My Mental Calendar – Part 1

We are trained to spend so much time managing our calendar. But I really envy people who can jump from meeting to meeting, every half-hour and to be able to do it effectively. I cannot manage that, at least at this stage of building a company. Why, you ask? The thing is, I do have the 30 minutes that you need for the meeting on my Physical Calendar. However, any meeting leaves significant residue in my mind before and after it, particularly if I were to do it correctly. This is the part most folks do not account for.

What do I mean “if I were to do it correctly”? Well, if all you need is my presence for 30 minutes, I can physically make it. However, I may not necessarily be present with you in my mind. And that will really suck for everyone because my insights would likely be garbage. I would have made it to the meeting physically but in my mind I would still be working on the technical challenge I left behind at my desk.

Some may argue “but you had time to browse facebook but not attend our meeting.” Absolutely. Here’s why: facebook does not require much mental focus; facebook doesn’t get frustrated when I become absent-minded and doze off in la-la land working through some problem. Facebook isn’t a human, nor does it require much mental effort to engage with. However, answering a phone call or replying to a text requires mental effort even if physically it only takes seconds.

This gives rise to the idea of maintaining a Mental Calendar versus a Physical Calendar. Much of our society seems to revolve around the Physical calendar. When we ask “do you have a few minutes?,” we are usually talking about the physical availability. But we are not taking into account if we can make it to the meeting and think clearly, add value and not walk out having made dumb decisions. All of those things are much more likely if I purely schedule meetings based on my Physical Calendar and not the Mental Calendar.

I am curious how common this is. Are some people able to much quickly switch threads in their mind? Are some problem more easier to switch between than others? I have some thoughts on it I’d like to think through and write more about.

Instinctively, I think this is much more common than we think. That people undertaking tasks that require long-term, in-dept focus have a Mental Calendar that is filled up by default by the task at hand. I think people like Charlie Munger function more with a Mental Calendar than the Physical:

Charlie and I first met at a mutual friend’s house while I was working on investments in LA after graduating from college. The first impression he gave me was “distant” — he often appeared to be absent-minded to the presence of his conversation partners and was, instead, very focused on his own topics. But this old man spoke succinctly; his words full of wisdom for you to mull over. [Source] (emphasis mine)

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