The dreaded calendar is something we all live and breathe by, unfortunately. Between meetings, meetings, more meetings, personal events, lunches, dinners, ball games, and everything else in between, most people in the developing world couldn’t survive without some sort of calendar. Calendars can be physical, digital, or some combination of the two.
If you feel like your calendar controls your focus and attention, we’ve got you covered with potential solutions. Having a lot of meetings and appointments isn’t always a bad thing, but you need to be in control of how you structure your time, so you can give yourself time to focus without jumping from meeting to an event every single day of the week.
What Is Calendar Management and Why Do You Need It?
Managing your calendar isn’t as easy as scheduling appointments and making sure there are no conflicts. You can deploy specific tips and tricks to create more time for you to focus, work on projects, and seem “less busy.” The following calendar management strategies are helpful as you juggle many aspects of your life and knowing some unexpected changes might happen throughout your week.
If you’re a busy person, managing your calendar can seem like a complex puzzle that there’s no solution for. The truth is that effective calendar management requires constant attention and management to give yourself room to focus on the most critical work ahead of you. Without effective calendar management, you’ll find yourself with appointments and meetings that give you no time to actually work, so you’ll be focused on thinking about all the work you need to do while never having the time to do it.
Picking Your Calendar Management Tool – We Recommend Spike
Before you pick your calendar management strategy, you need to decide where you want to manage your calendar. Some people still prefer analog calendars, but they aren’t scalable as your life gets busy. A physical calendar cannot be shared or managed by someone else, nor is there an easy way to back it up. If your spill your coffee on it or lose it, all of your upcoming events and meetings will be lost.
A better way to manage your calendar is with an app that can combine all of your calendars into a single location. Having a digital calendar that syncs to all of your devices is another part of having a full productivity system. If you’ve got a busy personal calendar and a maxed-out work calendar, you’ll want to find an app that can combine all of your calendars into a single view. If your struggling with productivity in general, check out the best productivity apps for android and recommended productivity apps for iOS.
We built Spike’s calendar to serve as the best calendar management tool. Once you get signed into Spike with all of your email accounts, you’ll now be able to see all of the events from all of your calendars in a single list. Instead of having to check our work Office 365 account and your personal calendar from iCloud before you schedule an appointment, you see them in a unified list with icons indicating what kind of event it is. If you schedule a Zoom call, there will be a phone icon, while dinners will have a food icon next to them.
Spike also manages your tasks from the same apps as well. Your Email Inbox already contains most of your daily to-dos, so instead of switching between apps, manage projects, set reminders, monitor your calendar, and tackle your to-do list––personal or professional––in one place.
Prioritize using Eisenhower Matrix
When it comes to scheduling meetings and appointments, one thing to consider is the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s sometimes referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix. The goal of the system is to help you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance and then sorting out less urgent and important tasks, which you should either delegate or simply not do at all. The Eisenhower Matrix was created from a quote attributed to former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.
Important but Not Urgent Tasks
The first step in the Eisenhower Matrix is to define meetings and tasks that are important but not urgent. These are things you need to meet about soon, but it’s not pressing for that particular day, so you don’t need to rearrange your schedule. They might be important for a project’s progression, but it’s not something you have to work on that day.
Important and Urgent Tasks
There are some tasks and appointments that that are important and also urgent. These meetings might be things you need to drop everything to add an important meeting or task to your calendar. The important and urgent tasks are why the other three parts of the Eisenhower Matrix are so important as you need to be able to quickly make room for pressing items.
Not Important and Not Urgent Tasks
Some tasks should be delegated, dropped down on your priority list, or not done at all. These are not important and not urgent tasks. It’s critical that you don’t waste time on these tasks to better set yourself up for success with the more vital tasks and opportunities.
Not Important but Urgent Tasks
The vast majority of things that try to steal your attention are not important, but most people treat them as important. Key organizational leaders should build in ways to avoid spending time and focus on these types of tasks.
Group Similar Tasks and Events
Another way to manage your calendar effectively is to group similar tasks and events into buckets so you can focus on one type of task at a time. If you have to do weekly administrative tasks like turning in receipts, approval payroll time, and submitting expense reports, book a slot on your calendar to accomplish all of them at the same time instead of tackling one each day.
Getting into the mode to work on administrative tasks is a lot different than creative tasks that require deep thinking. Schedule your administrative tasks for a time period when you’ll be able to accomplish them all at the same time and then move onto something else.
On the meeting side of your schedule, look for ways to combine meetings. Instead of having a stand-up meeting where everyone recaps what they’re working on as well as weekly one-on-ones with your team, look to eliminate the weekly group meetings and share a collaborative note that people can view and comment on with everyone’s current priorities and projects.
