As a freshman in college, my dream was to be accepted to West Point. It had been my dream from the time I was eleven and I watched my uncle and his future wife throw their hats into the air at their graduation from West Point and receive their commissions as officers in the US Army.
I had been rejected the year before – but I was nevertheless convinced that there was no other place for me to spend the next four years. My grades would need to be perfect in order to get in. West Point is one of the most competitive schools to gain admittance to in the world.
In college my life took on a new level of activity. I was working in order to pay for school, playing soccer for the university and participating in student government. I commuted from home to school to save on room and board and also managed to lead a very active social life. My days filled up without much effort at all. The one thing that I had to achieve more than anything was a perfect, 4.0 GPA. Nothing mattered more than this at the time.
The pursuit of perfect grades was not an obsession of mine in high school. I had decent grades, but was happy to get by with B’s and some A’s even though I was capable of more. Not a naturally brilliant student, I had to work for my grades, but allowed myself to believe that the kids who were getting straight A’s were either naturally bright or wrapped up too much of their self worth and identity in getting perfect grades.
Things were different now. Now I had a vision for my future and the mission was academic perfection. I had scored in the top 5% for the physical and athletic exams and received two nominations from a senator and a representative the year before. My grades were the final piece of the puzzle.
My calendar became a tool to achieve perfection.
Up until this point in my life my calendar was nothing more than a place to put appointments so that I would not forget where I should be. Half of my obligations were in my head. I visited my calendar only when I was worried that I might be missing something and did not use it to ensure that my family obligations were in place.
In coaching other professionals today, I find the same trends in the daily calendar habits of the great majority of people. They often complain that there are not enough hours in the day to achieve their goals and they sacrifice important obligations and relationships because they have not leveraged their calendar at a high level.
Here are the rules of leveraging a calendar that I was fortunate to learn early in life and which have broken open opportunities for me as an entrepreneur.
- Know what your mission is and write out it at the top of your calendar
- Do not let your calendar exist only electronically
- Plan each day down to the half-hour the night before
- Plan each week’s hourly obligations by Sunday evening
- Plan your family, spiritual and physical responsibilities first
- Use your calendar to ensure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep
- Make sure you are scheduling your hardest work early and after workouts
- Plan for goal achievement in commuting time, and don’t forget to eat.
- Chart the number of hours of actual work accomplished daily
- Teach others how to think about their precious gift of time through the virtue of order.
At the end of my Freshman year, I had achieved a 4.0 GPA, but was medically disqualified from West Point on account of my history of asthma as a kid. In retrospect, the mission was the journey. Having to stretch myself that year instilled habits that would accelerate my life in ways which I could not have imagined at the time.