Productivity Series: Take Control of Your Calendar

How to Take Back Your Calendar

Last week, we addressed the importance of managing your inbox and not getting sucked into the email response cycle. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to implement some of those strategies and had a more productive week as a result! Today, we’re taking the next step: managing your calendar.

For those of you who work in corporate, meetings are probably the bane of your existence. There are large team meetings, small team meetings, even meetings to prep for the next meetings. Your co-workers can see your availability and often put themselves on your calendar without any thought to your other projects or responsibilities. Before long, your day is consumed and there’s little time left to do your work, resulting in many late nights and weekends spent at the computer.

As a small business owner, I have much more control over my calendar, but I still have clients, media contacts, and in-house teams demanding my attention. And while those meetings may not consume my day like they do for those working in the corporate world, it can be difficult to get back into deep work and make progress on projects during those one-hour breaks of time.

In order to increase your productivity, it is imperative that you take control and ownership over your calendar. You must evaluate the times when it’s okay to say no to a meeting request or to limit the duration to 30 minutes. You should fight for the time slot that works best for your schedule and protect your periods of time that allow for distraction-free concentration.

Many productivity experts are advocates for time blocking, which is reserving times in your calendar for certain tasks or projects–9:00-10:00am is blocked for client relations, 10:00-11:00am is blocked for meetings, and so on. This allows you to see your true availability and takes the guesswork out of what task or project to work on next. Most entrepreneurs and creatives I know utilize this system and it has increased their productivity dramatically.

But not everyone has the flexibility to create their schedule from scratch. If you’re employed full-time at a company or working a day-job in addition to your side hustle, your schedule is often in the hands of others. Which is why I advocate for a modified version of time-blocking as well as utilizing Chris Bailey’s Rule of 3.

Bailey’s method says that everyone should write down three things you’d like to accomplish each day. They can be big things like finishing a slide deck or rolling out a new product, or small things like going to the gym or following up with a potential client. He encourages visualizing the end of your day and thinking about the three things that you’d have to accomplish to feel good about your day. Three is a manageable number, allowing you to set yourself up for success rather than disappointment. As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been implementing his techniques for several months now and have dramatically increased my productivity.

Rather than block out every hour of my day, I block off periods to accomplish my three things. Today, for example, I blocked off 8:00-9:00am to write and schedule this blog post, 12:00-1:00pm to go to my boxing class, and 4:30-5:30pm to read a potential client manuscript. This still leaves plenty of time to schedule meetings, take client calls, and make my way through the inbox. No one feels that I’m too rigid or unavailable by declining calls during these periods, and I’m able to fully concentrate during the meetings I do have because I’m not worried about getting everything done. I know those times are blocked off.

So whether you work in corporate, or you’re a small business owner, or you’re a creative working on your art after hours at your day job, I encourage you to take control of your calendar. It’s tempting to put off your own projects to be accommodating to others, but your clients and co-workers are less concerned about how accommodating you are and more concerned with just making sure the job gets done. Block off the time you need to address your priorities for each day. Put them in your calendar, guard that time, and watch your productivity increase dramatically.

Don’t forget to download your productivity toolkit and share your own productivity tips and tricks in the comments!

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