Schedule your fun stuff

My mom has this uncanny knack for calling me when I’m in the middle of something family- or fun-centric. She does it so uncannily, in fact, that she seems to think that I do nothing else but play all day.

She calls while we’re at Austin’s swim lessons, which are on Tuesday afternoons.

She’s called during the workday while I’m at the playground with the kids.

She’ll call while I’m at the gym or driving back and forth from it, which takes up much of Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Sometimes she’ll call on a Friday afternoon and ask if I can look something up on my computer, and I’ll tell her that I can’t right now because we’re all at a Borders book store, drinking lattes and reading.

I can see how this must look.

Then, a week or so ago, I was making conversation — just shooting the breeze. I told her, by the way, that I was training to run in the Cleveland marathon in May.

Her response was, “Geez. You need more work to do or something.”

Thanks, Mom.

So, okay, I do do a lot of enjoyable stuff. Because I’m my own boss, I currently do much of it during the work day, but back when I kind of had a job (I worked in a post-grad program doing lab work that was slightly more thrilling than competitive toilet paper spooling), I fit it in before and after, or during lunch, or during unauthorized breaks. I always found the time, somehow.

And after really thinking on it, I’ve realized I can spell out a formula for how anyone can spend more time doing things they enjoy… and here’s that formula:

Schedule the things you want to do.

End of lesson.

The super duper formula for finding the time to do what you want to do

There is no magic involved in doing more of what you want to do. Really. To prove it, try this for me: Think of a free or cheap activity that you never seem to find the time for (exercising, doing something with your family, etc.) but that you would really like to do. Do you miss playing racquetball like you did in college? Would you and your spouse like to take a long walk every evening? Do you want to learn to play the guitar, but never seem to find the time?

Think of that thing.

Now, here’s how you fit it into your impossible schedule. Here’s the super amazing formula:

1. Plan a time to do it. Schedule it with whoever it needs to be scheduled with, and put it on the calendar.

2. Keep that appointment.

Hard, right?

The reason most people don’t do the things that they want to do is because they consider them less important than other commitments, and so do them only after considering “real appointments and obligations.” But it doesn’t stop there; fun activities are also subordinate to anything that may come up at the last minute.

Most people say, I want to play racquetball on Tuesday, if I can fit it in. Then Tuesday comes and the laundry needs to be folded or that project due on Thursday is behind schedule, so they bail.

You can’t wait until there is literally no other niggling task that you could or should do at a given time, because that never happens. There’s always something that you could be doing, and thanks to the Puritan Work Ethic, chances are you’ll therefore decide that you should be doing it. Should be doing it over some frivolous fun activity, anyway.

Most people grew up with the notion that you could only play once you’d done all of your chores. While that makes sense in principle, modern adults will never finish all of their chores… and yet, they’ve carried that nagging voice of tightassery right on into adulthood.

Could the house be cleaned?

Could the car be washed?

Is it possible to finish the January project now, in December, to get ahead of the game?

Can you call your grandmother? Get your wife some flowers? Fix the gutters?

No? None of that can be done?

Okay, then I suppose you can go out and play.

Fuck that. If you want to enjoy your life, make enjoyment a priority. Treat appointments with yourself in the same way you’d treat them with everyone else.

Book it

There’s at least one skeptical dickhead out there reading this and saying how it’s easy for me, but not for them. Because Johnny… well, he’s got it easier than me. He doesn’t know my tough situation. He doesn’t know my life.

And while I suppose that’s possible, I don’t think it’s likely. Two years ago, when I was having nightly panic attacks because I couldn’t pay my real estate “investment” bills and was grasping at straws trying to make something — anything! — work, I still went to the gym four times a week. Those weren’t short trips, either. At the time, I was focusing on powerlifting and was doing Westside-style workouts involving heavy weights and long rest periods. Including travel, that was something like 2.5 hours out of every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning.

How did I do it, when I was working every minute I could find to try and create income — working like a bastard to keep from falling into the deep, dark hole?

