All posts by John Hall

Increased Productivity Will Increase Your Happiness

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increased productivity

You might not give happiness the attention it deserves in your quest to achieve increased productivity. However, productivity is often associated with burnout and unhappiness. This is because productivity can be connected to a rushed, task-oriented lifestyle void of fun and relaxation. And those emotions can prevent you from being as productive as you’d like to be.

With that in mind, it’s not really surprising that happiness and productivity are linked. Various studies have shown that happy people are more productive — by as much as 12 percent, according to a University of Warwick study. However, this isn’t a one-sided relationship as productivity can also affect happiness.

Why Being Productive Feels Good

You’re happier when you check off your to-do list.

There is no doubt about it. You get a great sense of accomplishment when you cross out tasks or mark them as complete on a to-do list.

The reason? Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel light and happy, is released when we check off tasks. Also, this neurotransmitter is responsible for feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. As a result, you feel pretty awesome. Moreover, you’ll be motivated to continue completing tasks and continue to enjoy that pleasant experience.

Progressing towards goals can make you happy.

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” — Albert Einstein

Not surprisingly, Einstein was spot-on.

It has been shown that achieving personal goals based on your interests increases your emotional wellbeing. So you’ll be happier when you achieve your goals.

Why? Our emotions will remain optimistic if we set short-term, realistic, easy-to-attain goals. Regardless of the goal, as long as we’re tracking our goals and making headway, this increases positive feelings.

More specifically, pursuing achievable goals will positively impact your well-being. In addition, it is usually more satisfying, rewarding, and enjoyable when you achieve a goal you have been working on.

Also, just like crossing items off your to-do list, there’s a dopamine release when we reach goals. Furthermore, this motivates you to move forward and achieve other goals. And a combination of long- and short-term goals helps ensure that you look forward to and enjoy what you are doing.

A sense of purpose makes you happy and healthy.

In 2013, in collaboration with scientists from the University of North Carolina, UCLA researchers discovered that happiness is derived from purpose as opposed to pleasure-seeking. But why’s this the case?

For starters, don’t conflate being busy with fulfilling your purpose. Yes, you’ve worked your tail off and earned a raise. However, “these types of achievements often don’t bring the kind of fulfillment that comes with finding your personal sense of purpose,” explains Maggie Wooll over at BetterUp.

“A personal sense of purpose is less of a specific end goal and more of an ongoing impact on the world, large or small,” Wooll explains. “Purpose is your why.”

You are guided and sustained by this sense of purpose. “Day-to-day and through the years.” Having a purpose gives you stability and a sense of direction, even in times of setbacks and turmoil. “That’s why finding purpose is essential for living a happy, healthy life,” she says.

It may seem lofty to ask your purpose, but it’s a question you shouldn’t ignore. But, attempting to answer it is essential. Having a sense of purpose in your life can open up greater joy and fulfillment in every aspect of your life.

Boredom can be hazardous to your health.

“It is such a universal, human experience,” said Jacqueline Gottlieb, a neuroscientist at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute who recently convened a group of leading scholars in the field for a discussion. “Yet, there is a lack of knowledge about boredom. Until recently, scientists paid it little attention.”

At some point, we’ve all experienced boredom. And, in small doses, that’s not exactly a bad thing. Research suggests that boredom, particularly if it is temporary, can spur creative and productive thinking by letting the mind wander.

As of now, most research suggests boredom does more harm than good to our lives. For instance, chronic boredom is linked to impulsive behavior, reckless behavior, compulsive gambling, substance abuse, reckless thrill-seeking, and self-destructive behavior.

Additionally, people who are easily bored are prone to depression, anxiety, anger, academic failure, poor work performance, and loneliness.

The more productive your day is, the more driven you’ll be to get things done.

Best of all? You don’t have to accomplish anything extraordinary. You just have to do something. Case in point, rather than picking up your phone because you’re bored, read a book, go for a walk, practice gratitude, or strengthen a skill.

Exercise improves your mood and happiness.

Yes. Getting your body moving releases endorphins. But, that’s just scratching the surface. Exercise can lower stress, relieve depression and anxiety, and boost your immune. Also, physical activity can make you more confident and fortify your bonds with others if you have a workout buddy.

In addition to keeping your body active, exercise can also keep your mind occupied. For example, when you are busy finishing a project, you have less time to dwell on negative emotions. As a result of staying active, you can focus and concentrate on the positive.

Cleaning and decluttering can make you happy.

Clutter has been proven to interfere with productivity. Princeton University researchers found in 2011, for example, that visual clutter, such as a messy home, interferes with your ability to concentrate. On the other hand, even healthy eating and generosity are associated with an orderly house.

Mr. Clean also studied physiological responses to cleaning, such as heart rate. Scientists concluded that cleaning creates an almost adrenaline rush-like feeling of excitement. A majority of 62 participants reported feeling at ease after a deep clean, while 81 percent reported feeling accomplished and in control.

Another study conducted by Clorox found that cleaning for an extra hour per week could boost happiness levels by 53 percent. According to the study, maintaining a clean environment also leads to a variety of benefits, including better sleep, increased productivity, and even improved focus.

