A Time Management Article by Harold Taylor

When you schedule your priorities and other important tasks and activities into your planning calendar, don’t forget to include your family. Everyone I have talked to claim their family is their priority. But does the family know it? The problem, according to author Andy Stanley, is that your family cannot see your heart. “You may love them in your heart, but you don’t love them in your schedule,” he claims in his book, Choosing to Cheat. It is not enough for them to be your priority; they must feel it and experience it.

That is why I have always advocated using one planning calendar only, in which times for your personal and family activities are scheduled along with those relating to your business. Since most family time and personal time take place in the evenings, the original “week at a glance” planners that I published ran from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM. This was later changed to 10:00 PM to allow for more space. Since we no longer publish these hardcopy planners, I use the Quo Vadis Minister style weekly planner that records from 8 AM to 9:00 PM. Most business planners only allow recording to about 5:00 PM.

In the heyday of my time management speaking and consulting, I had a hard time convincing people to record business commitments and family and personal commitments in the same planner, even though everyone at times must leave early for a family or personal commitment during business hours, because of some family emergency. They are mixing business and personal life whether they intend to or not.

Vacations with the family, doctor appointments, and other personal commitments should be planned well in advance, along with the important goal-related tasks of your job. And the same planner should include family commitments on evenings and weekends, such as those hockey games, children’s dancing lessons, dates with your spouse, bridge games with friends, and so on. If the family members are important, then time for them should be planned, not simply taken when the opportunity arises. Then they will know for sure that they are the priority. They will feel it. And you will never have to miss another parent teacher’s night or forget about the date of the graduation ceremony.

I received many objections to my detailed scheduling of time for all events, personal and business, in my planner. A favorite objection seemed to be, “I want a little spontaneity in my life!” To which, I would reply,” If you want spontaneity, you must schedule it!” That frequently got a laugh, but not too many people took it seriously.

And I was dead serious. I remember that one of the most enjoyable family outings of our lives was the time we dumped the kids into the car and asked, “Where do you want to go?” After some discussion, we headed for Quebec City. We never reached our destination, because the kids enjoyed the visits to the parks and old forts and swimming pools at the Holiday Inns along the way so much, that it was time to turn around and go back. That spontaneous five-day vacation was one of the most memorable ones. Everyone had a ball. But it never would have happened if we had not scheduled those five days in our planner as a “vacation with kids.” What you do can be spontaneous, but the time for it must be scheduled.

I know from experience that we frequently say we will do things with the spouse or family members, and then not have the time to follow through. My wife and I used to say we would go to the major plays when they came to the city, but we rarely attended any. One year, I suggested we buy seasons tickets, and block off those evenings in my planner. Even then I received objections. “We never heard of half those plays; how do we know they’ll be any good” and, “How do we know we’ll be free on those particular nights?” Or “Let’s wait until the good ones come to town.” And so on. But I still insisted. Finally, she asked, “You mean you’re going to block off seven Saturday evenings up to six months in advance? How do you know we’ll be available six months from Friday? We could be dead in six months!”

“You’re right, we could be,” I agreed. “But if, by some stroke of luck, we’re not, would you care to go to the theatre with me that night?” The conversation ended with a good-natured comment such as, “You’re weird.” And I bought the tickets.

Guess what? By some miracle, nothing else happened to fall on those dates that we had scheduled. Why? Because they were scheduled. It’s that simple. Some of the plays were duds, as my wife had feared, but we probably enjoyed ourselves the most on those evenings making fun of them at afterword’s. The real purpose for the evening was not to see a stage play anyway; it was to spend time with my wife.

When I would tell this embellished story to the audience during my talks and workshops, I would add a fictitious story of a neighbor calling us and asking, “Harold, are you and Marlene doing anything this coming Saturday? We’re having a group of friends over to watch 3,000 slides of our trip to Europe.” To which I replied, as I joyfully flipped open my planner, “Oh, what a shame! We’ve already bought tickets for a stage play that night.” And then, strictly for effect, completed it with the fictitious question, “Can we take a 14-year rain check on that?” It made the point that blocking off the time for events in your planner helps you to say no to others.

But the truth of the example is that if we had not made the commitment and physically blocked off the time in my planner to attend those stage plays, we might have spent that evening watching 3000 slides of someone else’s trip to Europe.

You may not want to go to my extreme when blocking off time in your planner. But if you don’t get your priorities into your planner, your planner will soon be filled with other people’s priorities instead.

And that is no way to manage your time.

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