A Lesson from “About a Boy” on Hyper-Scheduling

I recently read a piece in The Globe & Mail where one of the top tips to get things done was to “calendarize everything”. I’ll respectfully disagree on that one.


Well, when you schedule everything you’ve got — locking down a time of day to work on things — you give yourself no room for the flexibility you really need to get things done effectively. Efficiency is only part of the productivity equation…and it is not the most important part. Effectiveness is.

The idea of “hyper-scheduling” (which is what “calendarizing” can lead to) can be a huge problem. Just ask Will Freeman.

Who is Will Freeman? He’s the main character in Nick Hornby’s About A Boy (played by Hugh Grant in the film adaptation). He scheduled his day in 15 minute increments — and for a long period of time it worked.

But then “the boy” happened…and things had to change.

Now “the boy” in the book/film comes in the form of an actual boy. But “the boy” can actually represent anything that comes along that can force you to alter your routine (or even approach). I’ve dealt with many of these throughout my life, and found that by hyper-scheduling regularly that I lacked the flexibility needed to get the right things done.

But hyper-scheduling doesn’t just remove flexibility from the equation, it removes durability as well. Scheduling your day in fifteen minute increments is too small to be sustainable — especially with the amount of “boys” that can enter your life at regular intervals. Now I’m not suggesting that the entire approach is incorrect. I’m a big fan of time chunking. But by going so micro, you aren’t setting yourself up for long-term success. I believe the smallest increment of time you should ever spend on one chunk is thirty minutes. And scheduling each chunk to fill your day isn’t ideal either.

During this talk by John Cleese, he says that you need two things to be at your creative best: time and space. Hyper-scheduling robs of you of both of those things, despite the fact that it sounds like it will give you both.

But if you focus on task over time, hyper-scheduling doesn’t even get consideration…right?

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