Get the most out of your Calendar

Any founder worth their salt understands the necessity of using a calendar. But how effective is your calendar? Do you use it simply to keep track of meetings and appointments, or have you taken your calendar organization to another level? Effective founders have their full day planned out in a comprehensive calendar.

There are several options for online calendars, but the leader of the pack seems to be Google Calendar. With Google Calendar, you can share your calendar with anyone else who has a Google account, from a team member to your spouse. The cross-platform application ensures that you can access on your Windows computer, iPad or Android device, among others.

Google Calendar is jammed pack with features. You can block off time and color code entries to create your own system. Entries can be marked as ‘busy’ or ‘available’ so you can still block off time for events where you can multitask, such as taking a phone call during your half hour commute.

Google Calendar

Leverage the calendar to create events and invite other members to the event. Use your Gmail account to send emails, track responses, set event reminders and follow up with other members.

Once you have selected the ideal calendar for your needs, it’s time to look at how to best leverage this tool to increase productivity.

Enter items immediately.

As soon as you schedule an appointment or meeting, make sure it is entered into your calendar. If you’re at the doctor scheduling your next appointment, don’t rely on the appointment cards to keep you honest; they’ll likely get lost or buried in a stack of correspondence.  Pull out your smartphone and enter it right away.

At the beginning of each week, review any upcoming appointments and meetings throughout the week to ensure you aren’t overscheduling yourself. If you have a dentist appointment a half hour away from the office, make sure to block out the commuting time so you aren’t over committing.

Work backward.

Are there any major trips in the future? Do you have a huge presentation due at the end of July? Is your daughter’s baseball team knocking on the playoffs door? Keep these major dates in mind as you’re planning your time and work backward.

Set up events in your calendar to act as reminders.  If you have a vacation in October, make sure you plan for that time off well in advance. In September, remind key players that you will be out of the office. In August, plan your coverage. If you have any deadlines due while you’re on vacation, make sure to start planning things well in advance. In July, book the dog kennel. In June, book your tickets and hotel accommodations. You get the picture!

Publications and many seasonally-driven companies often use this ‘work backward’ strategy. For example, they aren’t going to start working on the holiday edition of their magazine in December. They will deadline holiday articles several months in advance using, which means they can often start holiday coverage while the air conditioner is still on full blast.

Schedule non-work time.  

A calendar isn’t just for your work time. Make sure you are being fair to your personal life by scheduling these items into your calendar.  This puts you in the habit of finding time for tasks like exercising, meditating and so many of the other tasks they we always say we don’t have time for.

Schedule short meetings.

Many CEOs and upper level management have adopted a running weekly meeting as more of a ‘check in.’ In a world of engagements, appointments and meetings, this may seem like too much. However, it’s an efficient way to touch base with your team members to ensure that everybody is on the same page.

Use this strategy as an alternative to interrupting other colleagues and team members to get a “quick” status update. By avoiding these unnecessary interruptions, you increase productivity by allowing yourself and others to maintain their daily flow without having to stop and provide an impulsive update. It reduces stress by putting people on the spot if speaking to them face-to-face and alleviates one more unnecessary email in their inbox.

Integrated calendars allow you to set up a recurring meeting such as a short staff meeting for a specific day for as long as you would like. If the time you initially chose doesn’t work for all team members, a few mouse clicks can easily change it.

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Schedule side projects.

It’s important not to cheat your day by forgetting to schedule even the most basic side project. If these items aren’t entered in your calendar, you run the risk of either forgetting about them until the last minute or by encroaching on other calendar items.

There is no way to add time to a 9 or 10-hour work day, or a 24-hour calendar day. Be fair to yourself by recognizing this and giving each task its place in your calendar.

Embrace shortcuts.

You can schedule an event directly from your email. If using Gmail, when you have an email open, use the ‘more’ feature to select the drop-down menu and create an event.

As technology advances, keep an eye on other ways you can improve your productivity by finding additional calendar shortcuts.

Regardless of how you set up your calendar system, be true to your day and use it to account for every appointment, task and meeting. A full calendar doesn’t mean you are busier than you were before successfully embracing this system; it simply means you are working smarter by holding yourself accountable.

Before you read the next chapter…
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Productivity Guide for Startup Founders