When I was a young mother, I learned that if my son wanted attention, I could try to ignore him and spend the next hour with him talking, pulling on me, crying, and getting into things he shouldn’t, or I could give him my undivided attention for five or 10 minutes, and then he would be fine. I got good at squeezing activities into little slices of time, and after awhile, I forgot that I was making a choice about how I was managing my time.

In the adult world, however, people plan sequences of action that are interdependent, so being clear about when you’re going to do something is important. We say that one characteristic of integrity/ workability is doing what you said you would do at the time you said you would do it. When I take the time to make a list of things I’m responsible for and things I want to do, it doesn’t take long to realize that some of the things that are important to me are not getting into my calendar. And if they’re not in my calendar, they’re probably not getting done.

For me to increase my effectiveness, I can’t afford to leave my priorities to chance. So I’ve been studying my calendar, and playing around with a 24/7 template into which I’m putting ALL the recurring activities that take place each week, so I can literally SEE how I’m spending my time, and where I have openings I could direct toward the “someday” kind of things that keep me from feeling free and fulfilled.

The first thing I confronted after mapping out recurring things like sleep, travel and recurring meetings was that to be effective at my meetings, things would run a lot better if I blocked 30 minutes to prepare for each meeting, and 30 minutes to put my promises from the meeting into my calendar. If the preparation time isn’t in my calendar, I arrive feeling afraid that I’ve forgotten something and that I won’t pull my weight.

Having something in my calendar doesn’t guarantee anything, unless I hold myself to doing what I said I would do, at the time I said I would do it. This is what I’m starting to play around with — taking preparation and follow-up time seriously.

So far my calendar still has a lot of open space. I’m wondering what will happen as I start to take things from my “someday” list and giving myself 30 minutes, 60 minutes, a few hours to handle them. I suspect I am going to feel more productive and satisfied than I have in a long time.