For everyone else, I have some proven advice that will help you get the most from your daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual schedule, while helping you free up precious time and prioritize things that are more important to you.
- Keep a universal “life calendar.” Keeping separate calendars for work and home is an outdated fool’s errand. To really get the most from your time, you need one consolidated life calendar with different types of events, including categories such as work, personal, family, etc. Once this is set up with any modern digital calendar, you can then fill this calendar with all the important commitments, plans, events, and meetings you need for both your professional and personal life. When conflicts happen, you’ll be forced to decide what is most important to you, which is the whole point.
- Consult your VIPs on how you can calendar together. This could be anyone, but it most likely includes your spouse, immediate family, boss, immediate coworkers, and any other mentors you schedule events with. How often will you meet to discuss your weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual plans and goals? To get the most from your calendar, you need to decide this beforehand with the most important people in your life.
- Pre-plan instead of post-planning. Far too often, people add things to their calendar after other people ask them to. While doing so is a necessary part of getting things done, the better way is to plan what’s most important to you first, then filling in the rest with other requested commitments that are important to your VIPs. For example, set time aside at the end of each day, week, month, or year to plan out important tasks for the following calendar cycle. Not only will you be better prepared to tackle the upcoming cycle, you’ll prioritize your strategic needs over others.
- Block off personal time. Similar to the above, you shouldn’t let anyone plan meetings on your behalf during certain days or hours. For example, unless it’s an emergency, I schedule meetings in the afternoons so I can get critical work done in the mornings. Some people block off an entire day of the week. Whatever you do, be sure to block off plenty of time for yourself to get work done. On top of that, you should also be scheduling personal breaks, exercise, and creative outlets that can bring inspiration to the rest of your day.
- Work in batches. If you have a lot of little tasks that add up, don’t complete them on a case-by-case basis. Save them for a batched response at a later time. Doing so frees time and avoids waste while also helping you stay focused for longer. This can be done with emails, line items that add up over a certain period of time, or any other small projects that can be lumped together to avoid wasting time.
- Say “no” to unnecessary meetings. One of the hardest but most productive things you can do for your calendar is only commit to things you really need or want to do. Sometimes there are meetings you’ll have to attend, but those should be the exception, not the rule. On top of that, always cancel if you have a change of heart. It’s your calendar and the better you manage it, the more productive and healthier you’ll be.
- Review your calendar regularly. In addition to pre-planning, you should review your past calendar events to see where you’ve been spending your time and if you felt it was a productive use of it. For example, I do a quick sweep of my week at the beginning and end of each day. Depending on the event, though, this can be done either weekly, quarterly, or annually. Whatever you do, be sure to review. After all, you can’t make changes to your present or future without knowing how you spent your past.
This article first appeared in the PowerSpace Newsletter.