November’s productivity tips – Calendars and date-specific actions

Calendars are perhaps the one part of a productivity system that EVERYONE manages. So ubiquitous in fact, that we rarely think about them at all. Yet when people are developing their productivity systems, a lot of questions crop up about how to maximise the use of calendars and make everything much more effortless as a result. Here are a few top tips!

100% trust?
Most of us trust our calendars much more than we do the rest of our productivity system: if we find ourselves feeling stressed because there’s something on our minds, that thing is usually a ‘to-do’ item rather than a calendar item. We wake up in the night wondering what’s happening with a certain project, but we rarely wake up in the night wondering “where am I two weeks on Thursday”. Why? Because we tend to trust our calendars. But if you can remember times recently where you’ve forgotten where you need to be or worried about having too full a calendar, it shows that there isn’t 100% trust there, and hence there IS some room for improvement – even for something as taken for granted as a calendar! Start to consciously recognise where there might not be trust with your own system and your answers magically appear!

Avoid having more than one TYPE of calendar
It’s difficult to trust a system if it’s not the only system: having a to-do list that doesn’t include your post-it notes or all the things in your head will ultimately create drag on your productivity because you can’t make quick, in the moment decisions about what to do next without checking in three or four places. Likewise, having an Outlook calendar at work, a paper diary in your bag and a calendar on the wall at home makes it easy to miss things. Our newest “Productivty Ninja”, Stuart McKenzie talks here about using Google calendars to keep multiple calendars to separate different roles in your work and life, but viewable all in one place:

It’s usually possible to get the data from your Outlook calendar into other formats, for example into Google Calendar or onto your phone or tablet device.
Manual synching if you need it!

Linking calendar data across work and home, personal device to work device, can often be a pain in the backside though. So if you either don’t want to struggle through learning how, or you have an unhelpful IT manager in your office, there is another way! You’ll eliminate a huge amount of double-booking and possible calendar-issues by manually ‘synching’ your calendars once a week as part of your weekly review. If you’re new around here, here’s what we mean by a weekly review – they rock!
By the way, ever feel like the rest of your world needs a ‘sync’ button? Here are some thoughts from Irelands’ Productivity Ninja, Keith Bohanna:

Avoid “Outlook Victim” syndrome
Do other people have the ability to book time in your diary? Do you sometimes find you arrive on a Monday and half your week is robbed by other peoples’ meetings? If so, use your calendar to defend your time and attention by booking out ‘1-person meetings’ to do the work needed on your big projects. Mark the time as busy or Out of Office in Outlook. That way, you should avoid reasonable people booking meetings with you about things that for you are lower priority. Creating a restraint around your time will also force you and others into more creative ways of solving the problem than the solution that involves you needing to give up an hour of your time sat in a dull meeting. And what do you do with the UNreasonable people who ignore the fact that your calendar is busy and book stuff in for you over the top of your ‘meetings for one’ anyway? Well, say no gracefully, literally BE out of the office if that’s an option or find a way to bring up that conversation. We work with a lot of organisations where this problem is company-wide and systemic. It’s not a good way to run any kind of business, so perhaps there are opportunities for change within your team, or even for a wider cultural shift too?

Schedule some batching time
Batching similar tasks together is a great way to get things done more efficiently. Think of it as the opposite of multi-tasking (which is largely a myth anyway). Bringing together all of the sales meetings on the same day or getting immersed for a whole day in items that relate to one specific project can reduce the set-up time needed (both physically and mentally) to get into gear on a particular project. Think of how often you do your expense claim receipts or admin filing and you’ll know what I mean. Schedule in a day or half a day to get really focussed in one area and be proactive enough to add these to your calendar.

Leave blank space
Don’t go overboard with ‘batching’ though. Stuff happens to us. It takes time. Emails take time. Interruptions and fire-fighting take time. Schedule in ‘blank space time’ every day to account for these realities…or don’t do this and just stay late at the office again!

Christmas! The Ho Ho Ho deal for December!
Whilst you’re all preparing for Christmas and organising parties and the like, us poor productivity ninjas are sat here twiddling our thumbs. Every year we get fewer enquiries for training in December than for any other month. So we’ve decided to make you a deal!
We’re offering 25% OFF our regular price for ALL OUR IN-HOUSE WORKSHOPS for the entire month of December. So call us and mention the “Ho Ho Ho deal” and we’ll give you a discount for any workshops that take place in December or the first week of January. We think the start and end of the year are actually perfect times to do the digital and mental spring cleaning that our workshops provide, so why not give us a call!

Or come along to one of our public workshops…
Click on the relevant date below to book your place now – with our new 3 tiered pricing system. Fair, transparent and a fantastic return on investment.

The South East
Friday 10th February 2012
Wednesday 28th March 2012
More 2012 London dates

The South West
Friday, 17th February 2012

The Midlands and the North
Friday, 2nd December

Wednesday, 18th April 2012

Tuesday, 7th February 2012

Have a playful, productive month and we’ll see you in December!

Graham and the Think Productive UK team