Have you ever tried to manage your calendar in a way that doesn’t actually work for you?
You got a new scheduling tool. You invested time and energy to bring it into your life. It was supposed to focus you and increase your productivity and creativity. But all it did was add another layer of work and stress — without any real benefit.
Maybe you just didn’t stick with it long enough. New habits take a while to settle in.
Or — maybe what you need to do your best, most creative work isn’t more detailed scheduling, but less.
To discover if this is true for you, consider the following:
How do you develop your best solutions?
“I get my best ideas in the shower.”
Have you ever said something like this? Maybe not about the shower, specifically, but about any other non-work environment that triggers your best thinking?
There’s a reason why your best solutions come when you’re not scheduled to be working on them.
Epiphanies — your best, most creative solutions — develop incrementally. They aren’t instantaneous. They may feel like they are, but they’re actually a long time in the making.
Before an epiphany occurs, you’re actually busy developing it. You’re gathering bits of information and ‘weaving’ them together without even realizing that weaving is taking place. At some point — often uncontrolled and unscheduled by you — the last ‘thread’ gets pulled in, and a pattern emerges. The solution becomes clear to you.
You may recognize the pattern in an instant, but you didn’t create it in an instant. The creation took time. And plenty of cognitive spaciousness within which to ‘weave.’
Think about it. Can you imagine trying to weave a large, intricate rug in a cramped closet? Even if you wouldn’t recognize a loom if it fell on your head, I’m sure you can envision what happens to a creative process when it gets cramped and confined.
This is why blocking rigid times to work on a specific problem (and isn’t every piece of work about solving a specific problem?) may not produce the results you want. If it doesn’t, it’s because you haven’t allowed time and space for the weaving. The creating.
For most of us, creative flow isn’t an on-demand resource. And for most of us, our most vibrant creativity occurs when we’re doing the opposite of demanding it. Hence, the shower epiphanies.
Does your calendaring process support creative flow?
I’ll be honest. Years ago when I first started freelancing, my inability to schedule my creativity drove me nuts. After all, I was being paid by the hour to be creative. Every productivity expert I came across told me I needed a defined schedule to boost my creativity, and therefore my productivity.
But when I tried the standard “task batching” guidelines they recommended, the opposite happened. Instead of blocking out time to work, my creativity got blocked and my productivity plummeted. I appreciated the set times to focus on a specific client and their needs. But I didn’t do my best work during those periods. Not even close.
There seemed no point in setting a detailed calendar if it didn’t support me to do my best, most creative work.
You don’t have to be a writer to need access to your creative flow. We all need it. Your creativity is your differentiator, regardless of your profession.
You owe it to yourself to ask yourself: does your schedule keep you on task without blocking your creativity?
How can you calendar to increase your creative flow?
Strip your calendar down. Drop the fussiness. Add only actual events, small repeatable tasks, and final deadlines.
Every Monday morning, study your calendar for the next two weeks. Visualize your deadlines. Map them in your mind. This will trigger the subconscious weaving process for each problem you need to solve.
As your week unfolds, check your calendar every morning to remind yourself of your deadlines and trigger additional deep thinking. Make short notes of the solution narratives that are forming in your mind. Or don’t. Do whatever feels most effective to you to organically facilitate the weaving process.
As deadlines draw closer, instead of pre-scheduling blocks of rubber-meets-the-road working time, wait until an idea is ripe and then sit down to document your solution.
Each time you sit down, if you hit a wall, stop working and stop the clock, even if that wall comes only after 10 minutes of actual work. Hit pause, let go, and let the weaving process resume. Let the cognitive barriers untangle themselves until you’re ready to work on the problem again. Because they will untangle themselves, if you let them.
Fair warning: From the outside, this process can look undisciplined and inefficient.
Culturally, we’re used to rigidity in our scheduling. It’s a social norm. And it can be hard to step away from. It’s easy to feel that if you don’t have a tightly managed schedule, you’re disorganized.
Or even worse — that if you’ve scheduled a block of time to work, that’s the same as actually working.
Inject white space into your calendar. Give yourself elbowroom to weave. Not with laser focus on each thread, but with holistic understanding of the pattern.
If you do this, your creative solutions and productivity will improve.
You will become both disciplined and efficient.
Most importantly, you’ll actually give your clients the creative expertise they’re paying you for.