Well, how could I NOT do it? It was essential to my relaxation, my confidence, my self-esteem, my reason for wanting to get up in the morning. But more importantly, it was also booked time. I knew that on those days, at those times, I went to the gym. It was an appointment. It was a commitment I’d made. I wouldn’t bail on a client… and, accordingly, I wouldn’t bail on myself.

Yes, I had a lot of work to do. But this time was spoken for, so I had to do that work around it.

One thing to keep in mind is that your obligations will always expand to fill the time you give them. (The principle even has a name.) The converse is that within reason, your obligations will also contract to fit into a smaller time if that’s all you have. So all that work I needed to do? If I thought it would take ten hours to complete, I knew that it’d somehow get done in 7.5 if it had to.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say that in the next week, you have a major project due, your house is a mess, your kids have two soccer games, you really need to finally quote that big new potential deal, and honestly, you should also catch up on important email and call your parents. Oh, and also, let’s not forget that Aunt Phoebe’s 60th birthday bonanza next month is still woefully underplanned.

Sounds like a lot to do in addition to your full-time job, right? Well, it’s okay. It may be stressful, but one way or another, the vital parts of that are going to get done. You’ll find a way.

Now let’s add something fun to the mix. Let’s say you’d like to go on a decompressing trail run three days this week, but you can’t possibly find the time… not with all of that stuff on your plate.

Or could you find the time?

If you just schedule those runs and commit to doing them — if, in other words, you decide right now that they take priority over at least a small part of what you think you have to do or whatever else might come up in the meantime — then guess what?

Then one way or another, the vital parts of your original list are still going to get done. You’ll find a way.

You’ll wait until next week to decide on Aunt Phoebe’s cake. Or, better, you’ll call a cake store, give them your price range and a rough idea of what A.P. wants, and ask for their best recommendation… instead of driving over and surveying all the cakes in person.

Or you’ll answer less email. Or you’ll call your parents from the car, instead of from your house.

Or you’ll get up a little earlier on one day.

Or what’s most likely, you’ll simply do what you can in the time you have and find that exactly what needed to get done got done, without sacrificing, delaying, or delegating.

What you want to do is as important as what everyone else has planned for you, so give it some priority. The vital parts of the rest will get done somehow, I promise.

My many appointments

Ask my assistant Amy if I practice what I’m preaching here and she’ll probably roll her eyes. I’m constantly asking her to schedule things around ridiculous pre-existing appointments.

Don’t book anything before noon on any day, because I go to the gym or play tennis or racquetball in the mornings.

Friday afternoons, Robin and Austin and I go to the book store and sit in comfortable chairs and read. (I do this for most of Monday too, but some of that is “sit in the cafe and kind of do work” time.) So don’t schedule calls or appointments during those times.

Once, I blocked out an entire afternoon on my calendar because I wanted to watch In the Mouth of Madness and make an apple pie.

And even when it’s not explicitly scheduled, I usually have a few items on my to-do list for the day that I know have to fit in wherever I have time. I mentioned I’m training for a marathon, so I have long runs to go on. Sometimes I do yoga. Sometimes I just want to watch a TV program I recorded the night before.

So, you may ask… when do I work?

Well, I get up at 6am every day (this is changing, actually… stay tuned for another one of my wacky self-experiments), and I do the single most important thing on the day’s list between 6 and 8, and then I often have one or two coaching calls scheduled in the afternoon. So I work hard from 6 to 8, and I conduct the calls as scheduled.

The rest fits in wherever I have time remaining.

So if you’re keeping track, here’s my order of priority during a typical day:

1. Two to three hours’ worth of my most important work
2. My own personal stuff (exercise, fun, family, etc.)
3. Other work

Every proposed new appointment is subordinate to existing appointments, regardless of whether said existing appointment is a client call or baking a pie.

If that doesn’t sound like much work, you’re kind of right… but keep in mind that what remains is like super-work. It’s pure, undiluted essence of pure importance, out of which I’ve meticulous distilled as much of the bullshit and busywork as possible. And honestly, even if it isn’t a lot of time spent “working,” what else can I do? I have a ton of appointments on my calendar. The time I have is the time I have. I’m sorry, I can’t spend a half-hour talking about unimportant crap with you today. I have a movie to get to.

