To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Cal Newport is the author of the excellent career advice book, So Good They Can't Ignore You (Read Kevin Kelly's review). Eric Barker of Barking up the Wrong Tree interviewed Newport to find out how he schedules his time.

Here are his rules:

  1. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
  2. Assume you're going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.
  3. Make a plan for the entire week.
  4. Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
  5. Do less shallow work — focus on the deep stuff.

Here's what Newport had to say about the power of scheduling:

Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you're able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you're able to put work into places where you can do it best.

And he also says you should ask yourself "What's creating real value in my life?" and stop doing things that don't create value.

You're judged on what you do best so if you want to have as much success as possible you're always better off doing fewer things but doing those things better. People say yes to too much. I say no to most things. I'm ruthless about avoiding or purging tasks if I realize they're just not providing much value.

Great advice.

How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.