Allyson Baughman is one of our Strategic Referral Partners. She specializes in thought leadership writing coaching, editing and ghostwriting. I thought this was a very interesting take on calendar management…something that can prompt us all to think a little differently. Learn more about Allyson here. – Beth
We also thank Greenville Office Supply for supporting Calendar Month.
NEW 60-90 minute course (self-paced.) Introductory price $29. Price increases to $49 5/1/17. Click to learn more and enroll!
How do you feel when you look at your calendar? Does it stress you out? Or do you feel reasonably fulfilled by the commitments you’ve made?
Part of my April Theme Month on the topic of calendars is to introduce you to my new course, Conquer Your Calendar. Each week, I’m providing one reason for joining into HOPE Academy and being part of this course, specifically.
Reason number 3: The price. Conquer Your Calendar is currently $29. The price will be increased for the month of May to $49. The course contains over one hour of information and practical help that you can absorb at your own pace. Don’t delay in enrolling while the pricing is lower!
And click here to answer one question about how your calendar makes you feel.
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker and thought leader on workplace inspiration, organizational culture, employee engagement, and servant leadership.
He is also the best selling author or co-author of seven books, including his latest book, The Culture Engine, and Ken Blanchard’s Leading at a Higher Level. He’s one of Richtopia’s Top 200 Influential Authors and one of Global Guru’s Top 30 Organizational Culture Gurus of 2017.
And he happens to be part of the client family at HOPE Unlimited.
I had a conversation with Chris about how he uses his calendar, and I think you’ll enjoy his insights. If you receive this post by email and can’t see the video, you can click here.
A summary transcript is below the video, and a complete transcript is available by clicking: Interview with Chris Edmonds-Full Transcript
Beth: Hi, Everyone. This is Beth with Bethbeutler.com and Hope Unlimited where we help overwhelmed professionals excel, and I am delighted today to interview Chris Edmonds of the Purposeful Culture Group. Hi, Chris.
Chris: Hi, Beth. Thank you for inviting me on.
Beth: Chris is an author, speaker, executive consultant, and musician. I want him to tell you a little more about himself. And in honor of our conversation today I’m actually wearing a particular shirt because I’m talking to him from Upstate South Carolina, Greenville County, which is fairly springlike with rain and warm weather. But my green shirt also has a snowflake and the word “simplify.” So tell them, Chris, why a snowflake is appropriate for you and where you’re from.
Chris: Well, I live at 8400 feet in the Rockies, outside of Denver, Colorado. We have about 6 inches of snow on the ground. We live on a street called Snowy Trail which is very appropriately named. I was telling Beth we had 4 inches of snow yesterday; It’s now 60 and sunny; and tomorrow we’re going to get 6-8 inches of snow. So we will be ready for that wonderful plow job that I get to do.
Beth: Now, my shirt also says “simplify” and that’s appropriate because we are going to be talking about how to use a calendar. I also want to share with everybody that Chris is one of Hope Unlimited’s clients and one of the clients that I do hands-on work for. We’re approaching about a year of working together, and I have found Chris to be very kind, a person who is easy to work with. We love having you as part of our client family, Chris.
Chris: And “simplify” really does shed light on the themes of calendarization, clarity of expectations and who is doing what, when. These things can be at the speed of light and pretty confusing, and we don’t want to lose things. I don’t think you and I have lost a thing yet.
Beth: No, I think we’ve developed a pretty good work flow, and that’s really great. Well, tell us a little more about what you do as well as your side interest in music.
Chris: Absolutely. So, I have been in the consulting business of helping leaders with their culture since 1990. I also work with the Ken Blanchard Company as a consultant for them. I’ve been speaking, facilitating, training, consulting for a really long time. I’m speaking with clients all the time. I’m consulting with senior leadership teams all the time. What’s really gratifying about it is the ability to help leaders be more intentional about the employee experience in their organizations. I released a book about 2 and 1/2 years ago called The Culture Engine, and I’m using that book as a guide, a bit of a journal so to speak, a workbook. It is interesting because leaders don’t really know what to do with culture – they’ve never been asked to do that so I do a lot of education and then I do a lot of consulting. That really drives me.
And in the midst of all of that I have this music life that is really fun. I’ve been doing that also for a long time. I’m in a band, and do weddings, corporate events, some clubs, but not a lot any more. We have a wedding coming up and we have to learn new songs which we all whine about, but it’s fun.
