Over the course of my career I’ve learned a lot about the importance of time management. How you as a business owner should control your calendar. Early on, I woke-up whenever I wanted and didn’t put an emphasis on my priorities. This pretty much resulted in aimlessly wandering through my days like a walker on “The Walking Dead.”
But, that was just the beginning. I haphazardly accepted appointments, checked my emails every time I got a notification, and scheduled meetings at the last minute. And, to make matters worse, I was planning events when I should have been home with my family. I eventually realized that I was no longer focused or productive as I needed to be.
Simply put, my calendar was taking control of my life — both in and out of the workplace.
Thankfully, I was able to take back the reigns by utilizing the following four methods.
1. Take inventory and identify what’s not working.
First things first, get crystal clear on where your time is spent. If you’ve never done this before, simply keep a time journal. This is where you jot down everything you do and exactly how long each task takes you.
This may sound tedious, but after about a week you’ll notice where you’re spending a bulk of your time. More importantly, you’ll identify the time wasters on your calendar. Once you do, you can make the proper adjustments to change things around.
For example, if you noticed that you spend two or three hours a week scheduling meetings, then it’s time to look for a solution. In this case, you could use a tool like Calendar to eliminate this issue. You’ve now just freed up a couple of hours per week in your calendar to work on your priorities.
2. Create your routine.
Another perk of tracking your time is that it can help you create a daily routine. This is where you block time for specific activities. So, in a nutshell, your calendar consists of a bunch of blocks.
My routine consists of a morning routine where I block out specific time for exercise, getting ready, writing, and responding to emails. I then block out from eight am to noon for undistracted work. My afternoons contain blocks for a nap, returning calls or emails, and hosting meetings.
This method ensures that I stay focused on my priorities. It also ensures that I won’t let unplanned activities jump in and distract me from getting things done.
I should add, that you should definitely block out time for rest. I block out time in the afternoon to take a nap and review my goals. It helps me recharge and refocus. If I didn’t block out this time, it would never happen.
3. Control Your Calendar by Stacking your Meetings.
If possible, try to schedule all your meetings on the same day or two each week. Ideally, you should schedule these meetings around 3pm, because research shows that this is the best times for meetings.
The reason I use this method is fairly simply. It gives me a heads-up that I’m not going to complete as much work on these days. Instead, I’m going to be focused on conversations, exchanging ideas, and motivating my team.
For me, this is a different type of work flow. I’m thinking differently when writing a blog post than when discussing an upcoming project with a colleague.
By stacking my meetings, I can keep this more conversational flow going. At the same time, it’s guaranteeing that the meetings won’t interfere with my other work.
One final note about meetings. Stop scheduling meetings back-to-back. This ensures that you won’t be running late for your next meeting. And, since meetings can run late, it may hold you up from leaving the office on-time and getting home.
Give yourself a little buffer time so that you’re no longer running late. And, try not to schedule meetings late in the afternoon. Like don’t schedule right at 4:30pm unless you’re positive it’s just a quick 15-minute phone call.
4. Set boundaries, but also be flexible.
There’s a belief that once something has been scheduled into your calendar it’s set in stone. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s say you have a meeting with your team on a Monday afternoon. However, when you were planning out your day first thing in the AM you notice that your website crashed. The worst part is that it’s not a minor fix, it’s actually going to eat-up your entire morning or longer.
This means that your entire schedule has to shift. The work you had planned in the morning now has to move into the afternoon. Now you have to reschedule that team meeting for another date or time.
In short, the unexpected happens and you need to be flexible. Just make sure when this happens, you give notice to the other party.
At the same time, you have to set boundaries. If you’ve blocked out two hours of unexpected work, then don’t schedule a meeting or phone call during that time.
Again, a tool like Calendar can help you accomplish these goals because it allows you to select when your calendar is open and when it is not. You then share this availability with others so that they can pick an open slot when they’re free.