Employees today are being asked to do more and produce more. And yet, the number of hours employees work has stayed the same. Unless you are super organized, you may be less productive as more tasks are added to your plate. This is where workflow enters the picture, as an effective workflow can leave you feeling more accomplished at the end of the workday.

To take a step back, what does “workflow” actually mean? It’s a term used quite frequently in project management and productivity, but sometimes without proper intent. Simply put, workflow refers to the steps it takes to complete a task. If you’re a copywriter, these steps may include brainstorming, researching, outlining, writing, and finally sending the draft to your editor. These steps can take time, some more than others. Improving your workflow means thinking of how you can streamline the process to accomplish the same output in less time.

Your digital calendar may be one of the last places you think could help your workflow. However, think of how many times you’re checking or reorganizing your calendar each day. If you’re like most employees, your day is shaped by what is on your calendar. When you can do your actual work (e.g., getting that draft to your editor) depends on when you can fit it in. With that in mind, below are tips to improve your workflow by unlocking certain calendar features.

Shared Calendars

Your calendar is personal to you. It’s your diary of how you’ll spend your time, from hopping on client calls to picking up your kids from school. However, opening up your calendar and sharing it with selected individuals can improve how you work. When a calendar is shared with your team or direct reports, everyone is on the same page for meeting times and assigned tasks. This can eliminate unnecessary back-and-forths for scheduling or reaching out to teammates individually before setting up a group call.

If you’re a manager, a shared calendar can also help you manage workload amongst your employees. By quickly glancing at the team’s schedule, you can see how busy they are and what is currently on their plate. This information lets you plan out tasks, assignments, and deadlines.

Shared calendars can be synced to other apps and tools you use on a daily basis. Asana and Monday.com are project management platforms allowing you to integrate your shared calendar. Doing so can help you streamline your workflow, automating how you work and avoiding any errors or inconsistencies. Sharing your calendar is a fairly straightforward process across most digital calendar platforms, including Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and Apple Calendar.

Meeting Reminders

You’re in a flow state, chugging away on an individual project, when a Microsoft Teams pop-up for a meeting suddenly appears. You must quickly change your mindset from what you are working on to an internal meeting. This can cause you to feel discombobulated and a bit out of sorts. The scheduled meeting may be less productive if you aren’t in the right headspace.

This is one reason why meeting reminders can be useful to your workday. An automated reminder 15, 10, or even five minutes before a scheduled call gives you time to get in a better frame of mind. Additionally, if you’re really in the zone, you’re more likely to miss or show up to a call late without a reminder. A missed call can waste others’ time, leading to frustration or annoyance.

Reminders can also be scheduled well in advance of a scheduled meeting. If you have an upcoming client meeting and need to order lunch for them, you can set up a reminder a week before. When you get this reminder, you can email the client and ask their preference for what food to order for the meeting. If you were to wait until the day of the meeting, you may find yourself scrambling to get a lunch order for the client. Therefore, adding meeting reminders can help keep you organized and on top of your schedule.

Calendar Analytics

Are you controlling your calendar, or is your calendar controlling you? Even if you think you have a good grasp on your calendar, you may let it overpower you. Calendar management is a process of optimizing how you work, enhancing productivity while also setting boundaries. The main objectives of calendar management are improving your workflow, reducing stress, and boosting overall performance.

Of course, if everyone were successful at managing their Calendars, then there wouldn’t be as much emphasis on work-life balance. Instead, people tend to overbook themselves day after day, which can eventually lead to burnout. Thankfully, calendar analytics lets you see where your time is going and better prioritize how you spend your workday. You’ll be able to identify patterns, such as meetings running over or a lack of structure in your day. This data can assist you in optimizing your schedule, blocking certain times of the day for specific work.

While you could gather this data by doing a full calendar audit, you likely don’t have time if you’re reading this article! There are software platforms, such as Calendar Analytics, that will reveal who you are spending your time with and for how long. Another option is to use Google Calendar’s “Time Insights.” This built-in feature enables you to see how much of your day is spent in meetings. Understanding how to make your calendar work for you will be an empowering solution to improving your workflow.

Conclusion: Tips for Creating an Effective Workflow

The ultimate goal is to work smarter, not harder. Doing so can be a challenge in today’s demanding workforce environment. But with the right processes in place, you can be in charge of your schedule and create a workflow that works best for you.

How you get a task across the finish line is up to you. For the copywriter, this may mean blocking off time every morning to work on brainstorming and researching. On the other hand, leaders may want to check in with their teams in the morning before getting into a flow state. No matter how you choose to schedule your day, remember that your time is worth protecting. Doing your best work may mean declining some meetings or asking the inviter to schedule on another day.

At the same time, know that some things will be outside your control, like a company-wide town hall or a client call. You may need to adjust your schedule on some days to accommodate these needs. Still, putting boundaries upfront will benefit not only you but your teammates, too. When others know when and how you like to work, they will be more willing to respect that. If they see your calendar is blocked every morning, they will realize you’re available for a quick call in the afternoon.

Sharing your calendar, setting meeting reminders, and tapping into calendar analytics can improve your workflow. With these in place, you’ll be better equipped to streamline your work and produce better work, too.

Featured Image Credit: Jakub Zerdziki; Pexels; Thank you!