How do I manage a hectic schedule that is always changing? (Part 3)

How do you optimize your workflow in the course of routinely hectic days? This is the third post in a five-part series, so don’t begin here. First, decide on your Blue Sky — even just for today — then audit what creates chaos in your schedule, along with any fixable patterns you can identify for yourself and your team. Now, note the reframing of the original question in this post’s first sentence. Your new focus is “How do I optimize my day?” rather than “How do I manage a hectic schedule” because, again, what you focus on ignites

Your new focus is “How do I optimize my day?” rather than “How do I manage a hectic schedule” because, again, what you focus on ignites. 

In my work as a strategist, I use tech best practices in non-tech spaces. There’s a reason tech companies tend to quickly and powerfully disrupt the non-tech ecosystems they enter. Part of it is their approach to big picture executions. Where analog world amplifies ideators and their ideas (“I have a vision!”), techies obsess over customers and their pain points (“We solved a problem!). Since customers are the currency of success, tech companies dismantle whole industries that are still top-down, visionary-leader-celebrating entities. Tech companies are bottom up, constantly iterating worlds. Until they get big enough that their visionary leader becomes the central focus of the company. And then…well, you know what’s going to happen.

Tech has the edge in small executions, as well. In addition to their customer focus, tech cos (Okay, it’s us. We’re tech cos.) liberally incorporate data into daily thoughts and processes like Himalayan salt. Data inspires, drives, and validates some part of every decision, no matter how minor. So where and how your data is stored, cared for and retrieved is mission critical to your success.

Your hectic days are filled with multiple small decisions and requests, too, the many “Tasks” and “Asks” that collectively add up to overwhelm. Each one of those events is its own data point you may need to reference for great decisions. So here are three tech-inspired tips to transform your current approach to time and task management:

  1. Commit to getting everything out of your head and into tangible form. To start, you absolutely have to decide that the minute any idea or task pops into your head, you’re going to put it into tangible form. No exceptions! That fleeting reminder to call someone, that nagging question of did I do that thing, that fun gift idea for two months from now? Every piece of information, without preference, fail or exception, must be written or typed into a form that can be saved, retrieved and reviewed.
  1. Commit to storing every one of those things in a single place. Tech teams often speak of the “single source of truth,” or SSOT, for their data. As obvious as that seems, it’s rarely practiced in analog OR tech world! Think about all the places you currently squirrel away information. Your email inbox is in the thousands. You have sticky notes or a notebook for things you want to speedily capture. You use a digital notes app on each different device you use. You stick your head out of your office to ask your assistant, “Remind me to…” And that’s just from the first few hours of any day. You cannot get a handle on your days if you can’t immediately and simply see what the demands of your day and life currently are. And that requires a single place where all things live. That includes ideas, brainstorms, tasks, etc. — the content doesn’t matter. And if you have a team, hear this clearly: the entire team needs to work from a single source of truth. 

There are many ways to do this. If you decide to write things down, then a single notebook has to be with you at every moment. Bring the fanny pack back in style, but let there be a pen and notepad in it. If you decide on digital task lists or note apps, then sync them across all of your devices. And for speed, use your keyboard mic to speech-to-text items straight into the app. Whatever you choose, commit to it. And no matter what, back it up! (Yes, even your notebook has to be scanned at least once a week.)

There’s a lot to learn by doing this. With my clients, we discuss the times of day they’re most inundated with ideas and asks, the buckets or types of items on the list, and the trends in volume over times or periods of the week or year. Please don’t create additional steps with interim sources of truth. Don’t make a list on your phone and a written list on your desk and decide you’ll cross-check them later. You shouldn’t, and you won’t. Decide on and stick to a single source of truth. It won’t last forever — it’s just a starting point. Whatever’s the easiest right now, choose that so you can begin the practice of and shift to maintaining a single source of truth.

  1. Commit to reviewing and prioritizing your SSOT at least once a day. Once you’ve consolidated all of your piles of information and to dos into a single place, you’ll finally be able to build an organizing workflow that delivers for you and your team. The goal isn’t to clear your list. By nature, to-do lists are always replenishing. Instead, the goal is to plan your day. Ideally at the top of the day, every day. As you start this approach, it’s helpful to review and plan at the end of the day, to, because many things may shift over those few hours. It will give you peace of mind to read and even reorder your list in preparation for the morning, so you wake up to a clear sense of purpose and possibility. 

Don’t make a list on your phone and a written list on your desk and decide you’ll cross-check them later. You shouldn’t, and you won’t. Decide on and stick to a single source of truth.