Try this and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and, paradoxically, how much more productive you end up being.

Right now, you probably think that if you give yourself priority, important things will fall through the cracks while you’re out having a good time. But that simply won’t happen.

See, the truth is that most tasks are not important. You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, right? Well, it’s true — 20% of what you do really does account for 80% of the importance and impact of what you do. The other 80% is less important or flat-out fluff. And even the kind-of-important stuff in there is way, way more time-compressible than you currently think it is.

You’ve heard of paying yourself first? This is the time equivalent of that. If you don’t pay yourself first, all of your money miraculously gets whittled away by meaningless expenses. And if you don’t take time for yourself first, somehow there’s never any time left at the end.

There’s always a pile of shirts that could be folded.

There’s always a door that could be unstuck, or a hinge that needs oiling.

There’s always one more group of potential contacts you could try to get in touch with.

And at the end of the day, you’ll wonder where the time went. The fact that you won’t know where it went says it all: You spent your time doing pointless things.

So decide in advance what’s important to you. Book time for yourself. Take that ten hours you’re allowing for work and compress it to eight, then six. Work expands to fill the time it’s given, so give it less time and see what happens. If you find that you are the rare exception to the rule and that you are simply so important that every minute of your day is vital, then you can always go back.

Try it. Pick something you’ve been wanting to do and just book it. Block it off on your calendar and announce that you will be unavailable at that time. Fit your other commitments in around it, wherever they fit, and schedule new meetings and appointments that come up around that block of time.

Do not cancel your appointment with yourself for a meeting. (I flat-out refuse to do this. You simply cannot schedule me Friday afternoons. Could I move my “unimportant” weekly trip to Borders to accommodate an important work meeting? No. No, I can’t. And I won’t, unless there is literally, literally no other way.)

Try it. And let me know what happens.

Let the good times roll.


  1. Fuck yeah, preach it brother Johnny! You know, one of the worst parts of the whole Protestant Work Ethic bullshit is that whole humility, sacrifice, take one for the team bullshit. I’m 45 years old and still learning that the simple fact that I have a preference is justification enough. You shouldn’t even have to justify why you want to go to Borders on Friday afternoon. I suppose if your family were starving in the street then maybe, yeah. But that’s hardly the case. So… yeah. You want to do things your way. Good. No justification needed. Go for it!

  2. I feel like I’m ranting at clients to do this all the time – scheduling “you-time” is one of the essential steps towards achieving this thing I call “sanity”.

    Now, I’ll just send those clients to check out this article. Awesome stuff Johnny! 🙂

  3. Charlie says:


    Best word of 2010. Thanks JBT.

  4. Johnny says:

    I don’t even do it consciously… it’s just selfishness, but screw that – I’m totally okay with being selfish about this. I had to stop and think, and it was an epiphany that most people DON’T bullheadedly block time out for what they want, turning away all competitors.

    @Charlie – Better than when I (I think) coined “doucherocket” on

  5. Eric says:

    This is no joke, with peoples schedules looking more and more like Tiger’s date book we all have to make it a point to schedule enjoyable stuff!

    I myself just took 2 seconds from answering my work phone to write this… you’re welcome;-)

    Awesome to finally read a post on this topic!

    Keep rockin’ it Johnny B.!


  6. Marcus Baker says:

    Like you say it’s about valuing yourself so that give yourself ‘out time’ too.

    I schedule absolutely everything which I know sounds a bit obsessive but I keep every one of my appointments, including those with myself which I will tell you I schedule at the start of the week and I plan everything else around those.

    The only person who can look after you is YOU!


  7. Dude. How the fuck do you keep succeeding in making life make sense? Eh?

  8. Jen Adams says:

    Wow, did I need to hear this today. I had the love of my life griping at me because I didn’t want to go to dinner with his friend tonight because I had to work. Yet I work on Monday nights because I teach a class I love to teach Monday morning. The trade was made, the appointment scheduled, and that’s the way it rolls.

