Getting hold of your agenda

This blog won’t be a technical one but more in the area of personal development.

What happened?

When I became a consulant over a year ago, I was hoping that my agenda would become more predictable. Before becoming a consultant I was working on the servicedesk handling calls. Calls are something you can’t predict so every day was different. But at times, that got weary, because it was almost impossible to plan large amounts of work. An hour of study wasn’t a problem, but taking two days out to deep dive into something? That was hard. As my ambition was to become more of an expert on some things, i decided i had to change from the servicedesk to consultancy.

As a consultant (for the same company by the way), I hoped that things would change. And they did. Because there weren’t calls anymore. But, there were multiple projects all screaming for attention. Before I knew it I was working way more than was expected from me from a contract point of view. I’ve got a full time contract which means I have to work 40 hours every week. But that was a fairy tale. Because I was working more, way more than those 40 hours. I’m not complaining because I loved what I was doing. But at the same time, my energylevels were dropping. No time for sports, workouts, walks. A continuous fear of missing out on the fun stuff.

After a year, I got less likeable. A bit grumpy. I missed time and energy to do the stuff I like to do or want to do. Like blogging, speaking, teaching, sharing knowledge. To be an active part in the awesome community that is the sql family.

What to do?

Change starts with small steps. I needed to get back into control of my agenda. So I started talking with my manager and project manager. They are very supportive and gave me a number of things to try out. I’m not one to bluntly say no if someone needs my help. If there’s a chat message coming up in Teams, I will respond. If you send me an email, I find it to be my duty to respond within at least 24 hours.

But, in all those occasions, I don’t have to provide a solution in that reply. I don’t have to drop everything to help them out. What I can do is acknowledge the request and give you a timeframe where I can dive deeper into that. If that’s not good enough, talk to the (project) manager. They will decide what happens next including my agenda. It’s their call and when things go wrong, they can explain to other customers or stakeholders why my attention got diverted.
If the request is unclear, I’ll take a minute to explain why it’s unclear and when I can revisit the request. But, revisiting that doesn’t mean I’ll take action. For me, it’s a trigger to check if it’s complete. Then I’ll put it on my agenda to do the work.

Now, I’ve got some free space in my agenda for the really urgent stuff, all the other things are planned when there’s a free spot available. Sometimes management starts shifting things around. Fine, their call.

I started reading the David Allen book (getting things done) and the first thing I picked up is to split tasks up in steps. What do I need to do. What has to be done before I can get to the next step. This way, tasks are easier to plan (because it’s not one big task but smaller subtasks), it’s easier to track progress and I can free up my mind because there’s a to do list. I tried out Trello but it’s not really working for me. Right now I’m using the Tasks extension in Teams. It’s not perfect either but it’s still got a chance.
Again, this helps me out when checking out if a request is complete or not. I’ll check out the subtasks and when one or more are vague, open to debate or just not there, I’ll send it back.

Now this seems like a stupid, timewaisting process, because I can start with things, right? Well, you’re a bit right in thinking along that way. Because sure, I can start to work on the request at once. But, there are more requests. And when I start working on more than one at the same time, sooner or later I will start to mix things up. Or forget about things. So by being somewhat rigid but hopefully clear, I try to avoid all the bad stuff and get to a good result as quick as possible.


If you’re in a similar situation, all I can tell you that change starts with you. Take one step back, look at what’s happening and what you want to change. That’s your first step in changing your life. To my surprise, there are always people willing to listen, to help out or to give you advice. Listen, try it out if it feels good. If the first change doesn’t work, try again. There’s not 1 yellow brick road to success.

What’s next?

For me, change is the only constant in my life. Everything changes continuously. That’s ok. The trick is to get some sort of control over the changes. I’m always interested in ways how people keep track of tasks, what they want to do or need to do. So, If you’ve got a good tip, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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