Unschedule: how to combine work and fun
Unschedule is a tool created by psychologist Neil Fiore and used by many of his clients over the years to overcome a sense of dread and negativity regarding work.
The calendar helps us visualize and understand time because we’re not naturally good at it, especially when it comes to longer chunks of time.
Many of us use a calendar and many of us don’t.
First, let’s take a look at why someone might not use the calendar.
Calendar isn’t a straightjacket
This is Vita, co-founder of deprocrastination.co.
For a long time, I avoided the calendar like the plague. It was as if every event and meeting I put in there restricted me. Suddenly I was not free to do as I please. Suddenly I couldn’t be spontaneous and the day turned into an unpleasant sequence of chores.
Then I realized that was stupid. Being too spontaneous and too free can lead you to waste time all day long. Without structure in my days, I often went to be unhappy about my day's work.
I realized I needed more structure and that calendar was the right tool for creating it.
In short, the calendar isn’t a straightjacket, it’s a tool to make your life better.
Calendar full of fun
What does typically end up in a calendar? Doctor appointments, meetings with colleagues, deadlines,...
What’s a theme that connects these?
For many people, a calendar is a place where all the unpleasant things in the world are. No wonder they avoid it.
But calendar doesn’t have to be negative.
How to use the calendar better?
Fill it up with fun!
Coffee with a friend? Monday 2pm.Art exhibitions? Tuesday 6pm.New movie coming out? Wednesday 7pm.…
We can put in our calendar events we can look forward to. Meetups, parties, and activities that can serve as a reward for getting work done.
Having these things in the calendar has 4 major effects:
- You can clearly see when you have time to work between all the fun.
- You can see that your days aren’t just work, but also fun.
- You can easily connect work to fun using the Grandma’s rule: first work, then reward.
- You can also realize that you haven’t been rewarding yourself enough if your calendar is devoid of fun.
Of course, we also need to put in the calendar meetings or appointments, but now it’s not the only thing in there.
So if your calendar now includes:
- Fun, leisure, activities you enjoy
- Meetings & appointments etc
Recording productive time.
Neil Fiore recommends working in blocks of 30 min.
So you can use a timer on your phone or on our site that is connected directly to your calendar and record every 30 min of uninterrupted work.
Another thing you can do is color-code those blocks so that you can see at a glance how much focused work you’ve done.
Let’s sum it up.
How to create your Unschedule
- Take your favorite calendar (digital or analog)
- Put into it everything you can look forward to (trips, coffee meetings, rock climbing,...)
- Put in what you need to do (meetings, appointments,...)
- And done! Now you can clearly see how much time you have open for focused work and when.
Use fun as a way to motivate yourself when going gets hard. When you know that you have something fun planned for the afternoon, use it to motivate yourself to work.
Principles of Unschedule
- Work in 30 min blocks.Record in your Unschedule every 30min block of uninterrupted productivity. 30min of writing a paper, 30 min working on a report,...Every 30 min counts.
Pro-tip: use a timer. When we see that the clock is ticking, it motivates us to focus until we’re done.
- Enjoy your rewards.If you get a chunk of work done, reward yourself. It’ll help you associate work with something pleasurable and positive.
- Know when you’re doneWe often don’t want to start working because we feel like work is never going to end and we’ll never have fun again.However, when you know that at 4pm you go to the gym with your buddy, you clearly see that you will have fun and now’s the time to work.
Our notes on Unschedule
What if you really get into your work?
Sometimes we really get into it. We forget about time and ourselves and our attention is solely focused on what we’re doing.
Psychologist Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi calls this state flow.
Flow is a magical state. Our brain is flooded with a cocktail of chemicals that make this state into a kind of a drug that we ourselves produce.
We can write a whole chapter at once in flow, or we can solve a hard mathematical problem, or we can finally beat a big bad boss in a game.
Flow is miraculous.
Our suggestion is that when you get into flow, don’t stop after 30 min. Continue until you’re spent.
One caveat: don’t expect to get into flow the next time you sit down to work. Not all work is conducive to flow, in which case the 30 min timer is your friend.
Try to use Unschedule for 7 days
We can wholeheartedly recommend this technique. It helped us and helped many, many, many other people.
It’s easier to work when you know you also have fun ahead.
Conduct your own experiment
Try using the Unschedule for 7 days. Put in the fun first, obligations second, and then work in 30min blocks.
And if it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your own schedule.