As an alumni of Tungle, scheduling is near and dear to my heart. I live and die by my schedule and am efficiently scheduled weeks in advance. But with the Tungle service closing on Dec. 3 I’ve decided to rethink the pros and cons of such rigid scheduling.

 Life as a VC is series of calls and meetings. In between, you try and keep up with email and try harder to carve out time for other value add activities. When I look at my schedule on Sundays there is often precious little blank space in the coming week.

The issue with this is that I live in a dynamic, fast-moving World. Shit happens. Issues come up. Hot opportunities come across my desk. I have seen situations where it’s taken 3 weeks from an intro to a meeting. That’s crazy and is a result of my being overly rigid on scheduling.

So, beginning next month (since it takes a while for the current system to unwind), I’m trying something new. When I get intros and meeting requests, I’m going to try and be more agile. No rigid schedule. No scheduling 2 -3 weeks in advance (other than board meetings). If something’s a priority, I’ll make it happen right away. If it’s not, then I probably shouldn’t be having that meeting anyway.

My plan is to set my schedule for the week on the Sunday or Monday am. Still leaving open space each day for things that come up. Nothing bugs me more than having to delay helping solve a portfolio issue because I have rigidly scheduled meetings with other companies or people that are not (yet) part of the Real family.

I’d love to know what works for you. How do you maintain maximum flexibility in your schedule?

Category:
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  • http://twitter.com/briancarroll briancarroll

    i’ve been experimenting with batching meetings of a similar type. e.g., tuesdays are the internal staff meetings, 1:1’s, status reports. Sunday morning is my alone time reflection day and planning. Friday is the opportunistic coffee chats, etc. Wednesday is blocked off for execution. Group similar meetings together so there’s less context switching, and you can more easily track whether you’ve gone over budget on a certain category of task for the week.

    • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

      I try and batch, but with fewer categories. I have “work” days and “meeting” days. I also take Friday afternoons for reflection, catch up. Batching definitely works

  • http://www.aap.bz/ Adam Perkins

    I agree with a lot of the things on here. I was doing the same kind of thing as you Mark, scheduling everything to the minute and felt the same. Because of the demands for flexibility in startups it reduced my stress by keeping things really nimble. Especially in an environment which changes daily, that meeting 3 weeks out isn’t going to be useful. We ran into that at FounderFuel very often.

    I have two different buckets for meetings. Clearly important (Moving the ball forward, clear objectives, putting out the fires) And everything else. The important meetings get priority time and the willingness to travel or do whatever it takes to make the meeting happen. The rest (75%?) are put on the queue and handled in a more passive manner (short phone calls, emails, quick notes, whatever makes sense without spending time on it)

    • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

      Yep, lived it even today. Was just getting into the flow (in full on maker mode this week) only to be reminded of a call I booked weeks ago. And you’re so right, often get stressed out trying to fit things in that are just not important.

  • http://links.bmannconsulting.com Boris Mann

    A couple of us have been thinking about taking another crack at Tungle. I'm not very smart, so I kind of NEED my calendar to be smarter. Things like only getting to 50% load would be much better handled / prompted by my calendar.

    About the only thing I did with Tungle to "hack my schedule" is to connect the dots between meetings and block it off as free time, thus ensuring I've got nice big blocks of heads down / getting things done. Well, that and enforcing "buffer time" between meetings, which is also something that could be automated.

  • Bruno Goulet

    I lost control of my schedule a while ago. Now I work with a goal oriented approach. Each day I make sure I move the company forward on at least one big aspect. I keep a few hours a day for emails and everything else. Real progress measures by incremental dramatic changes, not number of meetings or emails answered. I also stopped living by other people’s schedules. I guess no matter what we do, there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish all we want.

    • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

      Great approach Bruno. Reminds me of Tobi from Shopify who focuses on making sure he improves each day.

  • Charles

    Great post. One thing I've been doing is treating 50% calendar capacity as "full" – it leaves you enough flexibility to take those one-off meetings, calls from portfolio companies, etc. That remaining 50% almost always ends up filling up in this line of work.

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      Thanks Charles. Do you actually block that time off? Probably a good ratio to fix in my calendar

  • http://twitter.com/fang_yang @fang_yang

    Looks like you may still need a very intelligent mobile app for this :)

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      you building it? :)

  • http://twitter.com/hfizzle @hfizzle

    I like using the makers vs. managers scheduling practice a la PG – http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      Trust Paul G to have a solution. Missed that post, but like it

  • Benoit Tremblay

    Saying no to not-so-useful meeting is a key to keep your life quality. On the other hand, it might frustrate other people but it's easier to deal with this. I can totally relate to this.

  • http://Founderfuel.com Ian

    Good luk with that ;)

  • http://www.markevans.ca Mark Evans

    I can definitely see your point but I always find it a delicate and challenging balance between having flexibility but also having the structure to meet people and get things done. I think one of the keys is not over-scheduling in advance, which means putting off scheduling meetings that aren't an immediate priority.

    Mark

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      For sure, it's a balancing act. But I'm going to try and be disciplined about being agile

  • Marc Gingras

    I try to avoid meetings ;)

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      Hilarious! All my meetings are your fault :)