Double-booking yourself, setting up an appointment that interferes with your personal schedule, or simply feeling overworked: None of it feels good, and all of it can be solved with some simple changes to your calendar.
Your calendar’s availability settings can and should be customized. Remember, it’s your calendar: Whether you’re available, when you’re available, where you’re available, and with whom you’re available to meet are all up to you.
To take control of your calendar, use these five tips to set your calendar availability:
Align your availability with the company’s.
First and foremost, wrap your professional availability around your company’s business hours. Doing so gives you a reason to say “no” to meetings outside of a specific time range, which is important for your work-life balance.
It may be hard at first, but you have to get used to saying “no” to pointless or ill-timed meetings. Either offer a time that works better for you, or propose an alternative communication solution, such as email.
Getting tough with people about your availability is key for productivity. Define your hours of operation, and don’t accept meetings outside of that time frame.
Decide on “never ever” hours.
Just because your company is open does not mean you need to be open for meetings during that time. Decide as a company on an online scheduling tool that lets everyone see who’s available and who isn’t at a given time.
Perhaps you know that you do your best work first thing in the mornings. Go ahead and block off the hours before 10 a.m. for deep work. Many calendar tools let you select “Apply to all weekdays.” This setting is also useful for scheduling recurring meetings, such as a weekly client touch-base.
Control how availability is displayed.
Clients do not need to see every appointment on your calendar. At best, they’ll be confused by the mess of meetings that are not relevant to them; at worst, they might see sensitive or private information.
Until you’ve checked a setting to the contrary, assume that everything you put on your calendar is public. Once you’ve found that setting, operate on a “need to know” basis. If a client questions why they can’t see all of your appointments, be respectful but firm.
To help clients know what to expect, share meeting details such as:
- When you’ll be available to meet
- What to expect during meetings
- What number to call or website to visit to join the virtual meeting room
- Any software the client needs to install for the meeting
- Who else might need to be in the meetings
Setting general meeting expectations is important, but it is not a substitute for confirming all appointments via email. If you do not bother to communicate with a client between the time a meeting is scheduled until the time it actually occurs, you’ll have more no-shows than you’d like.
Sync your personal and professional calendars.
Between your professional and personal lives, it can be hard to keep up with all of your appointments. Avoid conflicts by syncing your calendars. Looking back and forth between separate ones can open the door to mistakes, not to mention the productivity lost in the process.
Many tools, including Calendar and Google Calendar, put you in the driver’s seat on which meeting details are displayed. Those who view your work calendar can only see your work events, not the private information associated with your personal ones. The same is true of your personal connections who can see a synced version of your work calendar.
Give people a heads up about exceptions.
There will be normal work days when you’re out of the office for PTO, a conference, or a client visit. On the flip side, there may be days off when you need to work a few hours.
Try not to catch people off guard. At least 48 hours in advance (and preferably a week), send a notification via email that you will or won’t be available outside of your normal schedule. Be sure to block off (or open up) the time on your calendar. And if you’ll be completely offline, remember to set an out-of-office responder.
When you take the time to properly set up your calendar availability, you’ll raise the ceiling on how much you can achieve in a day. In doing so, you’ll make not just your life easier, but also that of your clients and team members. Who knew taking charge of your calendar availability could make such a difference?