Lean Scheduling

As an IT professional and someone who spends a lot of time in manufacturing environments, I know Lean IT and Lean Manufacturing. Even before going through extensive training on Lean, I was using a lot of the same principals on a personal level (before I had ever heard words like “heijunka” and “gemba”). To me, it’s simple common sense.

Quick side-bar: what is Lean __________? The simple answer is, it’s the act of identifying and removing waste (whether that waste is physical or non-tangible, like time) from a product or process. In an office environment, it’s extremely useful in order to increase your efficiency and workflow throughput.

The principals taught through Lean just aren’t applicable to business, though. Not only is it ok to apply them to your personal life, but as you do, you will find yourself more productive and less stressed. A happy person is a productive person.

The picture above is an actual screenshot of my calendar of events for this week. Believe me, it’s worse than that. What you don’t see are all the little things that crop up in a given day... every day, all day. My life is busy. And I’m sure yours is too. There are a couple things that I do to help manage that craziness, and I consider them all to be Lean. I’ll call it “Lean Scheduling”. :-)

Tips for better managing your schedule:

  1. Weekly Review: each week, typically on a Sunday, I review my schedule for the next 7 days. I take note of the critical things, and ensure that non-critical events don’t get in the way. By the way, “critical” is defined by me. A child’s soccer game can likely take a higher priority over a meeting with an executive. Ensure you have your priorities in check. This review doesn’t have to be long, but it needs to be done. My review usually takes me 5 - 10 minutes.
  2. Daily Mini-Review:  Each night, as I put kids to bed or begin the wind-down process from the day, I perform another review of my schedule, but this time, it’s to review my activities over the next 24 hours. This review is usually very quick (2 - 5 minutes), but also includes emailing each person I have a meeting with to make sure they are still committed to that meeting. You’ll be surprised how much waste you can remove when you find you can delete events that would have otherwise been deleted 5 minutes before the meeting (“Oh, I forgot to tell you...”).
  3. Use Colors: As you can see from my calendar, I use color-coded calendars like crazy. It’s a way to visually keep track of things that are going on. Each color represents something to me, and this helps to keep intra-day calendar reviews ultra-quick (down to seconds).
  4. Record Past Events: sometimes it’s a good idea to record events that have happened in the past, especially if they are significant. If you are called into a last-minute meeting, and there are significant decisions made in that meeting, not only is it ok to enter that meeting in the calendar afterwards, but I would recommend it. I’m surprised at how many times I will go back and search for the date/time of an event that happened months after it happened.

I’m not suggesting that you should model your scheduling routines to match mine exactly, but hopefully you will take some of these suggestions and implement them into your own routine. At the end of the day, it’s all about spending less time PLANNING and more time DOING. That’s Lean Scheduling.

Posted on March 14, 2013 .