Calendars and reminders are two of the three critical components of your time management system (the third element is the To Do List). You can use calendars and reminders to drive your day rather than have the day drive you. Here are some tips:
Use your calendar religiously. Let it reflect what you are actually doing, or planning on doing. This will help you, and anyone wanting to schedule a meeting with you, to stay on track. It also means that you can see at a glance what your days and weeks look like. Synch up your personal and work calendars for maximum productivity.
Always keep the calendar with you. Having your smartphone/tablet synched with an online calendar is the fastest way to manage your time. Google Calendar is a great free option.
Review your calendar daily. Quickly look over the day and week ahead. Make sure you know exactly what your upcoming day looks like, and that you have not missed anything, like that important presentation you scheduled last quarter that’s now due next week.
Schedule reoccurring activities. If you have regularly occurring activities they should be reflected in your calendar. This might include weekly/monthly report preparation, checkpoint meetings with your client/team, follow-up meetings with clients/contacts, etc. These can also include personal appointments for fitness, hobbies, family events, birthday parties, etc.
Plan time into your schedule for high return activities. If you are a contractor, that might mean time for setting up client meetings, training or networking events.
Maximize travel time with efficient scheduling. Schedule in travel time around the meetings in your calendar so that you, and others working with you, know when you are actually available. [Note: If you are travelling anyway try to bundle meetings into the same geography during the planning phase. This cuts down on overall travel time and helps you remain focused on what’s important instead of focusing on navigation.]
Set appropriate reminders for all of your meetings. If you will need to commute to the appointment, the reminder should allow time for you to get ready, travel, and arrive on time; if it is a meeting in your office, then a 10 minute warning is fine.
Use reminders for tasks that you need to get done. This might include documents you need to review, emails that have to be sent, setting up the next round of client meetings, finishing reports that have a deadline, etc. This smart time management technique ensures you won’t be the irritating bottle-neck everyone hates to work with.
Include To Do items in your calendar. The high value To Do items on your To Do List should be reflected in your calendar/reminders to ensure you stay on top of them and have time set aside for them.
Conduct a full calendar review every week. In your weekly review, ensure that your high priority items are moving forward in a timely manner and that all regular activities are reflected in your calendar (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual). Strategize ways to maximize your time and analyze trends to determine where you might be wasting time.
Time doesn’t manage itself and it’s a task that is never really done. Using a calendar requires effort and thought and it needs to evolve with your needs. Your calendar system and needs will change as your life changes and as you become more proficient at managing your time.
What are your favorite calendar and time management tips?