Beth: So you can see that Chris is juggling an awful lot – his music life, his travel life, and his personal life. I have a few questions that I’m going to ask him about the subject of calendar especially since this month on the blog it’s All Things Calendar. I’ve got a whole initiative going about calendar and tips.
Beth: Chris, what kind of calendar do you use?
Chris: We’re a Mac family so the main calendar is Apple’s build-in calendar – it’s an Icalendar format. The cool thing about the Apple system and with many calendars is that everything–the Mac computers, my Apple watch, my Iphone–is synced very, very quickly and even changes are synced very, very quickly. I was just on the phone with our band leader, in fact, who was putting up a huge white board in his office so he and his soon-to-be- bride can keep track of their commitments with each other.
Beth: That’s a more organic way.
Chris: It’s kind of old school, but she is probably more comfortable doing a “tech” thing than he is, but they have to figure out what works, and my belief is that it doesn’t matter what the system is – if it’s post-its on a wall, that can work so long as you keep it up-to-date in sharing it.
Beth: That’s a great thought. And that is very comforting about people who are a little nervous about trying to do everything “tech.” I’m with you – I’m not a Mac; I’m a PC person, but I enjoy the same thing with the synchronization of the global calendar. I do love that I can have it in three or four places and I can add to it in different spots.
Beth: Now do you mix your personal and your business calendars together?
Chris: I do, and part of that is for the benefit of my lovely bride who doesn’t have to travel, but we have family things that we are doing, and she has things that are happening. So one calendar lets me put the band commitments, the travel commitments, the consulting commitments, the Blanchard commitments, my own writing time in one place. Having multiple calendars just didn’t work for us so we have one basic platform and it is “knock on wood” working pretty well.
Beth: I assume they sync – so if she adds something to the calendar, you’ll see it and vice versa.
Chris: Exactly. And of course hers are in a different color than mine.
Beth: What would be a tip to offer our community? If you had to give one tip – maybe you’ve already said it, but what would be one tip for calendar keeping?
Chris: What’s critical is to make sure that you write stuff down – so that’s the first thing. And the second piece is that you keep the calendar up-to-date. So one of the interesting challenges that I face is that the Apple calendar does not have a reminders/task management system built into it. A lot of calendars don’t, but there are add-ons. I use a reminder system called Nozbe – it works very, very well. It has teaming ability so if people are responsible for a portion of a task, that task doesn’t disappear from my calendar. I can be adding to a task as they add to it – that kind of thing.
My wife’s calendar focus is her to-do list so she will actually put her “to-do’s” as calendar entries. So I’ll look at it and see something and I’ll say, “Well, you’re not gone.” So some of it is learning to translate what that means for her. You have to be able to pose questions. But the idea is that I have to make sure that I understand what she needs, and that she understands what I need. It doesn’t matter what systems are being used but writing it down, making it formal, and keeping it up-to-date are the core things for me.
Beth: Now I’m going to ask – you sound so on top of it with your calendar – can you tell us about a time when you messed up?
Chris: Yes, and the biggest fallacies came from the old dates when we had a calendar that was a white-board set-up, and I could write things in, but if you dry erased and your hand kind of erased something on the next line, that was a problem. And I did something like that. I had committed to travel and it got erased, but then the client began to write me to make arrangements so we actually had that work out okay.
For me the biggest challenge, and it’s kind of an interesting one, because I’m using yet another calendar tool called Aquity Scheduling – and, in fact, you and I used it to schedule this appointment. Aquity, which is not built into the Apple system – it’s just available through the browser, but it lets you set hours that others can use to set a face-to-face meeting. But for me the challenge was that I had made a change in my Apple calendar, but I didn’t change it in Aquity. I had assumed that I had updated my calendar. So now it’s funny, because what I do now in my calendar is that every day in Nozbe it says, “Update Equity.”
Beth: That just shows how important it is to pay attention. One of my problems is that I have a calendar but I may not really look at it. I need to actually go into it and take a look.
Would you consider yourself a detailed calendar person? Do you have a very detailed calendar or more of blocking out times?
