Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your calendar? Do you cringe when you are asked to provide your availability for a meeting? Is your day an endless potpourri of unrelated meetings? You may be suffering from what I call “calendar stress.” In last month’s edition of our emPOWER series, Katy Young provided helpful insights into the importance of prioritizing your work. In this issue, I will be talking about effectively managing your time.
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn
Our calendars can easily get out of control, with back-to-back meetings, overlapping meetings and calendar holds. It is important to frequently review your calendar to identify these calendar stressors, as early as possible. Running your calendar includes proactively addressing scheduling conflicts, inquiring about the status of meeting holds, and identifying meetings where your presence may not be required. I review for the week ahead, the next day, and throughout my day. This allows me to prepare for my scheduled meetings, as well as, identify areas where I can carve out to work on non-meeting projects.
We have all been in a meeting that felt unproductive or covered a topic that could have been addressed in email. With many of us working remotely these days, it can be tempting to schedule a “quick meeting” to discuss a single issue or topic. However, consider the time it takes to get multiple people on the call and the interruption to their schedules that the meeting could present. Sometimes, it is simply more efficient to compose an email that succinctly addresses the topic and request feedback from the group.
When working on multiple projects and tasks, it can often be difficult to jump from one topic to another. In order to feel prepared and thoroughly engaged, I often need a moment to put that “hat” on to get into the proper mindset. I do this by reviewing notes, previous emails, or doing research. My day runs more smoothly when I am able to have a little time between meetings to properly prepare. Keep meeting preparation in mind when offering your availability or reviewing your calendar for the days and weeks ahead. Additionally, keep those “hats” in mind when scheduling your day. While not always possible, it is often easier to have multiple meetings of the same general topic grouped together. This could cut down on the time needed to transition from one meeting to the next.
It can feel overwhelming to balance meeting and non-meeting tasks. If your day is filled with jumping from meeting to meeting, how do you find time to complete those tasks? I have found that I am much more productive when I am able to remove distractions and focus on a specific task. Be sure to carve out enough time on your calendar that will allow you to complete your work, free of distractions. When blocking your time for specific tasks, try to stick to that blocked time. It should not be considered time that you would offer for meeting availability.
Racing from meeting to meeting and staring at a computer screen for 8+ hours a day can be physically and mentally draining. Just like a car needs fuel and regular maintenance, so do our bodies. It is important to include personal maintenance activities in your daily schedule. This could be in the form of daily exercise, taking time stand up and stretch, and coffee or meal breaks. Your well-being is an important component of productivity and quality work. Make sure you are not running on empty during your workday.
Overall, I am at my best when I feel prepared and in control of my time and productivity. These are just a handful of lessons I have learned over the years that have helped me along the way. You should identify time management strategies that work for you.