As a product designer, I spent 12 years designing interfaces and features for software products at Google. Along the way, I became interested in the connection between keeping track of your tasks and scheduling your time. How do to-do lists actually translate into getting your work done? This was the question I had been pondering before coming to Woven.
Tools, methodologies, and techniques
There are many, many tools and techniques aimed at boosting productivity. I’ve tried dozens of to-do list apps and strategies--even made some of my own--and there was always a missing step between making a list of tasks and actually working through it effectively.
What finally unlocked my personal productivity was shifting the way I thought about the calendar. The calendar offers a finite amount of time in your day. No matter how many items are on your to-do list, you can only spend a certain amount of time working on them. Rather than focus on ranking a list, I needed to decide how to spend my time.
I started transferring my to-do list to my calendar. Each day, I’d create events for the most important tasks I wanted to work on that day. When the day was full, my schedule was set. Then I’d work through my schedule and try to stick to the allotted time slots. I could move tasks between days, and resize them to match my time estimate, but not fit more in the day than I had time to work on. For me, the calendar became the best task management system I’d ever used.
I noticed the most productive people around me used their calendar similarly. My manager at the time, Graham Jenkin, took it a step further and blocked the entire morning every day to make sure he’d have time to work on the most important things. Other colleagues would fill their entire day with tasks in advance; new meeting requests would just have to wait until later. This time-blocking technique has proven to be very effective; a multitude of resources and articles on implementing it now exist.
Calendar as destiny
I wasn’t looking for a new job when I got a call from Tim, the co-founder of Woven. But we connected quickly over the idea that “your calendar is destiny”.
Many of us faithfully follow what our calendar tells us to do. Tim, as an executive, resonated with that: he’d always worked with an assistant who arranged the details of his schedule, and he’d go wherever it told him to. Once his assistant put down a fake event, “Buy present for [assistant].” And he did, just because his calendar told him to.
Whether an event on your schedule comes from you or from someone else, it’s likely what you’ll spend your time on. If you want to change the way you spend your time, you need change how you use your calendar.
Better collaboration, better focus
To achieve anything significant, you need to work with other people, and that means coordinating when, where, and how to meet. The calendar is the most social software tool. Its entire existence is to support meeting with people. But most calendars don’t acknowledge that schedules are a collaboration.
If you have preferred times for meeting someone, you can offer that to them. Woven even makes it easy for them to schedule those times immediately. Alternatively, by blocking off time with a note, “focus time, do not schedule,” you are giving coworkers transparency into your working process. Those suffering from meeting fatigue can reclaim some focus time. A calendar is built to help you align socially in a way that a to-do list really doesn’t allow.
I use Woven to organize my tasks and deadlines. When I meet with my team, we’ll make decisions about our projects and what we need to accomplish next. I’ll make commitments about when and how I am going to do my part. Then, I block off time in my calendar to do that work. If I send an email or Slack message that says, “I’ll have this by tomorrow,” I immediately go into my calendar and drag a block of time before tomorrow for that task.
In Woven, I use the draft events list as my to-do list. When I’m ready to actually schedule that task, it’s already in my calendar and I just have to choose a time.
The potential for company-wide productivity
Where do I see Woven growing? My personal vision is that a Woven user can write down the things they want to achieve and how they want to spend their time — and Woven makes it happen, by scheduling events automatically or providing multiple schedule options.
There’s a broader version of this which applies to large groups and companies. Today, leaders have little insight into how their companies are spending time, which makes it hard to make big changes in strategy. Woven can make it easy to see company-wide calendar analytics and assign priorities based on that data.
At Google, there’s the famous “20% time rule”, which encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on new ideas. In addition, Google uses the 70-20-10 system to ensure the company as a whole is spending its resources wisely on existing, adjacent and new businesses. Woven can enable companies to make similar commitments to how their employees spend their time.
When Woven makes it possible for individuals and organizations to work on what’s most important to them, that will be time well spent.