Years ago, at a job where my daily schedule constantly changed throughout the day, I remember checking in with my team in our Friday EOD about how to make their experience better. To the one, each said, “I just want to feel like ‘I’ve got this!’ at the beginning and end of each day.” I loved that, and I related to it, and I committed to having a solution for us on Monday. Reader, I had NO idea how to accomplish this. But I know what decisions do for the universe, so I committed and began my research. And within an hour, I received a phone call that included a random mention of a book that was, indeed, a system for reaching your goals. It was "4DX" by Sean Covey and Chris McChesney. In that book, they leveraged Dwight D. Eisenhower’s approach to prioritizing to dos. Whereas we often evaluate items strictly based on “Urgency,” Eisenhower expanded this to include “Importance.” And prioritizing tasks requires a combination of both. We'll put that on its feet in the next post.

I added that framework to the lean methodology and design thinking from my professional background, and I had a way forward for my team on Monday. Our productivity skyrocketed, and we were having fun at work, with the even heavier load that landed on us right after.

Before moving on to the execution of an optimal day, commit to all three steps above. Braindump relentlessly. Put that SSOT into practice. Highlight it, use different colored pens, make it your own. Because it’s about to change your life.

How do I manage a hectic schedule that is always changing? (Part 2)

In the first post in this series on how to manage a hectic, constantly changing schedule, we reframed individual hectic moments within a big-picture lens of your “Blue Sky.” What’s a higher, meaningful purpose for your being in that space today and/or every day? Applying that filter to those smaller moments will focus and motivate you.

In this post, we’re tackling the elements of your day that make it “hectic” and “constantly changing.” You might initially think this is as easy — or impossible — as just clearing your schedule. Don’t mass delete just yet! To truly fix an issue, you have to understand its root cause, then solve for that, or the issue keeps cropping up like a weed. So your next step towards effective time management is another internal one (of course!). It’s asking yourself where you fit in all this chaos. You might assume you are the victim or target of other people’s bad time management — and you may be at least partially right. But an earnest audit of how you arrived at where you are will help you permanently fix what’s actually causing the upheaval.

Your next step towards effective time management is another internal one (of course!). It’s asking yourself where you fit in all this chaos.

Here are three questions to ask yourself in a quiet moment:

  1. What specific experiences made today feel hectic? Write them down so you can interact with them as information, not emotionally resonant memories.
  2. For each one, ask: “Why did this make my day feel hectic?” Write the literal answers down. For example, you might say, “I already had two meetings set first thing this morning, and a third one was too much.” Or “I was running behind when they stopped me in the hall and asked for that favor, and it set me even further behind in the day.”
  3. What would have made the experience better? (And how active, vs. passive, can you remain in your answer here?) If you’re resisting any possible options, write them down anyway…then ask yourself why “better” isn’t a possibility. Yep, write that down, too.

As you’re conducting your audit, especially the last part, check for any internal reasons your day might be overbooked, in addition to external things you don’t control. Are you seeing patterns of leaving or arriving late that quickly back your day up? Are you suffering the consequences of putting off prep work until the last minute? These are common habits that you’ll more easily undo after your Blue Sky starts connecting even routine or dreaded tasks to meaningful possibilities. Now go deeper: ask yourself, “Is my feeling hectic and overscheduled in any way in service to myself?” For instance, do I have a fear of saying no and being disliked or marginalized…do I associate being busy with relevance or value…do I stay extra-busy to avoid bigger or more complicated tasks, conversations or thoughts? This isn’t to blame you for your too-busy days; it’s to see what part of your scheduling issues might be in your control to fix.

Ask yourself, “Is my feeling hectic and overscheduled in any way in service to myself?” This isn’t to blame you for your too-busy days; it’s to see what part of your scheduling issues might be in your control to fix.

Write this down: “When my day is busy, I feel bad about ______. And I feel good about _____.” It’s important to think about both of these things, because in trying to eliminate the things that make you feel bad about a jam-packed day, you want to preserve the things that actually make you feel effective and even proud. As an example, you might feel bad about missing lunch or not spending enough time prepping for an important presentation. But you might feel good about having interacted with every team member that morning or about having solved a critical problem for someone. 

