As a professional, there are many ways you can and should improve. And bettering your calendar efficiency is one of them.
The calendar is one of the most unsung heroes of the business world. Yet many incredibly busy and highly efficient professionals track their work on a calendar. And for good reason.
The better you use your calendar, the more adept you’ll be at managing your time. Workers who excel at consistent time management skills can appear more confident and professional to others. Not only that but by improving your time management, you can measurably increase your productivity.
While there’s no one right way to use a calendar, there are ways to use yours better. Here are four tips you can use to improve your calendar skills to get the most out of your time.
1. Color Code Your Events
When was the last time this happened to you? You open your phone or rush to your computer to check your calendar between meetings. You’re pretty sure you have a call at 2 p.m. with one of your clients, but can’t remember exactly. You get lost in a series of overlapping, monocolored event bubbles — all clamoring for your attention. You finally find the one you’re looking for, but it’s taken minutes, and now you’re late for your next meeting.
Getting lost in your calendar isn’t only frustrating — it’s a waste of time. Thankfully, color-coding your events is a quick and easy way to circumvent the issue entirely. Designate events by type, like “video call,” “in-person meeting,” or “lunch break” with different colors. You might even color-code them from blue to red based on importance or urgency.
Color coding helps you understand your busy calendar at a glance. It also makes searching for a particular event much more straightforward. A few minutes of headache is a minor annoyance but can add up to hours of wasted time over the years. So take ten minutes to color-code your calendar and outright remove this time-waster.
2. Cultivate Deep Work
Do you ever get so busy that you need to tackle multiple tasks at the same time? While task juggling may feel productive, there’s a good chance it’s actually doing you more harm than good. Little kills your productivity more than context switching. Context switching occurs when you go from replying to emails to writing a memo to answering a text, for example.
When you change your focus, your brain lags behind a little, reducing your cognitive capacity for the task at hand. It takes time for your mind to refocus on the new activity you present. Switch again, and you need to build that momentum all over. Think about the difference between work when you’re totally focused compared to when you’re checking your phone every five minutes. That hazy, non-starter feeling you get from bouncing between work and your phone comes from context switching.
Now, unfortunately, one of the main issues with context switching is that you’re not always in control of your time. Business partners or clients may call you or otherwise demand your attention. To cultivate deep work and a flow state — the opposite of context switching — block the time off on your calendar. Pick a time of day to block off that you can consistently go without interruptions for at least an hour. Share that block with your colleagues so they know not to bother you, silence your phone, and get busy.
3. Time Block for Efficiency and Conflict Prevention
Time-blocking isn’t just a great skill for improving deep-work states. You can use it to establish an efficient routine for work and beyond. You may block easier, less cognitively intense work like answering emails in the morning. That way, you can gently ease into work and save bigger, more challenging projects for the afternoon. Or flip that script if you feel more productive in the morning.
You can use time blocking to get more out of both your professional and personal life. Blend your professional and personal calendars so you can stay on top of both. Block out time for deep work in the morning to save thirty minutes to call a loved one on their birthday. Or schedule your week to get work done in advance so you can catch your kid’s big game on Friday afternoon. With your work responsibilities tied up in a neat bow ahead of time, that Friday afternoon is uninterrupted family time.
A bonus of merging and time blocking together is that it helps prevent scheduling conflicts. Blocking already enables you to stay on top of professional engagements with colleagues and clients. By merging your schedules, you won’t accidentally miss essential engagements outside of work either. It’s a win-win for you and the people on both sides of your life.
4. Track Your Time and Reflect
It can be easy to start a new productive skill or habit and assume it just works. Say you adopt color coding or time blocking. Well, those are two productive habits, so now you’re more productive, right? While doing either of these tends to improve productivity, it’s not a guarantee. You need data to ensure that you’re actually working more efficiently.
To get this data, start tracking your time. Keep track of the different kinds of blocks on your calendar — email answering, meetings, etc. — to see how you allocate your time. Then compare that data against your output: the actual work you produce, like the number of emails answered or sales generated. Now that you’re using your calendar to track blocks of time, are you producing more results?
If you are producing more, then congratulations! Continue to refine your new tracking system. If not, be more critical about how you use color to code, categorize blocks of time, etc. Be honest about what’s working, what you could improve, and what you need to let go of. Over time, this process of tracking your time and reflecting on the data should help you become more efficient.
Use the Right Calendar for You
As you can see, there are many ways to use your calendar to improve your work efficiency. You can even use them to stay on top of your private life outside of work. However, none of the methods listed here will be very effective if you’re not using the right calendar. How do you know which one is right for you?
Google Calendar is one of the most used online options in the world — right alongside Apple’s iCloud calendar. Depending on your mobile device, you could use one or the other for seamless integration. Calendly is particularly good at streamlining scheduling and clearly displaying to others when you are unavailable. Calendar.com excels at tracking your time and providing data you can use to be more efficient. These are just a few of the best calendar options on the market right now.
Think about how you can leverage a calendar to maximize your strengths while shoring up your weaknesses. Also, consider what conveniences, like easy syncing, you value over others. Make a list of priorities, including must-haves and nice-to-haves, to help narrow your options. Then, once you’ve found a calendar that suits your needs, it’s just a matter of refining your workflow. Modern digital calendars provide unparalleled command over your time so you can take your productivity to the next level.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Cottonbros; Pexels