Five Ways to Get Your Calendar Under Control April 15 2011

Uphill It seems like I talk with clients about the challenge of taming their calendars at least two or three times a week. In the age of interconnected scheduling systems like Outlook and the continuous push to get more done with less in any given day, more and more leaders feel like Sisyphus rolling that big rock up the never ending hill.

What in the heck can you do to get your calendar back under control and have time to think, reflect, relax, connect, have some fun and a life outside of work? I've been brainstorming that question with my clients lately. Here are five strategies we've come up with that make a difference:

Keep Your Most Important Objectives in Mind:  If you're really clear and honest with yourself, you likely have three or four big objectives that represent about 80% of what success looks like for you. Keep that list in front of you and make sure you're not spending a lot of time on things that don't further those objectives.

Use the Help That's Available:  If you have a good assistant, help them help you. Have regular conversations with your assistant about your goals so they can help prioritize requests for your time.  Ask them to schedule and protect regular blocks of administrative time for you to think and catch up.  Give your assistant permission to say, "No," on your behalf.  If you don't have an assistant, get in the habit of doing these things yourself.

Negotiate on Requests for Your Time: For example, if your boss asks you to attend a two day conference to wave the company flag, look for the highest impact half day on the agenda and negotiate to just attend that portion. Get clear with the requestor on specific desired takeaways from your participation. If there are no specific benefits, maybe you don't have to be there at all.

Beware of Standing Meetings: Don't fill up your calendar with standing meetings that you attend because you're not doing anything else. Get in the habit of asking yourself, "Is this the highest and best use of my time?" If you've already attended three status meetings on a project in one week, how much marginal value is there in attending a fourth?

Bundle Meetings by Location:  The time it takes to travel to and from meetings is an often overlooked and insidious time suck. Don't waste time traveling back and forth to the same place multiple times a week. Reduce your cumulative travel time by bundling your meetings together by location.

So those are five favorite time management strategies my clients and I have come up with lately.  What are your favorite calendar taming techniques that aren't on our list?

7 Responses to “Five Ways to Get Your Calendar Under Control”

  1. _13apples_ says:

    Scott, thanks for sharing your top 5 techniques. God knows how many times I have tried but what seems to work for me now is to keep me on track with my tasks and meetings. I add recurring and standalone meetings as tasks. You can fwd your meetings to the rtm email id and it will add as a task. There are any more tricks along with sharing your tasks with others. Just thought I will put this out here too. We will still remain sysiphians though.

  2. Leon Noone says:

    G'Day Scott,
    Excellent suggestions. I have to admit that in the past I was one of those ambitious young managers who usually bit off far more than he could chew.

    When I started my own business I had to learn to do better.

    I believe that for managers, delegation and effective time management are part of the same thing. If you wont or cant do one, you wont be able to do the other. Incidentally there's no such thing as a manager who can't delegate: only those who do and those who wont.

    The other thing is to always keep your boss fully informed about what you're trying to achieve and what your plans are to achieve it. You'll rarely have your plans disrupted by your boss if he's fully aware of what your about and has agreed that you proceed.

    Hope this helps



  3. Scott Eblin says:

    Great advice on delegation and communication Leon. Thanks for the tip on Remember the Milk, Raj. Will definitely check it out!



  4. Susan Fignar says:

    Hello Scott,
    Thanks for providing excellent tips to support us in managing our time. In addition, create a "NOT to-do" list of tasks that do not serve you / others well, and factor in "ME" time on your calendar for self-care practices and balance.
    Take good care…

  5. Wmuse says:

    Great tips! Love… "Get in the habit of asking yourself, "Is this the highest and best use of my time?"
    I'm going to write "Is this the highest and best use of my time?" on a post it note and put it on my monitor! What a great reminder to reference throughout the day!

  6. Scott, Great post – I hadn't thought of some of these, so to pay you back, here are some that my clients use:

    1. Delegate: What can others do? (and my favorite question is Who can help?)
    2. Say no: What can you say "no" to?
    3. Slow down to speed up: its a funny thing, but when we're in the mode of rushing here and there, sometimes taking the time to sit down and think through priorities, decide who you can delegate to and what you aren't going to do can be the best thing. And if it makes sense, invite your team in for a more creative discussion about "how can we all get our calendars under control?"

  7. Scott Eblin says:

    Thanks for the additional tips everyone. Susan, great advice on Me time – which I'm taking this afternoon. Part of that is reviewing my calendar so far for this year to see how I've been spending my time does or doesn't match up with my priorities.

    Cheers –


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