A normal calendar has the basic function of visualizing your time and the hours of the day as space in a grid. If there’s something you want or have to do, and you’re a relatively organized person, you find an open slot and fill it.

There are however, other variables which normal calendars don’t automatically factor in, which productive people do implicitly. For instance, the number of concurrent threads one can manage, the cost of context switching, and considering an activity’s overhead.

https://twitter.com/dorrismccomics/status/1126184428357681153/photo/1

In the comic, these other variables are all sort of visualized at once as size and position. This visualization of projects probably doesn’t simply represent the time to complete a task, but to how all the factors add up.

Each person will have their own thresholds which would determine the size of a project block, but I bet there’s a generalizable baseline from which a person can either gently expand or contract.

Which reminds me of a couple of ideas some friends and I kicked around some years ago.

Calendar Events as Interruptions

The idea was that a calendar can feel like a series of interruptions. In some cases, even the things we want to do can seem like interruptions, and they may or may not even be on a calendar. 

The challenge is to try and think strategically, long term, and in good health while your attention feels chopped up and discontinuous.

If we assume that people can refer to a long distance goal in such a way that it won’t feel like a distraction for several months, then I should be possible that your calendar events feel more continuous.

Incorporating Ideas From Budgeting and Project Management

For some perspective, I’ve started thinking about financial budgeting and estimating as analogs, although project management concepts are also slipping in a bit.

  • There are different budgeting approaches. What are some considerations for budgeting time effectively? 
  • When creating estimates, we sometimes factor in buffers. Would you factor in 40% time buffer for your time estimates? (Perhaps related to one’s stress tolerance. A lower tolerance means greater buffer)
  • What’s the work in progress? How many goal-threads do we tend to take on at once?

My Personal Experience Budgeting

One of the initial problems I’d had with budgeting had to do with a kind of ‘over analyzing’ my budget and getting too granular and prescriptive. 

What worked best was simplifying the approach. I decided how much I wanted to save by a specific point in time, making sure the monthly savings wasn’t eating in to ‘critical costs’ like rent and utilities, and then just put it away.

What worked for me was to budget around my goals and to think about my goals while budgeting first, rather than around costs. I knew that by X date I would Y dollars, my overhead would be covered, and I would be able to make the rest work. 

I’m betting that I don’t usually budget my time/attention this way and that I’m not exactly sure what my ‘overhead costs’ are right now. In fact I’m not exactly sure that I have tested any particular approach consistently.