If you naturally get a kick out of labeling things with your label maker or arranging your closet by color, then we don’t have to explain the power of organization to you. But even if you don’t think of yourself as an organized person, you can still take small steps that make a huge difference in how you manage your day. It all starts with your calendar. Knowing how to effectively use your calendar isn’t about staying organized for the sake of it (although, like we mentioned earlier, many people fall in love with organization). Effectively managing your calendar also helps you stay productive and less stressed. So, here are our top four tips for becoming a calendar expert.
1. Connect your calendar to your most-used apps
Got other tools in your tech stack? Sync them up with your calendar. One study found that people who work from home use an average of four to five programs each day. By integrating your tools so they “talk” to each other, you minimize context-switching, which happens every time you redirect your attention from one thing to another (such as leaving Gmail to open Google Calendar). Context-switching negatively impacts productivity and cognitive function.
When you integrate your tools, you also spend less time manually entering information into more than one place. Let’s see a few Google Calendar integrations in action:
- When you sync up Gmail and Google Calendar and get emails about events (e.g. flights), those events will automatically add to your calendar.
- With the Slack and Google Calendar integration, receive daily rundowns of your schedule right from Slack (and more).
- With the Zoom Scheduler for Google Chrome, schedule Zoom meetings right from Google Calendar.
2. Don’t forget about extra cushion between items
Although it’s tempting to pack a tight schedule and fit in as much as you can, don’t forget to put space between items. If your event involves travel time, use your maps app to get an ETA — then tack on some extra time. Clockwise uses machine learning to identify which of your events require travel time, then it automatically reserves that time so you don’t have to.
We want to add some breathing room into our schedules to allow for life’s curveballs — maybe your best friend is visiting from out-of-town and you want to go for brunch. Or maybe your kid or fur baby needs you.
Science also tells us that humans tend to underestimate how much time a task will take (something called “planning fallacy”). Not to mention that it’s important for us to leave extra time for thinking and reflection.
3. Save time on scheduling
If you’re someone with meeting-heavy workdays, then you probably spend a lot of time coordinating schedules with other people. Instead of relying on email to get this job done, adopt a scheduling tool like Calendly, Doodle, or Clockwise to make the scheduling process hassle-free. Our pick? At the risk of sounding biased, Clockwise hits all the marks as a scheduling tool.
What makes Clockwise unique from other popular calendar tools is Focus Time. Have you ever had a meeting at a really disruptive time (perhaps when you were writing, coding, or doing another task that required deep concentration)? With Clockwise, you never have to worry about that again. Clockwise’s scheduling assistant automatically suggests best times for meetings — not only based on availability but also based on meeting preferences (such as preferring to hold meetings first thing in the morning) and your Focus Time blocks. Rest assured that the coders on your team always have enough time for deep work, even as you schedule that all-important team meeting.
4. Pencil in email-time like you do meetings
To prevent getting sucked into your inbox, decide ahead of time when you’ll tend to it. Even better — save your first inbox check of the day for after you’ve completed an important item on your to-do list. Think about it — checking your email first thing in the morning is an invitation for other people’s requests to dictate your day.
Before you get pulled into the dozens of items waiting in your inbox, do something for you. That could mean doing something work-related that you’ve saved for that morning, or it could mean stretching, meditating, or reading something inspiring to set the tone for your day.
Cal Newport recommends writing longer, “process-centric” emails to reduce the need for back-and-forth emails.
Creating a system that works for you takes time, trial, and error. Give these tips a go, and don’t be afraid to refine and adjust along the way!