Tearing Up the Schedule

Tearing Up the Schedule

This month marks three years since I experienced a turnaround in business that—with the exception of a mini-disaster the first two months of 2016—has trended upward ever since.

Tearing Up the Schedule | Ken Walker WriterOne factor I credit is developing a daily schedule on a spreadsheet, which gives me focus and direction, and helps me stay on track. When I allocate certain time to a project, I need to accomplish as much as possible in the time allotted before moving on to the next task.

Through experience I have learned to avoid over-scheduling myself. If I plan to put in nine hours on a particular day, I schedule only eight of them.

That extra hour always seems to get claimed by tasks that take longer than planned, or interruptions. It’s what time management experts call “margin,” that cushion to allow time for unplanned events in daily life.

Challenges of Life

One interesting development lately is my increasing inability to schedule much further ahead than a day or two. Too many variables seem to pop up with regularity: people wanting to reschedule interviews, clients with urgent requests a day or two before I expected them, and so on.

Yet the challenges of my daily life are minor compared to those on the national stage, a reality brought home by Time magazine’s recent cover story, “The White House Survival Guide.

The readable coverage included observations from 18 current and former aides to President Barack Obama. They painted a picture of a job so demanding that without intentionality, one can allow the ordinary stuff of life—birthdays, family dinners, and gathering with friends—to get swallowed up by the 24/7 nature of working in the White House.

Exploding the List

Given the all-encompassing, modern-day media coverage that surrounds any president, it is easy to forget the host of other players helping him (and one day, her) carry out the job, not to mention the intense spotlight that goes with it.

Aides talked about the bewildering nature of simply learning the logistics of what is where, the hour the mess closes (a time when coffee is most urgently needed), and needing to be careful when speaking in public, since one never knows when someone is eavesdropping in hopes of inflicting political damage. (A variation on the old joke, “You have reason to be paranoid; they are out to get you.”)

However, the comment that most caught my attention came from former deputy chief of staff Mona Sutphen. In the midst of a discussion on the frenetic pace of scheduling visits and the disorganization that erupts in a maelstrom of ever-changing activity, she commented on how she used to be a big fan of “to-do” lists.

“But the to-do list actually took too much time,” Sutphen said. “Because I very rarely was able to scratch things off the to-do list when I did the to-do list, I found it a very dissatisfying exercise. I kind of stopped doing it.”

Dealing with Demands

I know what Sutphen means about the dissatisfaction that stems from being unable to check things off a to-do list. But even when I get sidetracked by the unexpected, I’m able to adjust without serious damage.

When I read her comment, I imagined the pressure that comes with being so overrun by daily life you have to simply stop doing such a list.

So, whether you voted for Donald Trump or not (and more than half of you didn’t), remember the instruction in 1 Timothy 2:2, to pray for all those in authority. It isn’t just our president who needs prayer, but the staff that deals with the demands of running our nation’s government.


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