    I just love the way you put out there about not needing to justify your schedule to others. You find what’s right for you – even including Parkinson Law – and if that means it doesn’t look like a “real” schedule to other people, they can suck balls. What’s the point of being your own boss if you have to get up early and go to bed late? Well . . . did you get to do other things from 9 – 5 just like you wanted? Yes? Then that is the point 🙂

  9. Erica says:

    Yet another battalion of excuses bites the dust…

    The real challenge is showing up (mentally) for those appointments, when other things are demanding time. I usually take the time to be physically present, but it’s much harder to be completely there. That said, learning this skill is essential to surviving any demanding job. The harder you work, the more you need the playtime. You’re just cutting out all the inefficiency of a 9-to-5, and going straight to getting things done. Nothing wrong with that!

  10. Jen Adams says:

    @Erica – so true about needing to show up mentally for your fun appointments! Yet if you find a way to create a “nothing box” where I can put my to do list when its playtime, let me know!

  11. Jacque says:

    New to the blog, first time I’ve read anything. I really enjoyed this post and I have challenged myself to keep at least one important appointment with myself each day. Its so easy to make excuses and feel justified in missing those appointments because I was raised with that Puritan Work Ethic that plagues so many of us. Work has its place, but if you break down the word “recreation” it is literally Re-Creation. meaning its important for your emotional and physical well being. Thanks for the reminder and the extra push- will be reading your blog regularly now 🙂

  12. Jenny says:

    Totally agree. If I don’t schedule the things I want to do on a daily or weekly basis, other more “important” commitments come up and take their place.

    One thing I realized that I have to keep ALL of those appointments as if it were a life or death matter. Because once I miss one… it’s easy to miss another and another and before you know it you’re into a really bad pattern of missing out on life’s enjoyments.

  13. Mike says:

    It’s funny to me how often someone at one one of my favorite blogs will write about something I have just started thinking about. Why does that happen?

    As a counter-point to the mom calling at bad times thing, I have a habit of waking up at 3 in the morning or something and thinking “crap, I forgot to call Mom.”

    I’ve been thinking about this topic lately because my high school age daughter has been doing nothing but homework lately. She does well in school, but I’ve been watching her get more stressed, overwhelmed and depressed lately. How do you tell an awesome student to knock it off and go out and do something? Read a book for fun instead of school. Whatever it is, do something besides homework!

    What an odd problem to have, telling your kid to spend less time on homework.

    “All work and no play…”

  14. This is so true. I’ve been working “my” things back into my life, one at a time, using this method.

    I got divorced in 2007 and am the single mom of an endlessly energetic and charming, nearly 7 yrs old daughter. I have been running my own freelance business since 2007 (first time for me, having been a slave in the agency world prior to that) and am in the process of building my first “real” business. As you can imagine, my days are chock full from dawn til the wee hrs. There are SO many things I haven’t had time for in years – reading (for pleasure), writing (fiction), working out, yoga, oh … and naps!

    But, slowly, I’m starting to reclaim these things by MAKING time in my day. It’s not about “if I find the time…” you have to MAKE the time & then MAKE the committment to keep that time set aside for you.

    I’m happy to report that I have successfully brought yoga and daily walks back into my life. I’m also working consistently on my novel (tiny steps, but progress is being made), and I’m also doing more reading for pleasure. Now, if I could just work in those naps! 😉

    Anyway – guess I’m just sayin’ that I can relate & I give your method a good ol’ “here-here!”

  15. A little over two hours ago, someone asked me to help out on a fun event Friday afternoon, something i really wanted to do, but had already passed on because I have a big project due. So I told her no, couldn’t do it, got this project, yada, yada. Barely a minute later, I called her back and said, yes, i will do it, the project will work out…somehow. So for the past two hours, I’ve been beating myself up for flaking on my work, being irresponsible, terrible business owner, and a lot more yada, yada.

