We’re all familiar with the to-do list and how great it feels to know we’re doing the right activity on the right day, ahead of the deadline. But what happens when you’re working in a complex business function with a shocking mountain of deadlines ahead of you? And to make it worse, what if each deadline was for a completely separate project that may or may not even be related to you?
If this sounds like you, it might be time to consider some calendar organization ideas to help keep your day focused, productive, and value driven.
- Why is organizing your calendar important?
- 11 calendar organization ideas to better manage your time
- What to avoid when organizing your calendar
Why is organizing your calendar important?
When most of your workforce is spending a majority of their week attending meetings, managers, executives, and contributors alike all face several critical risks, including:
- Burnout. Lack of breaks can cause people to feel tired and lose motivation in their roles.
- Project delays. Meetings with no purpose don’t help move the project to the goal post any faster.
- Confusion. Last-minute meetings increase stress and anxiety levels.
- Wasted capital. A lot of time can be wasted on low-priority and low-value activities that aren’t driving business growth.
Seamlessly link your meeting notes with your calendar events
Boost meeting preparation, productivity, and accountability with Fellow’s Calendar integrations. Access your meeting notes directly from your calendar to stay organized!
11 calendar organization ideas to better manage your time
- Plan out your calendar a day ahead
- Leverage the time-blocking method
- Link Fellow directly in your calendar
- Factor in unexpected, unstructured time
- Learn how to say no
- Consider energy levels
- Remove clutter around your workspace
- Color code your calendar
- Prioritization tasks
- Choose the best calendar for your needs
- Break larger activities down into more manageable pieces
1Plan out your calendar a day ahead
Planning your calendar a day in advance doesn’t mean booking all your meetings a day in advance. Rather, it means taking a few minutes of your day to confirm that each meeting the next day serves a valuable purpose, has an appropriate time allocated to the call, and has an agenda prepared. Doing this prep work ahead of time allows you to make adjustments with the other meeting attendees if needed.
2Leverage the time-blocking method
The time-blocking method is a calendar management approach where you block out chunks of time to focus on one specific activity. In this time, you don’t take meetings or answer messages that aren’t relevant to the time-blocked activity. With this approach, some people might choose to allocate an hour or two every morning to catching up on industry news. Others might dedicate every Friday afternoon for projects that need to be delivered by the end of the week. How you use this method in practice is up to you. What’s most important here is allocating the time and not budging on giving up the time if someone wants to book a meeting in the same block.
3Link Fellow directly in your calendar
Fellow is a meeting management tool that helps users build agendas, track action items, and take meeting minutes during calls. It integrates directly into most video conferencing tools so it helps to bring structure and documentation processes right into your already scheduled calendar events. Here is a quick guide with more detail on the types of calendars that Fellow supports.
4Factor in unexpected, unstructured time
As much as we’d like to plan for everything, sometimes emergencies arise that require immediate attention. Booking some flex time into your calendar every day allows you to react quickly to these issues. One way to do this is by adding 15- or 30-minute breaks between calls. Alternatively, you can book an hour at the start, middle, and end of your day for unstructured time.
5Learn how to say no
It’s easy to want to be involved in every new and exciting project that comes along, but doing so can cause burnout in the long term, which is really difficult to overcome. Learning how to say no when your plate is already full can keep you more focused and energized. It also gives you the time you need to create high-quality, outstanding work!
6Consider energy levels
You can’t plan for any two days to be the same. Things in our personal lives like recent travel, sickness, or parenting can cause us to feel more tired on some days than others. Avoid overbooking your schedule too far in advance so you can accommodate more time for rest between calendar events if needed. If you’re introverted and find yourself drained from constant meetings, consider adding a limit of meetings per day or week that you’ll take on.
7Remove clutter around your workspace
Just solving the digital part of your calendar management won’t completely solve the problem. If you have a cluttered physical work environment, this clutter might be taking away some of your focus. Tidying up old to-do lists, scattered pens, and stale coffee mugs can help you get a clear head for your next call. Keep only the essentials—like a notepad, calculator, and pen—nearby.
