Pressing pause on Tetris scheduling

Many of us run our calendars like a game of Tetris: find open slots and fill them.

We’ve had digital calendars to help schedule our time for a few years now, and by this point we’re generally pretty good at allowing for things like travel time, delays and overrunning meetings.

However, we’re still surprisingly bad at allowing for, let alone even recognising, recovery time.

One of Paul Graham’s much-cited essays ‘Maker Schedule, Manager Schedule’ is a good way of thinking about how to better run our schedules and the cognitive overhead of context switching, but there’s still more we can do when it comes to allowing for recovery time.

A good start point is to recognise the different levels of rest we need.

Here’s an example:

I really love to teach and facilitate workshops.

Most of the groups I teach are around 20 people, although sometimes they’re as large as 250.

After almost every session I need an hour or two of downtime to re-energise and replenish whatever I’ve put into the class. The size of the group rarely matters – I still need that time.

Meanwhile, one of my fellow teachers racks up 100+ sessions a year and hardly ever feels tired, drained or blocked.

 

On the flip side, in my coaching class a number of my peers have noticed how tired they feel after a 1:1 coaching session. They need to build in recovery time for themselves.

On the other hand, I often leave a session feeling more energised when I started. A 5 minute walk, if that, is all I need to be ready to go again.

Two related activities, two very different outcomes. Two very different calendar setups.

 

If we’re going ice bathing with Wim Hof or taking on our first marathon, we know we’ll probably need significant recovery time.

But what about the activities that we take on more regularly in our working lives that still challenge us?

A tricky board meeting, public speaking on a new topic, debugging some complex code?

It’s probably worth pausing the Tetris game and adding a few different kind of blocks: rest, recovery, reflection.

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