    I just read your post and OMFG, I am FREE! Guiltless and fabulously free. And looking forward to the fun event on Friday like you wouldn’t believe. THANK YOU, JOHNNY!!!!

  16. Johnny says:

    I think it helps to think in terms of results instead of time spent. If you hire a plumber to fix a leak, you’re happy when the leak is fixed, not after he’s spent a certain amount of time. Even if you were paying the plumber by the job rather than by the hour, few of us would stop said plumber after he fixed the leak in 10 minutes and say, “Woah there, big boy… Where do you think you’re going? You’ve only spent 10 minutes on that!”

    Once the plumber has gotten the result, we understand the job to be done.

    Give yourself the same break. If things are getting done, be happy with it and take any other time for yourself. And if you find a way to get things done faster (which you can), don’t get them done faster… and then feel that you need to use the saved time to GET MORE NEW THINGS DONE. That’s dumb.

    @Mike – I’d say to lead by example. Do YOU take the time? Do YOU make yourself most important sometimes?

    @ Jamie – I’ve recently worked in naps!

    To everyone else, good to hear that many of you are taking my advice on this… you’re worth it, and if you don’t decide that, nobody else is going to force you to enjoy yourself.

  17. Amy Stewart says:

    (Eyes rolling) Yes, he keeps all of his appointments… the fun ones and the work ones. The latest event to schedule around is a daily nap- no shit here folks! It’s great! Who schedules a nap? Johnny B Truant does!
    I’ve actually decided to follow suit and schedule my non-work, non-mommy stuff too. Excercise, reading, a regular bath 🙂 You moms out there know how it is!

  18. @Johnny – They say all genius’ nap. I’m down with that!

    @Amy – This mommy knows right where you’re coming from!

  19. Johnny says:

    Yeah, I forgot about that… big green “Nap” blocks all over the calendar. At least I haven’t literally put times on there that I want to go to a movie or something. (I just mentally schedule those.)

  20. Fantastic! LOVE that you are living your life by design…rather than by default. I used to lead Franklin Covey courses on time management and priorities. What you are doing is what we’d call in class – “living with intergrity.” Rock on and thanks for leading the way! Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ and the blessings will continue to come at ya.

  21. Great Great stuff!

    We need to remember to stop and recharge our batteries.

    PS: count me in for those naps…where do I sign up?!?

  22. Sonia Simone says:

    Hell yeah, Sonia says from Santa Fe on a 4-day spa trip with no email, work, or family.

    This is the biggest thing my coach has to nag me about. The rest of it I’ve internalized reasonably well, but I still have to be nagged to schedule fun stuff.

    Particularly when you have your own gig, the amount of stuff you could do will expand forever. it will take everything you have to give. So you have to decide what you will give.

  23. Johnny says:

    Particularly when you have your own gig, the amount of stuff you could do will expand forever. it will take everything you have to give. So you have to decide what you will give.

    Yeah, that exactly. Exactly.

    • I actually did that too much The Other Way.

      I`d always schedule fun, and never schedule work, and fun started imposing on all my time.

      I liked it that way, so there was a problem.

      No work was getting done.

      Then I had a light-bulb moment…

      Find your purpose, align with it, and Work IS Fun. 🙂 (I know you get this, and I know it`s not the perspective you were going for, but it was my own personal experience so… there`s the 2cents :D)


  1. […] Collins (who’s Project Mojave and Interactive Offer programs I’m part of); the other by Johnny B. Truant (who helped me get started with blogging).  Good stuff, and really two completely different […]

  2. […] Schedule your fun stuff: Yes, I’m linking to my own post, but this is an important topic. Entrepreneurs do a ton of stuff, and that driving behavior can burn you out with stress. This post contains the secret to doing more of what you want despite your hectic schedule so that you can actually enjoy your life and business. […]

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  5. […] Schedule your fun stuff: Yes, I’m linking to my own post, but this is an important topic. Entrepreneurs do a ton of stuff, and that driving behavior can burn you out with stress. This post contains the secret to doing more of what you want despite your hectic schedule so that you can actually enjoy your life and business. […]

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