8Color code your calendar
Aside from it being fun to add personalized colors to your calendar, it’s also useful for organizing your day! Adding a “hot to cold” colour system to your calendar events is a way to measure the priority of an event (for example, red means urgent, blue means low pressure). If you find yourself in a rush and need to delay a meeting, opt for blue meetings which don’t have tight deadlines.
Alternatively, you can color code by the type of meeting (for example, people management, product meeting, sales meeting, etc.). This gives you a quick visual of where you’re spending most of your time.
Strategically prioritizing work is a great way to make sure that your day is only focused on high-value, purposeful activities. If you find yourself looking at an upcoming meeting invite and wondering why it’s even happening, there’s a good chance you’re better off canceling it. Prioritize your day by choosing events that serve a clear mission, have an intended result, are measurable, and will be very impactful in a positive way.
10Choose the best calendar for your needs
Humans are built to work in different ways—this is why some of us are better at some skills than others. Similarly, we all need different calendar management styles. Try working with digital calendars (like Google Calendar) as well as physical calendars (like a desk calendar or a date-based planner) to see which feels more intuitive to you. Looking at calendars day by day can be helpful for those tactical roles, while getting a weekly or monthly overview can be more useful for project planners and managers.
11Break larger activities down into more manageable pieces
Long meetings often equate to individuals being tired, confused, and overwhelmed. In other words, the longer and more complex your meeting topic is, the less likely you’re actually going to draw productive results. Instead, break a big topic into bite-sized meetings. This helps you keep attendees engaged, narrow in on each topic individually, and ensure the right people attend each subtopic conversation.
What to avoid when organizing your calendar
- Using a one-size-fits-all meeting length
- Not setting reminders and time for breaks
- Keeping your calendar to yourself
- Having multiple calendars on different devices
- Scheduling back-to-back meetings
1Using a one-size-fits-all meeting length
A one-on-one meeting with a confident, self-sufficient subordinate won’t take as long as a high-value investment pitch to a doubtful stakeholder. For salespeople, the first discovery call with a lead is often much shorter than a negotiation call with the decision maker. Cater your meeting length to the purpose of the meeting. When in doubt, lean on the shorter side so you can make the most of your meeting time, and re-book if any more time is needed.
2Not setting reminders and time for breaks
Have you ever been focusing hard on a project when someone pings you to ask if you’re going to be attending the meeting that started 5 minutes ago? It can strike fear into you, especially if you don’t even remember what the meeting is about. To avoid this, set notifications to remind you of each meeting 15 minutes in advance so you know when to end your current project and refocus for the next call.
3Keeping your calendar to yourself
Being transparent about your schedule can help coworkers to avoid over-scheduling your day. Sharing your calendar openly with coworkers can let them see when and when not to book time in your calendar. For example, time-blocking is a popular and practical approach to making your day-to-day work more efficient. Communicate to your coworkers that this is focus time and no meetings should be booked during those blocks.
4Having multiple calendars on different devices
When you’re on the go or in the office, you’re likely taking turns using different work-related devices. If possible, sync your calendars across all your devices so they automatically update. Without doing so, you risk double-booking yourself or completely forgetting a meeting! If you use Google or Microsoft Teams, these tools will automatically update your calendar across all devices that you’re logged into.
5Scheduling back-to-back meetings
Back-to-back meetings can be romanticized as it might make you feel more important to be involved in so many conversations. But in reality, this is a quick way to cause burnout if you don’t get enough time for snacks, water, bathroom breaks, or a short walk in your day! Luckily, some meeting booking tools like Calendly and Hubspot now allow you to set breaks in your meetings automatically, so take advantage of this if you can!
Now that we’re mostly working in a remote world, it can be super easy for people to get ahold of your meeting booking link and try to book last-minute or back-to-back meetings with you. And if you don’t have the right tools in place to prevent this, you can quickly find your days swamped with meetings that serve no purpose. Luckily, being efficient with your calendar isn’t hard to learn. With a few quick calendar settings changes and conversations with your coworkers, you’ll be on your way to better time management in a flash!