CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Productivity alert: lose that schedule

Lose that schedule if you want to be healthier, happier, wiser and more productive.

Productivity expert pmarca gives advice I've intuitively been following for a while: to be free, lose that schedule (as much as you can).

By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day.

As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.

Want to spend all day writing a research report? Do it!

Want to spend all day coding? Do it!

Want to spend all day at the cafe down the street reading a book on personal productivity? Do it!

When someone emails or calls to say, "Let's meet on Tuesday at 3", the appropriate response is: "I'm not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can't commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I'm available, I'll meet with you."

Or, if it's important, say, "You know what, let's meet right now."

Clearly this only works if you can get away with it. If you have a structured job, a structured job environment, or you're a CEO, it will be hard to pull off.

But if you can do it, it's really liberating, and will lead to far higher productivity than almost any other tactic you can try.

This idea comes from a wonderful book called A Perfect Mess, which explains how not keeping a schedule has been key to Arnold Schwarzenegger's success as a movie star, politician, and businessman over the last 20 years.

Want to meet with Arnold? Sure, drop on by. He'll see you if he can. But you might want to call first. Sorry, he doesn't schedule appointments in advance.

As a result, for 20 years he has been free to work on whatever is most important in his life at any time....

If you have at any point in your life lived a relatively structured existence -- probably due to some kind of job with regular office hours, meetings, and the like -- you will know that there is nothing more liberating than looking at your calendar and seeing nothing but free time for weeks ahead to work on the most important things in whatever order you want.

This also gives you the best odds of maximizing flow, which is a whole 'nother topic but highly related.

I implemented this system after I realized it would take 4, 5, 6, sometimes 10 emails for someone just to agree to schedule a phone call. They figure my time (not theirs) is too valuable to just call me directly, so as consequence they email to death trying to get a phone call, when the question could just as easily (and more effectively and efficiently) have been resolved with a quick phone call.

My attitude is this: Time is precious for everyone. Pick up the phone, don't type. If I'm available, I'll talk, if not, I'll call you back giving you some times when I know I'll have free time. That way we know we'll connect.

And in the interim, I am in "flow" - creative juices flowing - living on precious uninterrupted time, doing what I love.

Our expert says:

I've been trying this tactic as an experiment in 2007, as those of you who have emailed me to suggest we get together or that I go to a conference or to a meeting will attest. And I am so much happier, I can't even tell you. I get so much more time to focus on the things that really matter -- in my case, my two companies, my nonprofit boards, and my lovely wife.

Amen to that. In this culture, we tend to spend more time jamming up our precious silence with makeshift work, instead of taking the silence we need from all the chatter to truly experience the bliss of flow. It's a spiritual lesson, to be sure, but also a management one.

Thanks to my father's bookshelf I was reading Drucker as a 10-year-old. That is probably the source of early inspiration (Drucker plus Hebrew school plus ... equals) and the discipline to manage time effectively. The more effectively work time is managed, the more play time, and the more work feels like play.


Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on holistic, alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies. The law firm represents medical doctors, allied health professionals (from psychologists to nurses and dentists) and other clinicians (from chiropractors to naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, and acupuncturists), entrepreneurs, hospitals, and educational organizations, health care institutions, and individuals and corporations.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), a forum for exploring legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, and herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. The most recent published book by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary, alternative and integrative medicine and related fields is Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion. This book completes the cycle begun in Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), and continued in Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).

As of 2007, health care and corporate attorney Michael H. Cohen has been admitted to the Bar of California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C., and to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing). For more information, see the FAQs for the Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen.

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