By Jim Flannery, past TMH Business Coaching client and editor
Since moving to Lethbridge in 2014, Kelli-Rae Ennis has been a terrific help on teaching me how to develop and grow my business. One of the many lessons I’ve received from her—one that has had a great deal of impact on me, because it is a definite weakness of mine—is the importance of living by your calendar.
My tendency is to make things up as I go along. This often leads to long periods of unproductive time spent either trying to figure out what to do next or spending too much time on low priority items. By getting into the habit of using my calendar more effectively, I’ve been able to mitigate this tendency.
Kelli-Rae is a big advocate of using an online calendar so it’s portable and available to reference or modify at all times. I prefer this method as well as I find it a little more efficient.
1. Plan Your Calendar
A good place to start is meetings and appointments. When a time is set for a meeting, it needs to be logged in the calendar so that block of time is specifically identified and set aside. It is also important to give yourself enough room in the calendar to get to those appointments! If you pack your schedule with stuff that requires travel, but you don’t allow travel time, people will always be waiting for you. That will hurt your reputation.
Once all those set-in-stone events are entered, you can go ahead and plan the rest of your time around them. I try to organize things one week at a time, which works pretty well for me. Again, as with the travel time item, make sure you’re allowing some flex time throughout each day. Plans don’t always take as long as expected (often taking longer), so you need to have some wiggle room built in for those cases—and for situations that might pop up unexpectedly that require attention, like phone calls from clients.
Depending on how many day-to-day changes your business has to deal with, you might need to build anywhere from one-to-four hours of flex time into each day.
Remember, if it fits in your calendar, it fits in your life, so there’s no need to stress! Francisco Saez writes that your calendar can be a major source of stress and frustration, but if you set things up properly it should actually reduce stress and frustration by giving you a plan to work on.
One other way to reduce your calendar-related stress? Schedule in the things you love to do as well! Always make sure you’ve allowed yourself time for exercise, social activities, family, or whatever else makes you happy.
2. Review Your Calendar
After you complete something, recheck your calendar. You need to know where you are in your planned day and where you’re heading. Sometimes things don’t work as planned, so you need to give yourself time to make adjustments on the fly.
You should also check your calendar at the end of every day and at the end of every week. You need to review and evaluate how well your plan worked and perhaps reschedule some things that didn’t get done. In this way, you’re constantly re-evaluating your processes and improving your system on an ongoing basis. As noted on Lifehack.org, many people do a good job of planning with their calendar, but many forget to review and learn from what went right and what went wrong in the past.
Finally, make sure everything is in a single calendar—if you put some things in one place and other things in other places, you could miss something, which could easily be disastrous to your business. In my case, I’ve learned (the hard way) that sometimes events in my smart phone calendar don’t upload to my computer and vice versa, so it is critical to ensure that the computer-based calendar is always up-to-date and to not count on the phone synching properly.
In my business—safety consulting—it’s all about developing a plan and working the plan. Doing a good job with my calendar fits that model perfectly. It leads to better productivity, fewer mistakes, and reduced stress. All good things everyone should strive for!
If you feel you need some help setting up your calendar to maximize your productivity and efficiency, contact TMH Business Coaching today for a confidential, free, no obligation consultation to propel you forward. Also, please feel free to add yourself to our weekly coaching tips email!