People want to live productive and fulfilled lives, and feel in control. This means getting what needs to be done, done, and feeling satisfied with it. What people forget about is the power of the calendar app that they surely interact with daily. People often glance over their calendar and solely use it as a way to track their valuable time—but it is so much more than that. When used to its fullest, your calendar app is the most valuable tool in your toolkit.
In today’s working world where individuals are able to work from wherever and whenever, staying productive and efficient throughout the work day can do wonders for your performance and overall well being while doing so. Managing your calendar, time and meetings, and balancing your workload and tasks can be a daunting undertaking. But, with the proper mindset and a bit of organization, managing your calendar can be done effortlessly to ensure control and productivity.
So, here is a list of the top 7 calendar tips that help boost productivity at work and beyond. Let’s dive right in.
Calendar Tips for Productivity
1. Establish a routine
Before getting into the nitty gritty calendar tips, establishing a daily routine is key to ensuring you are set to have a productive day. Not only does it allow you to feel refreshed and in control, but implementing structure to your days enhances your productivity and focus in times of stress, uncertainty and unpredictability. Plus, it is the best way to ensure you are setting aside time for self-care.
A routine will look different for each person. It’s important to find what works best for you and iterate and tweak this routine as you see fit. It’s also important to identify what doesn’t work for you and stop trying to make it part of your routine. Unrealistic goals can set you up for disappointment and unneeded stress.
Most peoples’ schedules differ from day to day, so focusing on your morning routine can be extremely helpful in setting you up for a good day.
This may look like waking up and getting your sweat on first thing - going for a run, getting some fresh air on a walk or stretching it out with a quick yoga session. Or, it could mean setting aside 30 minutes to drink your coffee, meditate and read your favourite book.
Many people have the most energy and focus a couple hours after waking up in the morning. For these types of people, it makes sense to do your hardest, most time-consuming or focus-intense tasks first thing in the morning. Take advantage of ultra-productive times throughout the day.
Set goals. Before each day, you should take time to reflect on what you’d like to accomplish. I start the day by writing down three things I need to do. This helps me stay on task and focused. Then, I’ll dive in even deeper and figure out what the single most important task of my day is, and I’ll pencil in specifically when and where I plan on completing it.
2. Prioritize the meetings on your calendar
In the life of a busy professional with constant competing priorities and tasks, organizing your time and meetings helps ensure you are always prepared.
You should be able to easily prioritize events and meetings directly in your calendar as you review your day. For example, differentiating internal team calls from external events. There are apps like Nook Calendar that do this automatically for you. Nook prioritizes for you to assure important meetings are not overlooked. Dark-coloured event blocks indicate priority events, whereas lighter event blocks indicate lower priority.
3. Design your work day by calendar blocking
Once you’ve figured out a routine and have set your priorities, it’s time to design the rest of your day directly in your calendar app. Use calendar events to schedule time for planning, meeting prep, lunch, focus-mode, your daily afternoon walk or mid-day meditation. This will help you stay focused, on task and refreshed throughout the day. You can also make this visible through your free/busy status to your colleagues, so they know when they should avoid interrupting.
4. Colour code your calendar app
Make your calendar app as colourful as possible! Colour coding your tasks, projects and meetings is a great way to organize time in your calendar. You can colour code based on the amount of focus needed, task category (i.e. marketing-related tasks versus a sales call), group work versus individual work, events related to your personal and social life, etc. Not only is it great for organizing and staying productive, but it looks pretty too, right? I like to use darker colours for high-focus tasks, brighter colours for “me” time and neutral colours for group work.
5. Update your meeting presence in your calendar
With the rise of flex work, make sure to update your colleagues directly in your calendar with your whereabouts during the day to keep everyone in the loop and make your meetings as productive as possible. Apps like Google Calendar and Nook Calendar support the ability to update your meeting presence to in-person or remote. Sharing this information has been instrumental in my team’s meeting productivity over the last several months. If I notice that no one will be in the office for our weekly leadership meeting, I’ll avoid the commute. But, if I notice some are heading to the office for a brainstorming session, I’ll head over to collaborate and participate in-person.
This is a subtle yet powerful addition to your calendar app. It allows you to know when it makes sense to gather in person versus when staying home is the right play.
6. Schedule breaks in your calendar
Along with calendar blocking and colour-coding, you should be sure to schedule breaks throughout the day. This helps you stay focused when you need to be focused, and refreshes your brain during busy days. Simply allotting 15 minutes in your calendar to get some fresh air outside, walk around the office or chat with a friend on the phone can do wonders for your productivity. You can also create meeting-free time slots to make sure you're taking enough breaks throughout the work day. It’s a great reminder to take care of your mental health and gives you a fresh mind to tackle your work of the day.
7. Optimize your calendar
Having multiple meetings dispersed throughout the day can cause it to be difficult to focus during your “free” time. It results in too many interruptions and changes of focus, leading to sub-optimal productivity. To manage this unavoidable encounter, I like to group my meetings when possible to free up time for heads-down work. Bearing the availability of those I am meeting with, I try to group my meetings and move all (...most) of them to one time period of the day. You can use a tool like Clockwise to have your calendar optimized for you. Some days I choose to be in individual focus-mode all morning to get some heads-down work done and move my meetings to the afternoon. Other days it’s the opposite. And, on some days this isn’t possible at all because I need to be cognizant of the schedules of my colleagues. But, that’s okay because I find comfort in knowing that I optimize my calendar most days.