

It needs to be no more complex than listing your key activities each day and then sticking to it. I recommend splitting it into morning and afternoon. At first I was very skeptical, thinking people would not work to my schedule. Much to my surprise, it was easier than I thought. My week looks something like:

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday: Coaching

Thursday: Training

Friday: New Business and administration

Many of my clients have a set day that they travel, which makes it easier for work and home life as well. I suggest avoiding Friday where possible!

The hard part is trusting the process. I saw how reactive I had become to the unimportant activities that can fill up your week. I planned to get out on the road, however I had to get through those 100-plus emails!

I block key thinking time into the default diary. I use the Pomodoro technique, a time management philosophy that breaks activities into blocks of time, to achieve this. In brief, it’s 20 minutes focused on one task and then a two-minute break. Do this four times per day, increasing the break time at each block. This helps you maximize your daily thinking time of 90 minutes.

Some people can be frustrated by not achieving everything they plan in a day.

I would recommend 50% of your time committed to planned activities and 50% to work on the Q1s: urgent and important tasks.

I can hear some people saying that a default diary would not work for them, as they never know what is happening from one day to the next. I emphasise, as I too had similar reservations. Stick with it for four weeks and if your productivity hasn’t improved, simply change back.

At the end of the four weeks assess if you like what you see. If you see a positive difference, implement the default diary into your regular schedule.

We are faced with so many decisions in our lives today that using a default weekly schedule can reduce some decisions and turn the focus onto what is most important, allowing you to be your best.

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