Protect my calendar: saying no to unimportant and yes to my work

That phrase—”Protect My Calendar”—is something I try to repeat to myself throughout the day. More pointedly, my calendar is top of mind at the end and beginning of the week. The end (Friday) is when I plan my calendar for the following week, and the beginning (Monday) is when I implement the plan.

In this aspect of my personal and professional life, I’m not sure I’ll ever master “the art” of protecting my calendar, but It is (at the very least) a work in progress.

Over the last three years, I have experienced three inflection points that impact my current day-to-day: traction, timeboxing, and taking time on a Friday.

The Opposite of Distraction

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Art of Manliness, when host Bret McKay asked his guest, Nir Ayal, about how to “eliminate distraction” in one’s personal life.

Ayal’s response left a mark on me, and reframed how I view time throughout the course of my week.

Before diving into methods on how to protect one’s time, he brought up the “opposite of distraction” and how that, in itself, is where most people miss the mark. For example, he mentioned that he’s tried everything from throwing away his smart phone to getting rid of his television. But in the end, Ayal mentioned how the opposite of distraction isn’t ridding oneself of distraction . . . It’s traction.

Not only was his remark simple yet profound, but it was also the name of a book I have walked other business owners through—Traction by Geno Wickman—and therefore KNEW he was spot on.


So once I took that reality to heart, it felt like my view on not just my calendar changed, but time in general.

Forget my 9-5pm calendar . . . what about my mornings? My time with my wife? My kids? Prioritizing traction was and is my best bet at avoiding distractions that arise in the day and try to steal my time.

Enter this important HBR article on timeboxing that I read a couple years ago. Another simple yet life-changing concept—again, not just for my work life but also my personal life in general. I cannot tell you how much this method has shaped my days and weeks.

A non-work example: if Lauren and I timebox (write in our calendar) an hour-and-a-half on Saturday night to bake a pie together for our kids, we are much less likely to divert to streaming TV because we’re “bored” and don’t have anything on the calendar.

Take Back My Time. Protect My Calendar.

Timeboxing eventually led to a complete paradigm shift in the way I plan out and approach my weeks. There is no way I could encapsulate how important this third and final inflection point is to my work and personal life, but I am excited to share it with you.

It happens on a Friday, and it’s the last few hours of my afternoon before I call it a week. It’s my “Weekly Review” and I learned of its importance from a good friend and coach of mine, Jeanette Thomas with Storyboard Coaching.

JT walked me through the importance of a weekly review and everything about me wanted to fight this three to four hour chunk of my calendar . . . think of how much work I could get done in that time!

But I knew JT was right. A weekly review was my chance to look back on the week past, assess in the present, and plan for the future.

In a nutshell, this is my time to completely plan for the days ahead SO THAT I am completely in charge of protecting my calendar before the world tries to steal my minutes and seconds.

Time is Sacred

Traction, timeboxing, and taking our calendars back from the world. Why is this all so important? Why do we work with authors about how to write their books and inevitably talk about how to protect one’s time?

Because your time is sacred. But maybe even more importantly? There is a war for your time. Don’t believe me? If you own a smartphone, you’re in the middle of the battle as we speak.

There are more methods, certainly, to protect one’s calendar. The three aforementioned resources/methods are ones that have helped me immensely over the past few years, but I get more excited thinking about the time they will save me in the years ahead.

The work you’ve been given is counting on it. My wife, children, and friends are counting on it. And let me tell you something about those individuals . . .

They’re worth going to battle for.

Will Severns

Will Severns

Will is the Co-Founder of Streamline Books and author of Gouge. He and his wonderful wife, Lauren, live in Kansas City, Missouri with their son, Branch, and daughter, Wynnie.