Smart techniques to use when managing your calendar

Even earlier than COVID pressured thousands and thousands of employees into a brand new work-from-home actuality, calendars have been the bane of each busy skilled’s existence. Ask any center supervisor or govt, they usually’ll possible inform you an identical factor: my calendar is stuffed with conferences, and I’ve extra work on my plate than I’ve hours within the week.

Distant work has solely made the issue extra sophisticated. Those self same employees, who used to a minimum of benefit from the clear boundaries of a 9-to-5 workplace schedule, have been abruptly thrust right into a world the place they’d to interweave their work and their life in a means they’d by no means skilled. And on prime of that new actuality, they have been nonetheless confronted with the identical outdated ache: too many conferences, too many priorities, and means an excessive amount of guide work shifting, blocking, and scheduling time on the calendar.

My software program firm, which focuses on organizing folks’s time, lately surveyed round 6,000 busy professionals throughout quite a lot of industries and roles. My staff and I requested every particular person how a lot time they have been dedicating, weekly, to managing their calendars.

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On common, folks reported spending practically 20% of their time each week toiling with their schedules. That’s principally a full, 8-hours workday simply devoted to the act of taking part in “calendar Tetris.” That implies that with 230 working days yearly (weekdays minus 30 days of trip), employees are spending 46 of them shifting occasions round.

So what’s behind the information? Any why can we nonetheless have calendar fatigue within the age of automation? Let’s discuss what’s inflicting this toil, what wants to change, and the place we go from right here.

Extra calendars, extra issues

Most busy professionals’ calendar issues come down to two completely different variable: One calendar for work, and one calendar for all times. Some extra daring people decide to preserve every part in a single work calendar, however there’s an simple profit in maintaining a firewall between the intimate particulars of your life and your office.

However with this separation of labor and life comes a central problem: if you happen to’re a Google Calendar person, or an Outlook person, or a person of a totally separate platform—it will probably appear unattainable to merge these schedules right into a single file. That implies that if you happen to neglect to block time on your work calendar for that physician’s appointment on your private calendar, you may end up sitting on a buyer Zoom name as an alternative of tending to your well being.

This downside appears small in principle, however the knock-on results are intense. The Mayo Clinic cited an absence work-life steadiness as one of the precursors to burnout, and the extra your work schedule overruns your private life, the extra possible you might be to hit a wall. And folks scuffling with this downside solely have considered one of three fairly unhealthy choices:

  1. Invite your work electronic mail to the non-public occasion. Which means you now have a private occasion sitting on your work calendar for all to see and is troublesome to sustain.
  2. Create a replica of the appointment on your work calendar. That is additionally exhausting to keep, as a result of now you have got to preserve the copy up-to-date with the unique occasion.
  3. Share your whole private calendar with folks in your org. This will enable others to see your calendar—in addition to all its personal element— however they nonetheless gained’t see your private occasions when taking a look at your calendar.

This downside is basically the underside part of Maslow’s hierarchy when it comes to calendar administration. If employees can’t clear up this straightforward downside, how can they be anticipated to clear up the larger points round managing their time?

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Time blocking and its shortcomings

Time blocking is among the main ways in which employees try to steadiness their assembly load with heads-down work. In principle, it’s a good way to give your self the time you want to work on what issues and preserve your calendar from controlling your priorities.

However time blocking makes a essential false assumption 99% of the time: Your calendar gained’t change when you’ve blocked it out. Folks spend Sunday night sitting on the sofa with their laptop computer, going by their calendars and manually blocking out time for his or her work, solely to get up Monday morning and already discover that their excellent schedule has been fragmented by a deluge of assembly invitations and requests for “fast syncs,” that may wreak havoc on a inflexible, time-blocked schedule.

Folks with overloaded schedules typically don’t have the posh of deciding to “simply say no” to each assembly. An enormous a part of their jobs is collaboration, which frequently implies that sure conferences have to take priority over their time blocks. Simply as with the multi-calendar downside, time blocking is one thing that consumes an immense quantity of pointless time. Between creating the occasions, adjusting these occasions to accommodate different commitments, and coping with the inbound back-and-forth of different schedulers—one may virtually argue that point blocking is a full-time job unto itself.

Normally, computer systems are extremely good at doing the exhausting math of optimizing schedules—and, often, people are fairly good at realizing what issues and what doesn’t. Then the query is, how do you set the 2 collectively?

Calendars don’t know what issues to us

With regards to what issues matter, there’s a third problem that employees are scuffling with: Their calendar don’t mirror their priorities. Time blocking is one mechanism that folks use to give attention to their key aims—and the opposite is managing and balancing your assembly load.

When it comes to triaging conferences, it’s just like the time blocking concern on steroids. Not solely do you have got to transfer, modify, edit, and keep the occasions themselves, however you additionally get to play the enjoyable recreation of “let’s all discover a mutual time to get collectively.”

There’s a number of sophisticated stuff wrapped up in scheduling a number of attendees. Positive, there are the logistical bits: when, what, the place, and so forth. However there are additionally a number of emotional and social parts to assembly scheduling. Nobody needs to be the one that schedules a gathering at 4 p.m. on Friday, or the one that cancels the identical 1:1 three weeks in a row.

This downside due to this fact finally ends up occupying a ton of our time and psychological power. And with all of the toil that goes into simply making the conferences occur (or not occur), we’re left with little or no time to truly ask the extra essential questions, like “Is that this assembly aligned to my/our priorities?” or “If I settle for this assembly, what’s the downstream impact on my different essential work?”

Once more, that is the place software program can and will assist. We needs to be focusing people on the issues they’re uniquely good at, and go away the scheduling toil to the machines.

The one factor we haven’t automated

It’s more and more clear that distant work, in a single type or one other, is right here to keep. We will not depend on the clear boundaries of the workplace to preserve us centered and in charge of our time, or on the serendipity of a hallway chat to preserve us related to our staff. The calendar is on the coronary heart of this shift — and it’s time for it to meet up with us.


Henry Shapiro is the cofounder at Reclaim.ai, a sensible good friend for your calendar primarily based in Portland. Prior to Reclaim, Henry was the VP of product at New Relic, the place he labored on buying new clients and creating new merchandise.

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