Clarifying Buckets

Published on
November 10, 2014
Chris Taylor
"Ideas are only valuable when applied."
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Last week I wrote about the value of creating triggers for review, reflection and schedule adjustment. Moving to Panama was one such trigger for me and, leveraging what I’ve learned from the last few moves, I used it as an opportunity to completely “blow up” my calendar and rebuild it from the ground up.

A week in, the new structure is going well, so I thought I’d share some specifics. I hope you find them useful.


The first step for me in rebuilding my calendar was to think in terms of “content”; ie – what are the fewest number of buckets that encompass all of my projects/to-dos, yet still provides enough description that the definition is valuable? Here’s what I came up with:

Creativity – reading, writing & blue sky thinking

Content/Product Development – Call it “Public consumption productivity”; the work that I produce for other people to use and/or purchase

Business Metrics – dedicated time to look at the numbers side of the business. Also includes accounting, legal and systems.

Management (Projects & People) – ideally the majority of my day; helping clients, consultants and team members achieve their results. Lots of phone time.

Sales – still a big part of my job, and one that requires its own bucket. (though the planning and measurement part of sales fits under “Business Metrics” now)

Health, Wellness & Balance – something that was slipping and I was definitely starting to feel. Now 5+ years into my entrepreneurial journey, I’m feeling the need for proper rest and rejuvenation. It’s not a sprint any more; I’m committed to running the marathon.

Here’s how I’ve structured the typical (non-travel) week:

(download to enlarge)

The purple blocks on Tuesday and Thursday evening are designed to be an extension of the “Management” section in the afternoon. Since we work with clients and consultants all over the globe, it’s important that I acknowledge evening work, and budget time accordingly.

“Rocks Projects”, for those not familiar with the reference, are the monthly commitments I’ve made to 3 projects that are Important but not Urgent. These are the long term future of the business and really exciting to work on. And yet, even with them being as exciting as they are, they tend to slip to the wayside if I don’t calendar them in. So they’re now in there. Every week.

The last piece in here that doesn’t have a dedicated block is sales. Instead, I’ve set up a ScheduleOnce calendar that displays all my availability, in real time, so that potential clients can book with me whenever is convenient to them. I was originally apprehensive about asking would-be clients to book on my system, but I’ve actually found that they appreciate the reduction in “back and forth” emails. And assistants love it.

So once you layer in all the meetings, calls, unexpected project pushes, etc. does my calendar actually look like this? Of course not. But there’s an underpinning to the whole thing now; a sense of structure where I’ve attempted to group like with like that has improved my sense of ownership over the week. I’m more productive, happier, and have a clearer sense of where my time is being spent.


So the calendar works for me, but like most of us, I don’t work in a vacuum; the core team at Actionable is 11 people. That’s 10 other busy people who I now really needed/wanted to work around my calendar choices. What do you do? I asked. I sent out an email, asking three specific questions:

1. In the second week of each month, do you have any current/recurring “blackout days”? (ie. “Mondays are completely booked for me”)

2. Based on your current role/involvement with Actionable, how often do you feel it’s appropriate to connect with the other related individuals? (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)

3. On a scale of 1–10, how clear do you feel you are in regards to the other aspects of the business? (10 = I’m totally clear on everything happening in the business, 1 = You mean there’s more going on here than just my piece?)

**Any additional thoughts/points you want to share re. calendars at this time?

I asked for responses within 24 hours and, without exception, I got them. Then I shared back the aggregated results to #3 (5.7 average) which had everyone perk up. Clearly, we needed to change our meeting structure – everyone was in agreement on that.

Then I informed everyone (second email) that I would be deleting all existing and recurring meetings in the calendar, then rebooking based on the responses to questions #1 and #2. Any mistakes I made (there were bound to be a couple) were rectified immediately, along with a statement of clarification in a separate email.

The Result:

Less than a week to a completely redesigned meeting and calendar schedule – both for the team I lead and for myself personally.

Buy in from everyone,

and a general sense of excitement towards our next set of meetings.

Why am I sharing all the details here? Because I believe that how you go about applying changes like this – changes that impact other people in the organization – will have a massive impact on their successful rollout.

My biggest leadership lesson over the last 12 months is that we need to slow down before we leap forward into something new. Show people that you genuinely want and appreciate their input and make the creation a team activity and I guarantee you you’ll find better results.