Last week I started work on an idea for application. Just a small prototype of the idea really. No tests, no fancy user-interface, just the bare bones of the idea. In typical agile fashion I wrote out some of the basic features that I needed for the prototype as user stories on index cards and then set to work. Then a call from a client came in and before I know it, it’s two days later and I’ve not started work on the prototype.

My problem is that I’m starting client work as it comes in and my own projects are getting done in really small pieces. I am not keeping a daily schedule.

Truth is I haven’t kept a schedule of my work for at least a couple of years now. Not since I worked at a consultancy where you could plan your day most days. There was days where you would have interruptions to your schedule, but as it was customer support calls, you had determine if the customer’s support issue was that important that it had to be resolved there and then. With interruptions like this mounting on daily basis, I abandoned my calendar of work and just did work ad-hoc.

Now though I am more in control of my own time and schedule. I am my own company and I need to schedule work to ensure that client work gets done most days, but I also allow for some time to work on ideas and products.

Scheduling your work in a calendar is a commitment to getting that work done. I have the benefit of having a laptop with an external monitor so I use my laptop as my secondary screen. On here I have my calendar and I leave it open while I am working as a reminder to stay focused on the task I have set myself.

I’m using Apple’s Calendar application and the iCloud service to synchronize my calendar to my phone. This makes it easy for me to schedule stuff in my calendar when I am away from my desk. I use the brilliant Fantastical app to manage my calendar from my phone. It has a great agenda view for upcoming appointments and it has a very easy appointment entry system that means you don’t need to fill in four different fields to make an appointment. It’s smart enough to know that “10am Meeting with client” should be scheduled for 10am.

Scheduling your day and your week is a great way to making a commitment to getting things done. It’s more structured than a to do list, but provides a way of breaking your day down into chunks so that you’re not working on the same thing for hours or days at a time.