Your calendar habits will make or break your success. In this article, you will learn calendar habits to improve your focus and productivity.
Basic Calendar Habits
I don’t know where you are in your productivity journey so I will begin with the basics. Remember that you get the greatest value from habits by consistently application.
1. Review Today’s Calendar
Reading your daily calendar at the start of the day is a foundation habit that takes only a few minutes each day. I find it particularly valuable to note meetings and travel time in the daily calendar review.
2. Review Tomorrow`s Calendar
This is a great end of day calendar habit that puts you into a proactive frame of mind. You may notice a meeting that needs to be rescheduled. Or reading your calendar may remind of you of some additional tasks to complete.
3. Create “Meetings with Myself”
This task is important for people who work in organizations with “shared calendars.” If your organization uses Microsoft Outlook for example, you can often view the calendar availability of most people. This feature is designed to make it easy to book meetings. However, it is easy to accept too many appointments and become overwhelmed. How do you avoid that problem? Easy. Put an appointment on your calendar called “Block” or “High Priority Tasks.” By putting that information on your calendar, you will increase the time available for high value tasks.
4. Schedule Travel Time
I learned the value of travel time scheduling a few years ago when I had to travel for meetings. When I say travel, you might be thinking of planes and trains. In actual fact, my office travel was usually traveling to different offices in the same city or between floors of the same building. Without travel time on the schedule, you are likely to be late.
- Tip: Avoid scheduling “back to back” meetings because you will not be able to accommodate travel. The only exception to consider to this rule are conference call meetings.
5. Write Down All Appointments (Personal and Professional)
This is an important rule. It is also a rule that I struggle with from time to time. If your calendar lacks complete details, it will not deliver results for you. It is a habit to develop over time. Using easy calendar tools (e.g. Google Calendar) makes this process easier.
Advanced Calendar Habits
Once you have the basic habits developed to some level, it is time to develop advanced habits. Some of these ideas may be familiar to you. In that case, consider Samuel Johnson’s observation: “Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” Ask yourself if you are applying these habits, not whether you have heard of them before.
6. Write Supporting Details In Calendar Entries
Taking note of supporting information on your calendar is a great way to increase your productivity. I find it helpful to include supporting information such as: phone numbers, full names, physical addresses, and travel notes. By including this information, you have everything you need in one place.
- Resource: Are you traveling for business? Improve your productivity further with this excellent Manager Tools podcast: Travel EMP.
7. Complete Weekly Reviews
Regular reviews of your calendar – last week and the current week – is a valuable habit to develop. For a detailed overview of my process, please read this article: Why You Need A Weekly Review. For the best results, I recommend reviewing both business and personal calendars (if they are different). Developing a Weekly Review habit is one of the best ways to prevent unwelcome surprises.
8. Create Repeating Appointments
Repeating appointments are one of those practices that make the a big difference. It is the productivity equivalent of cleaning your home weekly instead of an annual clean up.
Let me share a finance example. Once upon a time, I did a monthly expense review (i.e. review charges applied to my department for accuracy). I would often detect incorrect charges that required investigation and action to correct. In addition, correcting the errors took a long time because the errors were being reviewed weeks after the event. This fall, I changed the practice to a weekly financial report review. As a result, errors are corrected more quickly.
Here are other possibilities for repeating appointments:
- Birthday reminders. You may want to set a reminder a week in advance so you can consider sending a card and/or a gift.
- Holiday reminders. Holidays are even more enjoyable when you plan for them in advance!
- “Big Meeting” Prep reminders. You might have a quarterly meeting with executives in your organization. Setting a reminder for this meeting (perhaps another one to give you a week’s notice to get ready) improves your productivity.
9. Minimize your productivity toolkit
It’s easy and fun to get excited about productivity tools, apps and products. Earlier this year, I wrote an article, “10 Apps For Highly Productive Project Managers,” which became popular and attracted quite a few comments. It was a good discussion.
That said, constant switching and experimenting with different productivity eats away at your productivity. Given that reality, I recommend choosing the smallest number of productivity tools.
Here are three tools that you need for a bare minimum
- Calendar: Google Calendar is my favorite.
- Task Manager: I use Remember The Milk.
- Notebook: I like the Moleskine Notebook (sometimes you just need to have a paper notebook.)
10. Say no to others
Saying no is an essential calendar habit to develop. Your approach will vary depending on your “productivity season of life.” If you are coming up in the business with few responsibilities, you may say yes over and over again to obtain more opportunities.
In any case, ensure that your “no” response is polite and professional. In a coarse world, being polite is the right thing to do and a way to stand out in a positive way.
11. Say no to yourself
In calendar management, saying no to yourself is a difficult habit to develop. There are several approaches you can take to manage your focus more effectively. For example, you can limit technology distractions using focus enhancing tools (e.g. Freedom, FocusWriter or Focus@Will). Another approach is to change your working location from time to time. If you work in a traditional office, you could book a meeting room for yourself for 1-2 hours to cut out on background noise.
Question for the comments:
What habits have you developed to effectively manage your calendar?