The Zero Based Calendar: Quit screwing off and get more done

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris - April 1st, 2014

The biggest accomplishment for many people was graduating college. 16 years of schooling topped off with a cap, gown and diploma.

I never graduated from college. I wasn’t able to pull it off.

Actually, I dropped out 3 times.

The biggest accomplishment of my life was paying off $80,000 of personal debt. $30,000 of which was to the school I never graduated from.

I know, it was dumb.

But after 47 months my wife and I did it. We were audited twice, moved and closed down two businesses while doing it. But we did it. We paid off every cent we owed (listen).

The #1 influence on us was Dave Ramsey. If you haven’t heard of Dave, he teaches something called the Zero Based Budget.

His philosophy is to:

  1. Have a plan for your money
  2. Write it down on paper
  3. Do it before the month starts
  4. Don’t leave any money without a plan.


What not to do:

Don’t leave any money unplanned for. If you’re going to go to the mall and blow it all on clothes that fine, just admit it on paper.

It works.

In the last 2 months this site has started to grow rapidly. With that comes more emails, more customers, more contracts and complete overwhelm.

My calendar started to get out of control and balls were starting to be dropped. I started experimenting with solutions and tweaking my daily routine.

After a few weeks I implemented the “Zero Based Calendar.” The idea is simple, leave no time unplanned. Even if that time is dedicated to mindlessly browsing Facebook.

This is how it works:

  1. Write down everything you have to do for the day
  2. Put all of those task on your daily calendar
  3. Only do what you have planned.

This is what my calendar looks like now:


How do I do the same thing?

I created a bonus lesson that shows you how to do the exact same thing. Even if you aren’t at the point of being overwhelmed it will help you avoid getting there.

It keeps me on task, organized and focused.

Click below to enter the Videofruit Member area and start the lesson (it’s Free).

  • pro tip: keep a different google calendar for each client/ project that’s shared with them. for easy hourly billing…. use

  • Love it Bryan – and thanks for being so honest and open about your story and journey. Solid stuff – loving your content and super-direct approach. Onto implementation! Thanks man 🙂

    • Gary Elley


  • YanMuckle

    Annoying Bryan… I’m on your email list. Receive the email about this post. Click on it. Then am told I need to resubscribe to view the video. I resubscribe. Get sent to the double optin page. Then the blog. Get the confirmation email. Get sent to the video course.

    And still no way to watch the damn video 🙁

    • Well….crap. Try this 🙂

      • YanMuckle

        Thanks. Useful video! I’ve never been successful with calendar-based planning but I might give it another go, as my plate is getting full too…

        I guess you have some tinkering to do with leadpages to get video access right… And I wonder if they have a way to send people who are already subscribed to the right page?

        • It’s not a Leadpages issue. I was tinkering around with a legit members area. The plugin was going haywire.

    • Nipun

      I have exactly this same complaint. Why put me through the pain of subscribing if I am already on your list. I’ve done it once, why do every time you release a blog post and a “bonus”??

      • I’m with you Nipun :).

        I’m working on a tech upgrade to make this easier (create an account once and get all bonuses w/o opting in each time).

        Sometimes v1.0 is ugly.

        • Nipun

          You could do something like what Ramit Sethi does. Without need to login…

          • Yup, thats what I’m doing now. Thanks for the suggestions. It’ll get better with time. Free is good though 🙂

          • Nipun


            Don’t want to undermine all the efforts and videos that are FREE. All of them have a lot of valuable insight, like the poster boy formula and even this example.

          • Not at all. Thank you for your feedback.

  • Bryan, it is such a stress-reliever too – writing all those tasks down in the calendar that are partly in your head, partly in your todo list and partly on paper. I realized that I am much more productive when I micro-manage my time. I now use a combination of Wunderlist and Google Calendar. I prioritize my tasks in the morning and write them down in the calendar first thing in the morning. I am in day 16 of doing this everyday, and can really see the list of accomplishments and productivity going up. Great tip.

  • Lisa

    This looks very interesting, but I’m afraid it would totally stress me out and cause some anxiety…..thoughts?

  • Kevin Thomas

    Excellent article, Bryan. What do you do when you don’t accomplish what you planned in a particular time slot. Do you quit and move on to the next scheduled box/task? Or, do you reschedule the remaining tasks from that project. Sometimes I tend to either underestimate the time involved or get interrupted or delayed. I’m worried such complications will just mess up my whole day!

  • At first the idea looked like something invented for the control freaks, but now I have to drop the cynicism… Life tend to find a way to prove you were wrong 🙂

  • I’ve been using [Focuster][1] to accomplish this pseudo-automatically, and it’s been absolutely life-altering. (Note: I’m not in any way involved with Focuster, just an early user and a huge fan.)

    Plus, Focuster recently added native [Trello][2] integration, so I can continue to manage my tasks via Trello, and have them automatically populated into my calendar via Focuster. Pure awesome.

    Thanks for documenting this awesome productivity hack, Bryan!