How to Use Calendars Effectively with Other People

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Working with others can create a lot of challenges, but the benefits should outweigh those challenges – especially if you use a few simple tools well. One of those tools should be your calendar. By doing so you can strike the balance between collaborating with others and getting your own deep work done.

What are calendars for?

We demand a lot from our calendars. They capture meetings, appointments, deep work, shallow work, phone calls, ad-hoc events, annual leave and even gym sessions.

We populate our calendars with all this information to help us see the shape of our day and ensure we fulfil our commitments not only to ourselves, but to others as well.

Writing the rules

It’s assumed by many people (and organisations) that people know how to use a calendar efficiently and that everyone will use their calendars in exactly the same way. I’ve certainly never been asked to attend a calendar management workshop, but educating people on how to do so is vital for creating team and overall organisational efficiency.

Establishing some ground rules and sharing those with everyone in the team or organisation goes a long way in reducing the time spent on administration.

This is the case for doing so.

Remote working

Being calendar savvy becomes even more important when you work in a remote team. In fact, even you’re not technically remote working most of us don’t sit in the same room or same part of the office as the people we might need to meet with.

When you can’t see someone the automatic reaction is usually to fire out an email to that person or team (possibly checking that’s person’s calendar before you do so).

Sounds simple enough. It certainly encourages openness and transparency. However, it’s hugely unproductive because too much time gets taken up with the administration of booking meetings rather than doing the core element of your role or actually being in the meeting itself.

Also bear in mind that having a calendar people can view allows them to dictate how you spend your time. Resulting in your days being sliced up with meetings that interrupt your flow of work.

The way forward – extreme measures

So what’s the answer?

You could lock down everyone’s calendar so that only the owner could view it. Creating this type of hard barrier makes people stop to think about whether the meeting is really necessary before they go to the effort of arranging it. The upshot is that people spend more time doing deep work. However, this approach also means collaboration can become non-existent and that’s not healthy for an organisation either.

The way forward – the middle ground

A more realistic way forward is to establish a meeting rhythm. Decide on a day of the week to hold meetings or a particular time each day that will be dedicated to meetings. This reduces the conflict created with people jostling for meeting time throughout the week and it’s also hugely motivating to have a group of people aligned and tuned into the same way of working.

For example, you might decide that Wednesday is a good day to hold all your meetings and in addition you will have a 30-minute daily huddle. Establishing these patterns helps to give each week a rhythm and flow.

Having dedicated meetings time slots creates a soft barrier in people’s minds when it comes to setting up meetings in the first place. The knock-on effect of this is that it helps to create much more self-sufficient individuals and teams because people solve the smaller and simpler problems outside of meetings.

Working with clients, suppliers and freelancers

Let’s assume you have your internal calendar systems running smoothly. What about all those external people you work with? You need a solution for setting up meetings that will mean your day isn’t taken up with meeting administration.

Schedule Once is a powerful meeting tool that syncs with other calendars e.g. Google and allows you to share with other people which chunks of your day are available for meetings. You send people a link (once) and they can then book time with you. You carry on using your calendar as normal and Schedule Once sorts out everything else, including automatically responding to meeting requests (if you enable the app to do so).

Another option is Calendly. It’s much simpler than Schedule Once -but is a great tool for allowing external people to book time with you.

Anything else?

If you manage a team or an entire organisation here are some other things to think about in order to get the most from your calendars:

1. Everything needs a place - if there is a company calendar (or a shared / team calendar) in addition to everyone’s own calendar then establish the rules of what goes in each calendar. For example, maybe 121 meetings go in people’s own calendars but company-wide briefings go in the shared calendar.

2. Annual leave - make sure everyone includes dates of their annual leave in the appropriate calendar so that time isn’t wasted booking meetings with people who are out of the office.

3. Meeting types - let people know which meetings are mandatory and which ones are optional. When you join a new team or organisation it can be tricky to know which meetings you are required to attend and which ones are optional. When people have this information up front they can quickly make decisions about how best to shape their day.

Re-thinking how you use calendars and sharing that knowledge with others will help you and the people you work with be more productive. In our time-stretched world, who wouldn’t want that?

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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