Chris: You know, it’s an interesting dynamic because I have some of my colleagues who are speakers and consultants who are very, very diligent. Now I’m very anal, and I’m very detailed, but the benefit of my business here in the last couple of years is that I don’t have a lot of calls that I have to do. I can schedule those so I’m blessed. By that I mean I have a video conference that I need to do with a client next week, and I can say, “I can do morning on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday,” and it wasn’t like, “We’re going to have to look out 2 months.” So what’s nice is that I’ve been spoiled – I’ve been able to manage writing, and I’ve been able to manage calls, and last-minute stuff that may pop up without having to do such religious blocking of my calendar, and it works okay. The challenge of course is that I make my wife’s work very hard because you can’t trust the open slot – right? Because it looks open, I haven’t committed to something, but I have a blog that is due by noon, or I’m going to shoot video for 3 hours, and I haven’t put that in so my wife is actually pushing me more towards being much more obvious about those commitments.
Beth: Well, that leads in great to the question about sharing your calendar. You’ve already talked about sharing your calendar, but now you’re mentioning for her benefit, just the white space on your calendar may not mean that you’re totally free.
Chris: Exactly, which may mean that if my schedule is unclear, she may have to pose a question. If it were blocked, she would know that it’s a time when I’m trying to be creative, or I’m trying to study, or I’m doing research or whatever so even though we have a pretty good routine and a pretty good rhythm, I can still drive her crazy.
Beth: Well, you’ve covered several things for us, and I think it has been fascinating. So I’ll let you close with any last word of wisdom about using a calendar. You’ve mentioned that it helps in a relationship so that’s a good thing. Any other words of wisdom?
There was one other thing that I wanted to ask you. Since you travel so much, obviously you are not able to control the things that happen in the travel world. I know something happened to you not too long ago when you had to stay overnight in an airport, and you didn’t know that you were going to have to do that so how do you change your calendar for the next day so that your wife sees all of that and all those details.
Chris: It gets back to the rhythm of relationships. I talk to my wife every night if I’m on the road. I don’t assume that everything is fine, and she doesn’t assume that everything is fine. As soon as there is a bump I have to communicate that, and Diane would rather hear it face to face which means a live phone call. I can text her, but she may not have her phone on after 6 pm, so I call. There’s really that commitment of being very nimble and keeping people informed – I call them stakeholders – kind of a boring business term. I would say that it is all driven by my very strong hot button which is making sure that I keep my commitments. So as I make commitments I want to make sure that I’m behind the scenes keeping track of those commitments so that I can make sure that I’m doing what I’ve promised.
Beth: Well, that’s a lovely way to end because, folks, I want to tell you that this is really the essence of what Chris does. I work with the stuff he writes, and he’s very much into the idea that you have values and you have a personal constitution of values and what he just mentioned here is that it’s very important to him to keep commitments. The calendar obviously is just a tool. Your character decides whether you’re going to be on time to meetings, whether you’re going to call people when you’re not going to be able to make it so these are the kinds of things that may be a little convicting to hear, but sometimes it’s important to establish for yourself why do I even use a calendar. It’s not because it’s the thing to do, but it’s because I want to communicate with my spouse or my kids or my stakeholders-I love that term really-people who are important in my life – and I’m going to call them personally, not just rely on the calendar if something changes.
So as we end this conversation, folks, I think that’s a great way to end. The calendar is just a tool. It’s not to control you; it’s a tool to help you live out what your true values are. So think about what your true values are, and if you want some more information about that for your company, visit Chris at – tell them the places that they can connect with you, Chris.
Chris: Probably the best place to go is my main website which is drivingresultsthroughculture.com – all one word and that’s where you’ll find my research and my posts and my video episodes and podcasts. I’m also on Twitter as @scedmonds, and you’ll find all those links on my main website.
Beth: Great – well, thanks so much.
Chris: Beth, it’s delightful to connect with you.
Beth: Well, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today.
Part of my April Theme Month on the topic of calendars is to introduce you to my new course, Conquer Your Calendar. Each week, I’ll give you a reason for joining into HOPE Academy and being part of this course, specifically.
Reason number 2: Conquer Your Calendar will give you strategies.
We all approach our calendar in unique ways. In the course, I discuss some approaches that may help you dial-in your calendar to be an even more effective tool.
And click here to answer one question about how your calendar makes you feel. I’ll share the results in a later post!
In this video, I share about the importance of planning times of transition between commitments. If you received this post by email and cannot see the video, you can click here.