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The adage “time is money” has never been more appropriate than it is today, in this always-connected, digital age. People have more demands for their time and more obligations — both personally and professionally — than ever before. Considering that there are over 25 million meetings every day in the United States alone, it’s no wonder that people feel overextended and unable to control their own calendars.
Some 70% of workers feel disengaged from their workday, in part from a deluge of emails and meetings that distract them from tasks. People of all professions can take back control of their time by implementing some simple calendar management practices. By managing and directing time before it is spent, it is much easier to focus on the things that matter. Here are seven of the best tips for mastering a busy calendar.
1. Use the right tools.
The days of desktop-sized paper calendars scrawled with notes and reminders are all but over. Most people rely on a digital calendar, either on their computer or smartphone. As a result, modern calendars are portable, accessible and usually backed up in the cloud.
While there are many different types of calendar apps available to suit users of all technical skill levels, the key is to select (or build) the app with the right features to support the unique day-to-day activities of the user. For example, a busy executive may need help managing a constant stream of meetings, while a small business owner might wish to organize back-office tasks.
2. Get into the habit of preplanning.
One of the simplest but often-overlooked methods of time management is the intentional act of setting aside time to plan the usage of time. Whether it is at the end of the day to plan for the next day’s events, or on a Sunday evening to map the entire week ahead, it’s a surefire way to get ahead of a busy calendar.
In his acclaimed book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, “The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” In other words, the only way to take control of time is to manage how it is used. Preparing for the upcoming day or week offers a high-level view of critical tasks and gauges how much time is left for additional commitments.
3. Work in time blocks.
Some of the world’s most successful people schedule their days and weeks in small chunks of time. Entrepreneur and CEO Gary Vaynerchuk plans his day (paywall) down to the second in most instances, scheduling meetings that are less than five minutes and ensuring that not a single second is wasted.
While it isn’t necessary to go to that extreme, it is helpful to understand how much time tasks actually take and only schedule that amount of time to complete them — no more, no less. It prevents over- or under-scheduling and makes it easier to prioritize tasks to maximize efficiency.
4. Plan personal time.
It’s easy to get in a mindset of efficiency and productivity and overlook time for personal interests, family and self-care. When people get busy and neglect to plan for life outside of work, it can negatively impact mental and physical health and as a result, make them less efficient and productive — making the whole exercise in time management worthless.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, schedules 30 to 90 minutes every day to “just think.” It’s time that is set aside to use as he pleases. By building in time for outside interests and unforeseen personal events, it is much less stressful to manage a busy calendar and keep scheduled commitments on track.
5. Create reminders.
Reminders are especially important when meetings and tasks are scheduled back to back or at unusual times. Nearly every calendar app offers a reminder feature with different settings for when and how reminders are displayed to the user.
For example, a salesperson may set a reminder to print marketing collateral before a prospect meeting. A college student might set a reminder to seek help during a professor’s office hours. It might be as simple as creating a reminder to take a brisk walk or to drink water — reminders are mini assistants that keep busy people on track and focused on the right things throughout the day.
6. Learn calendar shortcuts.
A calendar is only helpful if the user understands how to maximize its potential. The first step after choosing a calendar app should be learning shortcuts to features and functionality that can make the user even more productive.
Nearly every calendar app has a menu of keyboard shortcuts. In Google Calendar, for example, users can create events by simply tapping the letter “c.” In Outlook, new appointments can be created with the command Ctrl+N. True, these shortcuts only save users a few seconds, but seconds add up quickly over time.
7. Let AI do the hard work.
As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning become more ingrained in day-to-day applications, it only makes sense that calendar apps would follow suit, embedding AI behind the scenes to create “smart” calendars.
A practical example is an ability for the calendar app to track how much time a repetitive task takes someone over time and then to make recommendations to the user on how much time they should block for the task based on the collected data. Other smart features might include alerts when meetings veer off course, or the ability to automatically book open meeting rooms and add conferencing technology when a meeting is scheduled.
The pace of life continues to accelerate, with greater demands on time at work and home. Calendar management is integral to preserving the well-being of individuals and optimizing the productivity of the collective workforce. It takes intention and a bit of practice, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
May 23, 2019 at 08:31AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs