How To Manage Your Calendar Before It Manages You

Why am I here? How am I going to get through this? Shouldn’t I be doing something else with my time? Will I ever eat again? These are the questions I ask myself when I’m sitting in a meeting I don’t need to be in.
As the meeting progresses, the inner dialogue continues…
How did this happen? Did I think about my priorities when the invite hit my inbox? Well, not really.

Did my assistant check with me before booking it? Probably, but it seemed important at the time!

Did my assistant tell me I would regret taking this meeting, yet I ignored their warning? No comment.

Failing at Calendar Management

Far too often, we let our calendars get away from us. We find ourselves in draining meeting after draining meeting, dreaming of the work we could be accomplishing if only we weren’t stuck in another meeting. It’s a surefire way to ruin our productivity and suck the joy out of us, not to mention make us useless in meetings.

A calendar dictated by others turns into a burnout machine. It’s time to take back the reins and spend more time doing what we love.

The Ideal Week Calendar

So how do we take control of our calendar?

A rigorous vetting process for each incoming invite isn’t enough. With no structure to our calendars, we simply schedule meetings whenever we’re free. Even worse, we schedule them based on how we feel in that moment, without considering how we’ll feel when the time comes to attend that meeting. When it comes to your schedule, no structure equals chaos.

To prevent RSVPs based on emotions, I like to set up an “Ideal Week Calendar.” This simply means blocking out times on my calendar for meetings, projects, checking email, working out, reading, taking breaks, and whatever else I want to spend my time doing. It’s a great way to set aside specific times each day for doing what I need to do, when I need – and want – to do it. You can download my Ideal Week Calendar Template here.

For example, you may like to have the mornings to yourself to focus on projects, so adding an event called “Focus Time” on your calendar every morning from 8am-10am would be a good start. Unless there’s an emergency (Quick Tip: make sure you clearly define what a true “emergency” is to take out the guesswork), you and your assistant can agree not to schedule meetings during that block of time.

On the other hand, some of you get your best work done in the afternoons, so you might schedule a 9am-11am block on your calendar for “Meetings and Phone Calls.” When you or your assistant receives a meeting request, simply schedule them in the 9am-11am block, NOT in the afternoons.

I’ve set up an ideal week calendar for my former boss, my current boss, as well as myself. It’s an extremely helpful way for you – and your assistant – to protect your time. Instead of allowing your schedule to be a blank slate that fills up as invites come in, your new schedule serves as a guide to direct those invites into predetermined time slots.

With the ideal week calendar, you’re in control of your schedule. You no longer fly by the seat of your pants for every meeting request.

Application: What Would Your Ideal Week Look Like?

If you have no clue what your ideal week would look like, take some time to look over your current calendar. Look at the big picture, as well as one meeting at a time, and ask yourself the following questions:

– Does this type of meeting drain me?

– Does this type of meeting bring me joy?

– What time of day am I generally more productive?

– Am I dreading this meeting? Can someone else attend on my behalf?

– Does this meeting really need an hour, or could it be done in 30 minutes?

– What days and times of the week am I more pleasant to be around? (Hint: schedule meetings then!)

BONUS: As you work through your calendar, you may realize you need to do a more extensive audit of your life. Your workload, your job description, and your goals – personal and professional. If so, download my FREE eBook with a 5-step process to help you do what you love and eliminate the rest.

Once you’ve assessed your current schedule, meet with your assistant to discuss your preferences, and have them put together an ideal week calendar draft. You can create a new google calendar strictly for the purpose of crafting your ideal week, or you can use a spreadsheet or google sheet to work it out.

Personally, I like to start with a google sheet. It’s easy to quickly move things around, color-coordinate based on type of event, share with my boss, etc. If you’d like to use my “Ideal Week Calendar” template, you can make a copy of it or download it here for FREE.

Once I get the ideal week close to a final version, I like to create a new google calendar with all the ideal times blocked out. This allows me to easily overlay it with my – or my boss’ – current calendar to see how far off it is, and to see how long it might take to implement.

It may take 3-5 weeks to completely switch over, and once you’re there, it will likely need tweaking, but that’s ok. As long as it gets implemented!

So take back your calendar. Make time for what’s important. Map out your ideal week. After a few months, shoot me a note to let me know how it’s going!

Don’t forget to download the Ideal Week Calendar Template here.

P.S. – I recently saw this article in Fast Company about “time-blocking.” It argued for adding to-do list items as blocks in your calendar. I do this often, and think it’s helpful, but I think taking a step back and auditing of your time in general is a good first step. Create an “ideal week” calendar first, then add to-do items week-to-week or day-to-day, as needed.

P.S.S. – After I was done writing this post, I came across an old blog post by Michael Hyatt where he wrote on this very subject. He has a template to share as well, so I recommend getting both mine and his, and taking what you like from each to create your own. You can find his post here.

2017-06-04T17:35:50+00:00 May 4, 2017|Avoiding Burnout, Productivity, Resources|