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How To Make Your Calendar Support You for Success Instead of Sabotaging You


Staff member
Jan 20, 2024
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If you’ve ever overbooked or double booked your time, or you’ve been late for meetings (or missed a few altogether) you may be running around more reactively in your workday than you like.

You may be in a mad dash to get to meetings or you’re trying to be in two places at once. You’re also likely running out of time to work on tasks and answer emails, and have to come in early, work nights, or work weekends to catch up—or all of the above.

This can happen for many reasons. Here are the top 5…

  1. You have a digital calendar, but you’re not using it very well or very often, so it doesn’t accurately show where your time is committed.
  1. You have a digital calendar and you’re using it, but not all of the appointments are showing their true committed times, so it’s still inaccurate.
  1. You’re using multiple calendars for multiple reasons, such as a workday calendar and a family calendar.
  1. You’re allowing side-by-side appointments to show on your calendar.
  1. You’re still using a paper calendar or a planner and falling into some of the same pitfalls already mentioned.

Another reason for consistently running out of time is from not having a central system for managing tasks. That’s a topic for another article, but just understand that without a VERY clear picture of your tasks and responsibilities—and I mean just ONE digital dashboard—you are without the power to plan and prioritize tasks accurately or efficiently, and without certainty that you’re accomplishing the right tasks at the right times. As a result, you may lose track of tasks and follow-ups, miss opportunities, delay progress on important projects and initiatives, and so much more.

Meanwhile, when you want more time to get your work done—and without all of the rushed reactivity in your workday—there are many ways to get it. One of them is to look at how you’re managing your calendar.

First, get crystal clear about how you’re using your time NOW and then think about how you WANT to use it in the future. This will give you a new level of clarity.

Next, be intentional about WHO or WHAT gets your precious time. With a new level of clarity, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how to spend your time.

Take control of your time by protecting it more proactively and you’ll not only be able to HAVE more time, but you can also avoid those days when you’re double-booked or over-booked, and flying around frantically to meet your commitments and get things done.

Here are 8 important steps to make your calendar support you for success instead of sabotaging you.

  1. Use a COMPLETE digital calendar. If your calendar doesn’t show ALL of your time commitments, it will be misleading. You’ll think you have WAY more available than you really do AND you’re setting yourself up for trouble: over-booking, double-booking, over-promising, under-delivering, and many other negative consequences. Make sure you add EVERY scheduled commitment to your digital calendar for both business and personal commitments so you have 100% clarity of where your time is committed and where time is available.
  1. Show time commitments accurately. When appointments don’t show their true duration, you’ll have the same problem as #1 above: you’ll think you have way more time available than you really do. If you agreed to attend a 2-hour meeting, the appointment on your calendar must show as 2 hours blocked and not just 30 minutes as a placeholder. When you aren’t sure how long an appointment will be, use your best guess and be conservative. It’s better to over-estimate the time you expect and enjoy bonus time if an appointment ends sooner than expected.
  1. Use just ONE digital calendar for business and personal commitments.Without a single-source approach you won’t get a single view to rely on for ALL of your scheduled commitments, which can cause confusion, errors, and lost time. It’s risky, because there are too many places to look. Use ONE digital calendar and synchronize it with your smart phone and/or tablet and this will give you the best, most realistic, and most efficient way to track ALL of your scheduled commitments.
  1. Add travel time to your calendar. If traveling to in-person meetings will take 30 minutes or longer, it will be helpful to show travel time both before and after those meetings. Even if travel doesn’t take 30 minutes, protect the time anyway. You’ll be glad to have the flexible time left over. And no matter how much time you need to get from here to there, allow AMPLE time to drive so you’re not pressured. You never know what can happen on the road and you shouldn’t have to drive 90 miles an hour to get where you need to go and get there on time.
  1. Block time immediately following certain appointments. This time is helpful for making additional notes while meeting details are still fresh in your mind. You might also need this time to enter data into a system or identify next action steps and follow ups. Avoid a situation where you’re booked up in too many back-to-back-to-back-to-back appointments all day, which makes you use your personal time to take these steps.
  1. Leave some free time—white space!—on your calendar for periodic flexible time. Don’t give away all of the white space on your calendar. It may look like “free” time, but it’s not. You’ll pay the price later when you need to work nights or weekends to catch up on tasks and email. When you give away most or all of your time, you won’t have any flexible time to respond to last minute requests or issues, or take advantage of unforeseen opportunities.
  1. Stop showing the commitments of others on YOUR calendar. Putting other people’s commitments on your calendar only clutters up your calendar and clouds your vision of time committed and time available. THEIR commitments have nothing to do with YOU. To get a realistic view of your time, remove the commitments of others that show during your work week between 8:00 and 5:00 pm. There are several ways to make these commitments appear on your calendar so they’re not mucking up your week view and you also have the option to make a note elsewhere. Your goal is to make your calendar reflect only where YOUR time is committed and where it’s showing as available.
  1. Abolish side-by-side appointments. Side-by-side appointments can be a little complex, because others are inviting you to meetings, but there are solutions to just about every situation. Sometimes, that means leaving a few side-by-sides in place, but it’s essential to alleviate as many of these scenarios as you can when you find them on your calendar. You can’t be in two places at once, so make decisions about where you’re actually planning to be and then make your calendar reflect that. This makes your calendar not only easier to read, but you’ll get the most accurate snapshot of where your time is committed and where your time is available very quickly.

Do NOT take chances with how you manage your calendar. Your time is the MOST valuable resource you have. Be careful with it and be literal about how you’re using it on your calendar. Make it ACCURATE by adding every single commitment you’ve made, whether personal or professional.

Stop guessing. Starting KNOWING where your time is going.

Again, if you DON’T get the time you need during the day for working on tasks and projects, and for processing email, you’ll end up putting in more hours late at night, early in the morning, or on weekends to catch up—and that’s no fun.
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