Master your Calendar
Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
Have you ever thought why some people get so much more done than others? They breeze through life knowing exactly what needs to be done and when. They appear to be in control. They arrive on time for meetings and never miss an appointment. They also excel in their careers. So, what’s their secret? It’s down to how they manage their calendar.
Why you need to use a calendar
Imagine that you have a glass jar that you need to fill up with a certain amount of pebbles and big rocks. If you fill the jar with the pebbles first, you’ll never be able to find space for the big rocks. However, if you put the big rocks in first, then the pebbles will fill in the spaces between the large rocks.
The concept of ‘Big Rocks’ is based on a principle by the author Stephen R. Covey, who wrote the book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. Every day you have all kinds of tasks that need to be completed. If you aren’t able to prioritise those tasks and get the important (big rocks) in first then you will never reach your goals. Using a calendar will ensure the big rocks take priority over the pebbles.
A quick look at your calendar should give you a clear idea of the shape of your week. It should contain appointments, calls and blocks of time dedicated to particular types of task. For example, you might split each day between thinking tasks (deep work) in the morning and administrative tasks (shallow work) in the afternoon.
How many calendars do you need?
I know lots of people who have both a work and a personal calendar. This is based on the theory that those two worlds can exist separately – wrong! Modern working practises mean that there is no longer a clear line between those worlds. That’s not to say you shouldn’t protect down time and professional commitments. It’s more an honest acceptance that to be in control of your life you need one calendar to capture everything. One life equals one calendar.
Things that don’t need to be scheduled into a calendar
Whilst it’s important to trust your calendar and to stick to what you’ve committed to, there are some things that do not need to go into it. Sleep is a good example – you don’t need to be reminded to go to bed.
Morning and evening routines also have the potential to be left out of your calendar. Most successful people have a structured morning and evening routine that they follow each day. Some productivity experts argue that these do not need to go into your calendar because they are ingrained into your daily routine. However, I would argue that by putting them in your diary you help to protect them. For example, if you are invited to an evening appointment, by looking at your calendar you will be reminded that it will impact on your evening routine. Prompting you to decide whether the appointment is worth damaging your routine.
Use a cloud-based calendar app
Using a calendar that is backed up to the cloud has three benefits:
1) Everything is backed up so if you lose your phone of your computer crashes you still have access to all of your data.
2) It gives you consistency. If you update your calendar on one device, the changes are reflected across every device you use. So there’s no more double-booking of appointments.
3) It gives you flexibility. Being able to access your calendar while you are on the move means you can give a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to requests for your time instead of promising to get back to people and then creating a big administration job for yourself back at the office or your home. If you’re looking for a recommendation of a good cloud-based calendar app, I’d suggest Google or iCloud.
One thing you can do today to be more productive with your calendar
Time block the ways you plan to spend your time.
You will be far more productive if you group together similar tasks and tackle them in one go, rather than spreading them out.
Create ‘deep work’ sessions and ‘shallow work’ sessions. And instead of having calls and meetings dotted throughout your week, group them together. Consider dedicating a certain day of the week to calls and / or meetings and stick to it.
Remember: every day is an opportunity to press re-set and create success. What will make today a success for you? If you need further advice, get in touch: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/kathrynknights
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