The online calendar is a multitool: It can organize your schedule, help you budget, protect your mental health, and even help you grow as a professional. With all the COVID right now — it may be a great time to boost your professional upgrade — and schedule yourself a class or two.

It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your career. Whether you just graduated and are looking for a job, or you’re a seasoned executive, an online calendar can guide your growth.

Putting Growth on Your Calendar

Professional development is long-term, multi-disciplinary work. Like any other such initiative, it needs to be scheduled. Here’s how to do it:

1. Protect Your Time

How do big-name business executives manage to accomplish so much? They make time for what matters by cutting out what doesn’t. Every meeting and phone call they take is attached to a strategic priority.

If you’re unable to use your time effectively, the professional lifestyle can be overwhelming and stressful. Even if you don’t end up becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, effective time management is key if you want to enjoy a meaningful career.

Start by getting up to speed on these time-saving online calendar features:

  • Time Analytics

The top online calendar apps offer time analytics. This data shows you how and with whom you’re spending your days. That way, you can identify wasted time and devote it to professional development.

  • Color-Coding

A fun way to optimize your schedule, color-coding lets you match each category of calendar events with a specific color. Colors make events easily distinguishable at a glance and can be assigned automatically.

  • Simple Scheduling

Who wants to shoot six emails back and forth simply to set up a meeting? The best online calendars can recognize time-zones, pick up on trends, and share events without costing you precious time.

2. Plan Your Mornings

Another trademark of successful businesspeople is a productive morning routine. They know that what they do early dictates how much they can accomplish later in the day.

Sticking to a morning routine can be difficult at first. Your online calendar can help you integrate it into your habits. Over time, it’ll become second nature.

Start by planning out the steps you want to take each morning. This might include a designated wake time, a hearty breakfast, and some exercise to get your blood moving. Your online calendar can also help you make notes for improvement, such as “Remember to set out clothes the night before.”

By making more of your mornings, you give yourself more time later in the day for professional development. For example, you might see that since you started getting up earlier you’re able to spend an hour each day on an online course.

3. Prioritize Networking

Networking with leaders in your field is one of the best ways to advance your career. There are many people with great experiences they are willing to share with those who ask.

One of many networking success stories is Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show. As a college student, Fallon fantasized about a career in comedy. So how did he make it happen? He built meaningful relationships.

In doing so, he landed a spot as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, after which he pursued a movie career. Although it didn’t pan out for him, it wound up giving him an even greater opportunity. Fallon’s former boss at SNL remembered him fondly and recommended him to take a post at The Tonight Show, a position he still holds 10 years later.

Another lesson from Fallon? Don’t make demands. Send invitations for low-pressure lunches or happy hours, and explain that you’re happy to consider a different time if the one you suggested won’t work.

4. Schedule Developmental Activities

When you get a birds-eye view of your schedule, you’ll start to see slots open for developmental activities. Take advantage of them: Discovering and developing new talents shouldn’t stop just because your formal schooling is over.

What if you only have an hour a day? Fill that time by reading a book, practicing a hobby, or shadowing a mentor. The key is to keep your mind active.

Advancing in your career requires you to show a willingness to learn. Those who actively try to improve themselves can reach incredible heights. Use your schedule as proof of your continued development.

5. Integrate Other Productivity Tools

Artificial intelligence has yielded dozens of valuable productivity tools, not just smarter online calendars. Many of these other apps can work with your calendar to maximize your productivity.

Take project management tools. If you’re enrolled in an online degree program, for instance, you might use Trello to maintain boards for each of your different classes. Beneath each, you can list projects you need to complete, while maintaining a high-level view of your remaining coursework.

One of the best decisions you can make for your career is keeping an online calendar. Better organization is only the tip of the iceberg. Hidden beneath the surface are so many features to help you unlock your potential.