Five Ways to Get Your Calendar Under Control

Posted 04.15.2011

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?