Seven Tips for Taming Your Calendar

Posted 05.16.2013

tamed2A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Five Ways to Get Your Calendar Under Control.  Since then, I’ve used it as the starting point for a conversation among high potential leaders in our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program. The framing questions for the group about the post are:

  • What do you already do or agree with?
  • What do you disagree with?
  • What other calendar control ideas work for you?

As the inflow becomes heavier and the expectations become higher, taming the calendar beast is a common challenge for leaders. Here are seven of the best ideas I’ve heard lately from leaders who are figuring out how to leverage their time to get important stuff done:

Declare “No Meeting Fridays” – Some organizations have had a lot of success with declaring every or every other Friday as a meeting free zone on the calendar.  The point is to give everyone some regular time to work, catch up or reflect on their own.

Schedule Appointments with Your Self – I’m working with more and more leaders who are scheduling a few hours a week on their online calendar as work appointments with themselves.  By scheduling time for individual work in advance they ensure it doesn’t get eaten by others with access to their calendars. Even if some of those self appointments get cancelled for other purposes, they still end up with time they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Know Your Attendance Value – It’s likely that you get invited to a lot of meetings that you really don’t need to attend. What difference would it make to objectively assess your value of attending before you accept the invitation? You might get a lot of time back on your calendar if you did.

Question the “Culture of Inclusiveness” – There are a lot of organizations in which the cultural norm is to invite everyone to a meeting that has even an indirect stake in the topic.  That’s how you end up with way too many people in meetings and lots of people who are double and triple booked at any given hour. If this sounds like your organization, be a leader – question the culture of inclusiveness and ask the organizer, “Do we really need all of these people in the meeting?”

Don’t Duplicate Your Lead Dogs – This one pairs well with the Culture of Inclusiveness tip. If you and a few of your functional colleagues are all invited to the same meeting, decide amongst yourselves which one of you is going to go and represent. You’ll all save time in the long run.

Accomplish Something First (aka Don’t Start Your Day by Answering E-mail) – A natural instinct when you show up at the office in the morning is to answer the emails that came in since you left the day before. Two hours later, you’re still answering e-mails. Don’t go there. Start your day by accomplishing one significant thing that can be done in 30 minutes to an hour.  It should be the kind of thing that if that’s the only big thing you do all day it will still be a good day. If you do that five days a week, you’re going to get a lot of important stuff done.

Review and Plan Your Week – I’m not a big proponent of working on the weekend (even though I do it more than I should), but an hour on Sunday to review the week just ended and capture the loose ends and take a look at the week ahead can pay big dividends all week and all year long. That investment of an hour a week to look back and look ahead can help you stay in control of your calendar and your agenda.

What great tips do you have for taming your calendar? Please share them with the rest of us.