Lori Milner reveals how to become a schedule whisperer


Diarise around career, relationship and self, and don't change these blocks of time unless critical.

We can’t manage our time, said Lori Milner, CEO of Beyond the Dress, but we can decide where we should invest it. The main tool we need is not a to-do list but a success list. She was speaking at the Finance Indaba in Sandton on 3 October. 

“If I told you to fill a glass jar and I gave you rocks, sand and pebbles, a successful way of maximising space would be to fill the jar with the rocks first and with sand last. This is a metaphor for prioritising and a way to think of populating your success list,” said Lori. 

Most of us have a long to-do list that is not strategically put together. The ‘rocks’ of the success list however, would be those tasks that simply cannot wait. Even though we may think everything is urgent, some items are likely minutiae. 

Lori says: 

“One of my favourite productivity hacks is tackling the big things before I open my inbox.” 

The tool for creating a success list is our calendar. Lori suggested three scheduling categories:  career, relationship, self. We schedule around these and we don’t change these blocks of time unless critical. If we want to go to yoga, we schedule it and we don’t change it. If we know how to plan our time wisely, there should hardly be any reason to cancel a yoga class. “Consider your calendar as sacred territory,” she said.

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What happens if your colleague schedules an urgent meeting and it coincides with your proposal writing? “I would click ‘tentative’ and walk to my colleague’s desk to enquire about the meeting and if my presence is absolutely necessary. I would do so in a kind and diplomatic way,” said Lori. 

Another way to deal with unexpected tasks is to leave “white spaces” in your calendar and never schedule back-to-back meetings. To maximise focus, Lori suggests batching similar tasks together. Do your banking, your appointment making, and your budgets in one batch, even if that takes the entire day. Chances are that this focus brings momentum which leads to productivity. 

“Woody Allen said that 80% of the work is done when you show up,” noted Lori. While our procrastinator monster wants us to do the nice things first, sticking to what we said we’d do in our sacred calendar quietens the desire to justify doing something unscheduled. No-one regrets their gym visit after they’ve been. It’s the same with work. 

“Stop with the sabotaging conversation. Stick to your decision. Your mind will argue with you. You are smarter than your mind.” 

Following Lori’s advice means that we shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Perhaps, that ever elusive four-day work week is in our grasp.  

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