One of the biggest things I get asked to help my coaching clients with are:
- Productivity systems; systems and strategies that allow them to be more organized (mentally and physically)
- Efficiency systems; systems and strategies that show them how to be lightening fast with their tasks and businesses, and
- Control systems; systems and strategies to feel in control of their actions versus being a victim of circumstance.
How to be insanely productive with your calendar
One things we must have an exceptional strategy for is our calendars, which is important for productivity, efficiency, and control.
Before we get in to tips, tactics, strategies and hacks on your calendar, let’s first discuss different productivity types in general in regards to scheduling based on two different types of daily priorities in terms of work.
Different types of daily organization based on work type
Most people fall in to one of two categories... they are either creatives (artists, designers, entrepreneurs, etc) or they are implementors (CEO’s, managers, directors, etc).
A creative needs a large time block in order to accomplish something, whereas an implementor needs many smaller time blocks.
To illustrate this, let’s use a different project for each of these types of professionals; the creative’s project will be redesigning their business’s website, and the implementor’s project will be to improve company culture.
The creative has a project that will take a considerable amount of time and focus. He or she will want to sit down, perhaps with a cup of coffee, a computer screen, a notepad, and a dry erase board. They will brainstorm how an ideal customer might would find this website online, what would be important to that ideal customer, what calls of action would get them to engage, how the page will flow, and so much more. They will review competitors websites to see how they are generating interest, explaining their product or services, and converting them in to a lead through various calls of action. They will draw out sketches, write out lists, and contemplate the entire thing. This only happens with intense focus and freedom to flow. You can imagine how much this person would be thrown off by someone knocking on their door or calling their phone, or having to step out for a totally unrelated meeting and trying to prepare for it suddenly then they were in the middle of the website project. This can wreck the rest of their day’s work on that project.
The implementor has a project that required a decision on what the culture building process would look like, followed by a series of short meetings on their calendar. He or she decided to meet with each and every employee in their division to conduct a face to face visit, ask some set questions, and engage in dialog. After meeting with each employee, asking questions, and taking notes, they will form a conclusion based on that experience, and will put together some ideas to build better culture. To implement this, they mapped out the project in 30 minutes at their desk, used a calendar application to create 45 minute meeting slots, and emailed their team of 30 people with the instructions to book a time on their calendar next week. They also set a 1 hour block on their schedule for the following Friday after meeting with all of their employees to review what they observed and to set a plan to improve the culture. These 45 minute slots have the ability to bounce around, shift times, and easily change to check email in between, handle something that came up unexpectedly, and more. This schedule can easily adapt to other meetings and other thoughts without being derailed.
Creatives must guard their calendars fiercely. They cannot afford to have distractions thrown at them in the middle of their projects. Implementor’s can easily afford it. It doesn't effect them the same.
Creatives should first set large blocks of time in their calendars so that they can work with intense focus on their projects, and should have time blocked out outside of their most productive times in order to do everything else such as meetings, lesser important tasks, personal things, etc.
Paper or electronic calendar?
I have coached many clients on their productivity, including their calendars, and some of them use paper and some of them use electronic. Which should you use? My answer: It depends. We will discuss this below, but the answer will be either electronic, or a combo of both, but not just paper.
If you are already decent with your schedule and you currently use paper such as a daytimer, planner or notebook, then by all means, continue using what is working. But keep in mind that paper can be lost, it cannot scream any alerts or reminders, it cannot be viewed unless it is with you physically, and it cannot be changed unless scratched out, or erased if written in pencil. If you enjoy using paper, continue to do so. But to combat the negatives of using paper mentioned above, consider snapping photos of your calendar with your phone every time you make changes in case you lose it, set up alerts or reminders on your phone or computer to remind you of tasks or upcoming meetings, and remember you can now view your paper planner/calendar OR your phone/computer to see your calendar if you save those photos to the cloud. If you are going to use this option, I highly recommend downloading Evernote on your phone, tablet, and/or computer. Save your images and notes there and they will instantly sync everywhere.
I personally only use electronic solutions for my schedule. The reason is, I have many businesses and calendars to integrate, and have clients that, from time to time, need access to book time that I am available for consultations/coaching on my calendar without us having to go back and forth with horrific efficiency killing emails or texts like “I’m free Tuesday from 2:20pm-3:00pm and Wednesday from...” oh good gosh I’m already frustrated just sharing this example. No one wants to go back and forth trying to find a time, and thanks to technology, no one has to anymore. More on this below.
My meetings are all color coded (Strategic Life Design calendar is gray, American Hyperbaric Center calendar is red, American Autism & Rehabilitation Center calendar is purple, etc). So I can easily see what business/focus a calendar entry is based on it’s color. If a meeting time shifts, I can grab that calendar entry and move it easily without having to scratch through it. I have my schedule with me everywhere that I go, because it’s automatically updated on my phone, tablet, and laptops. I don’t have to worry about losing it because it’s stored in the cloud. And the reminders and alerts keep me sharp, prepared, and I never have to worry about being late because my calendar will chirp at me to remind me to prepare and head to my next meeting. I can also block time off of my calendar so I can focus on my creative tasks without distraction, and can prevent people from booking times in slots that are important to me and my priorities.
How to book meetings with other people
If you want to book meetings with others without having to go back and forth trying to figure out what time works for you (even harder and more frustrating to do this with a group of people), and you use an electronic calendar, check out Doodle. Doodle makes it easy to set times. It will read your calendar(s), allow you to select days/times that work for you, and then give you a link to give each person you want to meet with. Whichever times overlap and work for everyone is the day/time it will suggest to you automatically. No more going back and forth trying to figure out a time to meet.
Who’s priorities are in your calendar?If I were to look at your calendar without talking with you at all, would I be able to predict your goals? Would I easily see action items that lead to an outcome that is important to you? Or would I see a reflection of everyone else’s priorities and demands on you? If I saw the gym on there 5+ days a week, I could easily predict that you had a goal of either getting physically fit or healthier. If the gym isn’t in your calendar, but fitness/health is a goal of yours, you are tricking yourself and will fail on that goal. Period.
Protect your time. Put in your calendar what is important to you, and stick to it. Your calendar is your boss. What gets scheduled gets done.
Creating a personal schedule
You should also have a personal schedule if you want to grow in every area of your life. I put my workouts, dates with my wife, hobbies, spiritual study time, time with friends, and so much more in my schedule. And, that’s why these things get done and I make strides in every area of my life that is important to me. If it’s in the calendar, it gets done.
Put verbs in your calendar instead of goals
Putting goals in your calendar feels great but ends up a poor strategy that usually doesn’t accomplish squat. Instead of writing goals in your calendar like “loose 5 pounds this week,” put verbs in your calendar (action items) in your calendar blocks, like “cardio Monday” or “abs Tuesday.” If you have something action oriented in your calendar, like “write sales letter,” or “hire virtual assistant” in your time blocks, versus goals, you’ll make daily, consistent strides toward your goals. Ahhh... the sweet taste of progress.
Master your calendar, master your life.
If you have a ton of demand on your calendar, feel like you are overwhelmed with so many things on your plate, desperately desire to be more organized, dream of being more efficient so you can accomplish way more than you ever have in your life without spending more time at the office working, want some ninja tactics far beyond these simple recommendations, or help growing your life and business to all new heights fast, I am opening my schedule for 2 more coaching clients. I do not take on every client. There is an application to complete, which is followed up by a phone interview/conversation, and those that qualify are then offered the opportunity to be a coaching client. If you’d like an application, send us a message we will get you one as soon as possible.
And remember, you're only one strategy away...