With all of this information before you, there’s one more step: rewrite your hectic day as a blissful one — but only change the things you control! Do you wake up 20 minutes earlier to allow for unpredictable commute times? Do you tell the friend you chatted with in the garage that you’ll check in with them after your morning meeting instead? Do you stay after the meeting to review priorities with your boss after being given a second big assignment that's due the same day as one you’re already working on? Write down multiple possibilities for each of the hectic moments on your list. Bonus step: now write alternate responses to the “constantly changing” moments in your day. How might you respond differently to a last-minute meeting being added to your day or to a critical meeting being canceled? We’ll talk about this more specifically in a later post in this series, but brainstorm even small moments of agency on the page now, to continue shifting away from feeling like a passive participant in your own day. Remember to connect all your choices to your Blue Sky as you go!

With all of this information before you, there’s one more step: rewrite your hectic day as a blissful one — but only change the things you control!

Once your audit and do-over are done, it’s important to socialize what you’ve learned and decided. Tell a colleague, friend or boss that you’re working on optimizing your workdays and may have questions, conversations or requests of them over the coming week. And if you’re a leader, go through the same steps and questions with your team members about their hectic days. That will help you find patterns within the team you have the ability to fix with new workflows or technology. And, at minimum, it can earn you trusted partners in prioritizing and executing when your own days get way too full. Then you can begin the actual work of overhauling your hectic days with support behind you — and possibly help others take control of their days, too.

Ready for the next step? It's time to optimize.

How do I manage a hectic schedule that is always changing? (Part 1)

Korgi recently asked users for questions to help them get organized and realize their goals. This question is a great fit for everyone who’s trying to get out from under an overwhelming schedule. The answer is in a five-part series of posts, to give you time to reflect and practice each step before moving on to the next.

The first step in shifting away from being caught in a hectic, always changing schedule isn't fixing your environment. It's changing your focus.

  1. What is making my schedule hectic? An audit of your day will help fix this, along with clear steps to create and retain calm in what once was chaos.
  2. When and why is my schedule always changing? This calls for another audit because the right fix is grounded in the reasons for those constant shifts — and whether those reasons are internal, external or both.
  3. How do I manage my schedule better? Whether your days are hectic or calm, it’s important to create a consistent, effective approach to your day.

Before we solve for those, let's lay a new foundation for your day. The first step in shifting away from being caught in a hectic, always changing schedule isn't fixing your environment. It's changing your focus. I regularly say, and firmly believe, that what we focus on ignites. So focusing on an overwhelming or disrupting daily schedule will create more of the same.

The first step in shifting away from being caught in a hectic, always changing schedule isn't fixing your environment. It's changing your focus.

Instead redirect your focus to your “Blue Sky”: What is the most meaningful possible outcome of my being in this role or space? Why should you think “Blue Sky” before solving your problems? Because Blue Sky adds context that, at best, transforms those problems into opportunities, and at worst, usually lessens their daily blow. Limitlessness is very forgiving of granular stuff and moments that aren't perfect or rewarding and may, in fact, be irritating or upsetting. Chaos-inducing things can't compare to the vastness of anyone’s Blue Sky (think of the tiny cars and houses you see when you’re flying in an airplane…they’re little postage stamps from the window where you are). So getting to a Blue Sky mindset is your first step towards joy and freedom in the exact environment you’re currently feeling hectic in.

Focusing on an overwhelming or disrupting daily schedule will create more of the same. Instead redirect your focus to your “Blue Sky”: What is the most meaningful possible outcome of my being in this role or space?

Even better, unlike the meetings and tasks and drop-ins that disrupt your day, Blue Sky is something you completely control. It’s internally defined. It doesn't depend on what your job or family or friend group, etc. thinks your role or usefulness is in that space. It is your own true north, from your mind, heart or spirit. And it can — and will — evolve or change as you do. So when you step outside of the chaos to ask, “What is the best possible outcome, to me, of my being in this space?” That’s when the shift towards tranquility begins.

I was in a difficult role many years ago where there was a lot of chaos and friction in everyday moments. But my Blue Sky absolutely was leveraging my position to create limitlessness and career opportunities for all of the young, amazing people on my team and outside of my door. Everything I did, I led with that lens. And each time chaos materialized, it became easier to navigate because whatever the issue was would always pale compared to being an invested mentor and champion. That’s why the internal shift to thinking about and articulating and embracing and leading with a Blue Sky is the first step in changing your current hectic situation. You’ve heard that you can’t control events, but you can control your reaction to them. Blue Skying offers even more agency: you can’t control events, but you can define your opportunities inside of them.

You’ve heard that you can’t control events, but you can control your reaction to them. Blue Skying offers even more agency: you can’t control events, but you can define your opportunities inside of them.

