What’s Your Calendar Made Of?

Is your calendar a friend or a foe?  Does it make your life more or less stressful? If you use it to optimize your time, to strategically prioritize your activities and to be your accountability partner, it’s your best friend.  It’s your worst enemy if its main use is reminding you how busy you are and manufacturing excuses for turning down opportunities!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I behave as if my calendar is a large chunk of granite where I carve my upcoming activities. A rock calendar might seem friendly because its solid and stable.  On the other hand, the limitations of living life according to what is carved in stone is a life of confinement and missed opportunities.

The rock calendar philosophy is a limiting belief that can spread confinement to others. How? Suppose an opportunity comes along that conflicts with something you’ve already blocked out on your calendar. You know how much work it takes to change calendar entries carved in stone. At this point it’s simply too late to change the calendar.  Then factor in the human tendency to project one’s  own feelings onto others (i.e. I assume others will feel the same as me.) “If it’s too late for me, it’s too late for everyone else. I won’t bother them because I care about them.” You just made a decision for someone else and took away their right to choose without asking simple questions such as: “Are you interested? Is this important to you?” The truth is, you are probably justifying your decision based on your limiting belief, your assumption and your paradigm. How self-centered is that?

Why do human beings make assumptions about what others think, feel and need? God knows everything, but I don’t and you don’t. So why do we behave as if we are the all-knowing God?  I guess it’s easier to assume rather than ask.

Here’s my conclusion: A stone calendar is NOT your friend. Your true friend is that sense of loss that challenges your limiting beliefs and helps you discover and adopt a better paradigm, such as knowing why our decisions don’t have to be limited by a rigid calendar?

I’ll leave you with the following question and three principles:

What are the long-term consequences of living life
according to a stone calendar?

Three Principles That Make Your Calendar Work Better:

  • See your calendar as flexible, not rigid.
  • Learn the difference between urgent and important. Then assign high priority status to only those which are both urgent and important.
  • Schedule immediately that which seems most important.  If it turns out to be less important, reschedule as necessary to make room for something you know IS important.

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The Importance of “Important”

The late Stephen Covey was well-know for his classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Habit #3 is entitled, “Put First Things First.”  It’s all about knowing what is important and honoring it by our actions.  Looking at the culture, it would seem that defining importance is more difficult than one would think.  People seem to be confused by this.  What happens?  Confusion becomes a barricade to any action, much less the right action.

Newton’s first law of motion says that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.  This is a great metaphor for human behavior.  A person will move from inaction to action only when motivated by something sufficiently important.  Most barricade-busting motivation fits into the following categories: Wants, Needs, and Responsibilities.

  • Emptiness Chooses Wants. — People fill voids with something they want.
  • Pain Chooses Needs. — People relieve pain with something they believe they need.
  • Conscience Chooses Responsibilities. — People choose right actions in obedience to their consciences.

Importance is established when one or more of these motivators takes center stage in the person’s mind and heart.  Sometimes people coincidentally choose Right Actions when Responsibility does not play a significant role.  That is, we sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reason.

Admittedly, the formula is not quite so straightforward.  The strength of the motivators is constantly rising and falling because of emotional fluctuations, changes in personal perspectives and changes in external circumstances.  It’s a dynamic environment.

Here’s what I am certain about.  When an opportunity intersects with importance, we give it the red carpet treatment.  Which means, we mark the calendar.  We rearrange appointments.  We set aside funds.  We post reminders. We tell people.  We tweet.  We follow through.

It doesn’t matter whether the opportunity is one you created or a gift from someone else.  Importance is still the motivation necessary to cause action.  Until then, the opportunity is just another competing option in our busy lives.  Only what we perceive to be truly important finds its way onto our calendars, into our budgets and into our conversations.

What’s on your calendar?  What’s in your budget?  What are you talking about?