By grouping similar meetings, you’ll free up many hours of lost productivity that were normally spent in meetings. Some companies aren’t aware of how much money they spend on payroll spent in meetings, so eliminating and combining meetings is as effective as cutting expenses.
Timeboxing and Time Blocking
Parkinson’s law is the states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Timeboxing is a simple calendar management technique that involves allotting a fixed amount of time for an activity in advance and then complete the activity within that specified time. The idea of Time Boxing for your calendar and tasks was first introduced by James Martin as a part of agile software development in his book Rapid Application Development.
Timeboxing is a calendar and time management strategy where you allocate a fixed time period to a planned task or meeting. You then work on the activity during the boxed timed and stop working on it once the time is up. You then assess if you’ve completed the task or meeting your goal.
The time boxing time and calendar management strategy involve a 5 step process:
- Find suitable tasks
- Define your goals
- Set the time
- Work and assess your results
- Claim your reward
Time boxing differs from time blocking. In time blocking, you allocate time blocks in order to find time for everything on your task list. Instead of trying to find time to respond to the emails in your Inbox, you schedule a calendar appointment to complete the tasks. At the end of the scheduled time, you then look to see if you had enough time to complete the task. If you didn’t, you’d know to schedule more time for it in the future.
There are automated tools available to automatically optimize your calendar to free up more focus time. Tools like Clockwise integrate with a Google calendar to find blocks of time where you have opportunities to create more time for deep thinking and creativity.
Suppose you have a meeting at 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 that all last a half-hour, it would better to rearrange your calendar to have the meetings at 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00. Instead of being finished with your meetings at 11:30, you’ll be able to finish up your meetings by 10:30. The time between meetings is less productive because you aren’t able to get zoned into work that requires deep thinking to make progress on.
If you have calendar appointments that require you to travel locally, look for ways to combine trips. If you have an appointment on one side of town, look for ways to eliminate future trips to the same side of town.
If you have two appointments near each other but on different days, contact your providers to see if you can move them all to the same day at similar times in order to eliminate a meeting and travel time on a future day.
How to Approach Calendar Management Tips
Time management is the process of planning and executing how much time to spend on specific tasks and meetings. Effective time management enables you to complete more tasks in a shorter period of time with less stress and more time to do the things you’d prefer to do.
The first step for effective time management is setting priorities and goals. When setting goals, make sure they are realistic, measurable, and relevant to your overall plan. When you have goals set, you’ll then need to prioritize your time to make sure you have time to reach them. If you have a goal of losing weight, you’ll need to make time to exercise and cook healthy meals. You can create that time by using the methods we listed above.
If you’re struggling to make time to accomplish your goals, then a good first step to figuring out why is tracking your time with a time diary. Documenting your time by the hour will help you understand where the lost time is going. You could also use a time tracking app to see how your time is being spent. Once you’ve tracked your time, you might find you spend a lot of time on tasks that could be delegated to others in your organization that are better suited to the task or have more time.
A holistic approach to time and calendar management is when you look at your time from a very high level with your goals in mind. A busy executive needs to focus their overall time and attention on the tasks and meetings that are going to help move the organization forward.
Taking Logistics Into Consideration
When you are scheduling your calendar appointments, be sure to look at the logistics of where your meetings and appointments are for that day. If you have multiple meetings throughout the day, look to see if any of them can be combined or rescheduled so you’ll spend less time walking or driving to your next meeting.
What Are Your Productivity Hours
Not all hours of the day are equal when it comes to your most productive work. Some people are more productive in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, others do their best work right before lunch, and others might be night owls and are productive after everyone is asleep.
Finding the time of the day you are most productive is a key time and productive hack. If you need to mock up a new logo, knowing that you’ll be able to do it in half the time in your most productive part of the day is a way to save yourself time later. There is no reason to slowly work through a project in the afternoon if you know you’ll have more time and attention in the morning. Block off time on your calendar for your “productivity hours” to do your best work, and don’t waste those hours in meetings.
You can’t be productive for the entire workday. Take time to walk away from your work and think about something else. If you’re stuck on a problem, you’ll be more likely to solve it by taking a break for a quick walk or chat with a friend. Just because you aren’t working doesn’t mean that your brain isn’t still working in the background.
Wrap Up on Effective Calendar Management Skills
We’ve provided countless tips and tricks to better manage your time and attention when it comes to your calendar. The key things to remember are to get a digital calendar that merges all of your calendars into a single view, understand when you’re most productive, be protective of your time (it’s okay to say no to a meeting request), find ways to become more efficient and measure the results.
You need to build systems to manage your time and attention, and having effective time and calendar management skills will help you in the long run. Time is the most important currency in the world, so becoming a master planner is a strong skill to have as you go throughout your career.