Is it possible to be MORE productive without any schedule?

20 08 2007

I’ve discovered (much to my frusteration) that I’m typically 5x more productive on a day with nothing on my schedule.  So slowly, persistently and silently I’ve been implementing this schedule-less lifestyle.  I don’t like to talk about it because most people jump to the conclusion that my motives are to be lazy, an anti-social jerk or someone a rebel who just won’t play by the rules to spite everyone.  Today I ran across this little tidbit from the blog of the founder of Netscape and many other successful ventures.  When I showed it to my wife she smiled and said, “that’s the way you live.”  “I know but I didn’t know you were could talk about it out loud.”

Here’s a snippit –

Let’s start with a bang: don’t keep a schedule.

He’s crazy, you say!

I’m totally serious. If you pull it off — and in many structured jobs, you simply can’t — this simple tip alone can make a huge difference in productivity.

By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day.

As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.

Want to spend all day writing a research report? Do it!

Want to spend all day coding? Do it!

Want to spend all day at the cafe down the street reading a book on personal productivity? Do it!

When someone emails or calls to say, “Let’s meet on Tuesday at 3”, the appropriate response is: “I’m not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can’t commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I’m available, I’ll meet with you.”

Or, if it’s important, say, “You know what, let’s meet right now.”

Clearly this only works if you can get away with it. If you have a structured job, a structured job environment, or you’re a CEO, it will be hard to pull off.

But if you can do it, it’s really liberating, and will lead to far higher productivity than almost any other tactic you can try.

This idea comes from a wonderful book called A Perfect Mess, which explains how not keeping a schedule has been key to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s success as a movie star, politician, and businessman over the last 20 years.

Want to meet with Arnold? Sure, drop on by. He’ll see you if he can. But you might want to call first. Sorry, he doesn’t schedule appointments in advance.

As a result, for 20 years he has been free to work on whatever is most important in his life at any time.

 Here’s his full post.

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4 responses

22 08 2007
Mike

How do you balance this approach with things that must ‘get done.’ In other words, things like paying your bills on time or goals for things you need to get done around the house, etc..

How would this fit in with developing habits that help to shape our future?

Thanks

4 09 2007
Jeremy

I suppose to honestly answer I must make a further admission and that I don’t pay the bills or for that matter have any household responsibilities of the type that have to be consistently done according to a rigid routine.

Today I read “A Perfect Mess” which attempted to put hard data behind their assertion that a messy lifestyle might actually be optimal for productivity.

My belief if is that it really depends on the person. My wife, who does do a lot of routine things for our family seems to have energy when faced with a concrete list of tasks. She’s extremely productive in that environment. When faced with a blank slate I begin to have more and more energy and often become far more productive. This appears to simply be a personality difference (April = ISTJ & Jeremy = INTP).

I’m definitely still thinking these things through and doing a lot of research.

I must say the whole “lifestyle design” genre of literature that is erupting on the scene is endlessly fascinating to me, and many who, like me, may feel they don’t fit the lifestyle choices being handed to us.

17 09 2007
Dallas Peters

Great thoughts. I suppose when the rest of the world grasps this it just might work.

31 05 2008
Melody

A lot of the business world do grasp this, at least to some degree. See Agile and Scrum.

Never planning meetings and events does seem a bit extreme to me, though. Do you find it possible to accept that sometimes it is better to implement ideas like this to various degrees, rather than being completely black and white about it?

For example, ‘let’s have a huge wedding in a traditional church and invite all our family’
‘Call me 15 minutes beforehand and we’ll see’

That approach sheds responsibilities for the necessary co-ordination to to others – while it makes your time more productive, in an environment involving other people, like in business, it may make the unit as a whole less productive.

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