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March 28, 2016 7:30 AM EDT

When I first started putting “DNS” entries on my calendar a few years ago, people thought I was hard at work on something Internet-related. But for my calendar and for the purposes of this post, “DNS” stands for “Do Not Schedule,” not “Domain Name System”.

A couple of weeks ago, Matt Galligan blogged about the value of downtime apart from work. But even within your allocated “working hours” or “work days” — I put those in quotes because it’s so hard to demarcate sometimes, unfortunately — I’d strongly advocate including “DNS” time. Here’s why and how:


  • Be proactive. In larger companies certainly, but in all work environments, it’s really easy to go from meeting to meeting, or email to email, or fire drill to fire drill, reacting to what’s in front of us. This problem begins with our first jobs, and only gets more intense as our careers progress. You owe it to yourself to have “DNS” time to think without distractions. Turn off messaging apps, put your phone away, don’t open email, grab a conference room or a grassy knoll in the sun — whatever works for you. Think strategically. Think creatively. Think visionarily. (And yes, supposedly that is a real word, but if it’s not, it’s a keeper!)
  • Be in control. How many times have you felt like your entire day is a Denial of Service attack on your calendar? Although never guaranteed (more below), you increase the odds of being in control of your own schedule when you add regular DNS time to it. This isn’t just for work-related “big think” items; given the melding of work and personal time these days, we all need time for personal appointments during what’s considered traditional “working hours,” whether networking coffees, dentist appointments, bringing the dog to the vet — you get the picture.
  • Have a safety valve. Think of DNS time as a secret stash of Oreos you keep behind a pane of invisible glass that you can break in case of emergency. Have an unfinished project requiring additional time to execute? A critical meeting? An unexpected appointment? Just need some time to think after a head-spinning meeting? Woo hoo! Extra, found time! (Nom nom nom.)


So you’re convinced you need DNS time on your calendar. But you’re doubting it can work in reality. Or maybe you’ve tried it before unsuccessfully. Here are some ways to help make it happen.

  • Get over FOMO. Several people have told me their biggest issue with DNS time is that people schedule over it with something you “must” attend. Really re-examine that assumption. First, if the meeting does in fact have to happen — sometimes things can be resolved more quickly using other methods — can it be rescheduled? If that’s not an option and the meeting is happening at that time, do you really need to be there? There will always be another meeting, with consequences (good and bad) stemming from it. See if there’s another way to achieve your objective for wanting to attend. For example, bigger picture, how can you ensure that you’re aligned with your organization’s strategy, and you’re shipping, executing, and communicating your (and your team’s) accomplishments? All that comes more easily when you give yourself the time to think about how best to achieve it on your own terms instead of letting other people control your schedule via FOMO.
  • Give yourself options. To be clear, I’m not saying you should never attend meetings. Of course there are meetings that are extremely important to attend (in person) for a variety of reasons. There will always be unavoidable things that impinge upon your DNS time. That’s why you should block 3X the time you’d like! And switch those standing blocks around your calendar before giving them up. Your time is precious. Think hard before you allocate it away.
  • Make it your own. Don’t like the phrase “DNS?” Call it “Think Time.” Or “TV Time.” (For Thinking Visionarily!) Or “Fluffy Clouds.” It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take it — and make it your own. Double entendre intended.

This article originally appeared on Karen’s blog

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