What does this look like in practice? Here are two examples:

  1. You’re a staff-level writer in a room, a short-content editor at an agency, or a social media volunteer for a non-profit. Enter Chaos and Friction. Recently, you’re being inundated with additional work requests, added to a two-hour weekly standing meeting, etc. Before Blue Sky mindset, you’d be looking at your schedule and trying to move things around, maybe frustrated about even more being put on your plate. Now stop and think about your Blue Sky in this space. You might say: this role is an outlet for your endless creativity. Next, reframe the new demands as more possible opportunities to be creative. In your writers’ room, maybe you're asked to write dummy text for the magazine article prop that one character waves at another. It's not your job, no, but...is it an opportunity to be creative? To write something that deepens the moment for the cast and show? At the non-profit, you’re asked to do an email blast to upcoming event attendees. How beautifully can you design that? How inspiring can the language be? That is the power of leading with Blue Sky.
  2. In my own Chaos and Friction experience I referenced earlier, I was Blue Skying career and personal championship of my younger colleagues and team members. So asks to do more became perfectly aligned for me. I started saying yes to every big or little request. Then I'd let people know I'd be working with a team member. And that team member would join me in the beginning, then replace me over time. It was a great mentoring opportunity, and suddenly, the constant shifts and requests made me joyful.

What does reading this inspire or reveal for you? As you face another frenetic day, can you pause to do this Blue Sky exercise? It will help you build a practice of reframing everything that doesn't necessarily matter to you so that it's in service to something that truly does. 

Blue Skying is the first step to getting out of experiencing a hectic, always changing schedule and into a state of constant possibility. Next up? The audit.

How to finally get organized — and have fun doing it.

Last year, I finally merged my LinkedIn accounts. When you’re an entertainment exec and producer, a multi-patented tech exec, and a cross-sector impact and inclusion strategist, you tend to have a lot of different profiles, speaker bios, and frankly, answers to the question, “So, what do you do?”

In all my roles, I’ve focused on three main things. First, I love to solve problems. Give me a script that doesn’t work, a team that’s overwhelmed, or an entire industry paradigm that needs to be shifted, and I’m all the way in. Second, I love helping people get where they’re trying to go and drawing on my experience to get them there. And third, I love using tech to accelerate the first two.

I love helping people get where they’re trying to go and drawing on my experience to get them there.

Let me confess that again. I love tech. Like “no off switch”-level nerdiness. Off to a reunion getaway with friends? Here’s a “Girls’ Trip” app! Sitter staying with my dog Peace? Order food and snap puppy pics with “The Pizza Pie Production Guide.” Hey, what if I turned my text-heavy resume into a more user-friendly Tumblr board? Even my HR talent recruitment app is unabashedly sexy. Okay, maybe only to me.

I don’t just love tech for tech’s sake; it solves problems and creates possibilities for people and issues I care about. Ten years ago, I launched the Hollywood Diversity Network, then expanded it into one of entertainment’s biggest talent databases as an exec, then bundled it with training and events to get working creatives connected and hired. From hacking Slack and Asana into “Slacksana,” to releasing a Gen Z voting app when a young friend in Congress got redistricted, my go-to combo is: centralize all necessary assets into one beautiful space, then add clear steps on how to get the thing done.

My go-to combo is: centralize all necessary assets into one beautiful space, then add clear steps on how to get the thing done.

Just over a year ago, I built the bones of a new app to pull my prior work together. Our AMAZING team grew, our testers dove in, and Korgi was born. Why? Look around yourself right now. How many devices are you using? How many apps and tabs do you jump between all day, trying to find and finish things? Now imagine managing your whole day, no matter your industry or goal, from a single digital project board, with all the steps, resources and tools you need to succeed. 

Korgi is your sticky notes, but super-powered. Your corkboard, but bada**. Create and connect docs, events and links in one click; drag and drop, color code, and archive cards as you go, and export boards into new documents. All integrated with and saved to your Google Workspace, with Korgi AI and pre-built boards to guide you. So you can start in 5 minutes — leaving more time to turn your to dos into “ta dahs!”

Korgi is your sticky notes, but super-powered. Your corkboard, but bada**.

So…what is it I do? As of Google’s latest email approving our web app, I’m founder of the newly live Korgi. Join the list now for our online launch party, with demos and prizes, Sat., Feb. 10, at 10am Pacific, and sign up for our free trial (no card required) for an awesome launch discount!

— DMA Anderson, Founder, Korgi