Ways to Boost Productivity and Happiness

As you can see, there are simple ways to boost both your productivity and happiness. This includes scheduling time in your calendar for physical activity, decluttering your life, and tracking your goals on your calendar.

But, if you really want to take this to the next level, you should also add these happiness hacks to your calendar;

  • Kick-off each morning on your own terms, like setting an intention instead of diving into emails.
  • Every morning or evening, write in a journal to acknowledge both the good and bad.
  • Since you have the most energy in the morning, do your hardest task first.
  • Plan get-togethers set reminders for checking in or establish traditions with friends and family.
  • Move your body for at least 11-minutes a day.
  • Spend more time outside in nature.
  • Take microbreaks throughout the day.
  • Listen to your favorite song.
  • Learn something new and help others
  • Limit your screen time, like leaving your phone behind when taking a walk.

In the words of Buddha, “There is no path to happiness; happiness is the path.”

Image credit: Julia Avamotive; Pexels; Thank you!

Increased Productivity Will Increase Your Happiness was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Successful Founders Do the Morning Routine Better

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morning routine

“Most of us would agree that having a healthy morning routine allows you to achieve your goals and ambitions easier and faster,” Dovile Sinke writes for 21 Day Hero. “Several health benefits such as better mental health, lower stress levels, increased energy, improved sleep quality, etc. can be achieved due to having a daily morning routine.”

As such, it’s no surprise that the most successful founder not only have a morning routine, they do it better. How? Well, here are just 12-morning routines that successful founders swear by.

1. Make sure you get enough sleep.

A study conducted by Royal Phillips showed that over five years, 44% of respondents had reported worsening sleep. In addition, nearly one in three Americans sleep less than six hours a night.

What’s the big deal about that?

According to the experts, we should sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night. If that doesn’t happen, it can lead to a variety of disorders, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline. All of these can lead to death.

Although we’re not trying to play down this issue, it is clearly impossible to perform well if one isn’t in tiptop shape physically or mentally.

It’s for this reason that successful people prioritize sleep. However, if you are struggling, the CDC recommends adopting these habits:

  • Consistency is key. In other words, get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Try to create a cave-like atmosphere in your bedroom. That means it should be cool, dark, and quiet.
  • TVs, smartphones, and other electronics should be banned in your bedroom.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • During the day, do some physical activity.

Putting in place a relaxing evening routine is also essential. A few ideas include meditating, reading, journaling, taking a bath, or reviewing your schedule for tomorrow. Clearing your mind and relaxing are two simple and effective ways to unwind.

2. Drink 12-16 ounces of water.

If you have slept for eight hours, you most likely feel lethargic and probably dehydrated. After all, during those hours of sleep, your body is working to recuperate from the day’s wear and tear. And, what’s more, your brain also requires water.

With that said, whenever you wake up after a deep sleep, slam plenty of water as soon as you wake-up. It is beneficial to drink water within 30 minutes of rising because it boosts blood flow, improves overall wellbeing, boosts alertness, and increases mental clarity.

What if you’re a coffee lover? You can still enjoy your morning cup o’ joe. But, you may want to wait. Research suggests that the best time for drinking coffee is mid-to-late morning, about an hour or two after your cortisol levels have dipped back down. So, if you wake up at 7:00 a.m., you should drink your coffee between 10:00 a.m. and noon.

3. Stimulate your mind.

“As an entrepreneur, you are a visionary and a dreamer who constantly thinks of new ideas or solutions to problems,” writes Nancy Solari for Lifehack. “It can become overwhelming having so many goals in your head, and you might feel like you are biting off more than you can chew.”

“To process your thoughts constructively and efficiently, you should stimulate your mind first thing in the morning,” such as;

  • Journaling. Consider the week ahead, note down tasks you’d like to complete, or just jot down whatever thoughts you need to get rid of. Writing in a journal can help you declutter your mind, which can help you feel refreshed when you wake up.
  • Self-reflection. Set aside anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes for this. By becoming aware of your feelings and emptying your head of anything holding you back, you will find it easier to focus on other things.
  • Read or solve a crossword puzzle. You can also improve your concentration by reading or doing a crossword puzzle in the morning. You can read just a page or one article in a newspaper in the morning if you feel you don’t have much time.
  • Watch the news. Watch the news or listen to a funny or inspirational podcast if you want to relax and veg out in the mornings. You don’t have to do much to do these activities, but they allow you to be aware of what is going on and provide a reprieve from constantly thinking about your business.

4. Practice mindfulness.

One of the most common habits of highly successful people is a quick meditation session in the morning, and ten minutes of mindfulness every day can help you get started in the right direction. Harvard researchers found that meditation effectively reduces stress and anxiety, so meditation can help people focus, sleep better, make better decisions, and regulate their thoughts.

Many widely successful entrepreneurs like Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Jeff Weiner, Russel Simmons, and Marc Benioff all meditate. In fact, Winfrey meditates each morning and evening for 20 minutes consistently. She explains that meditation allows her to be in tune with her mind and body. A quick meditation session in the morning is a must for Arianna Huffington as well.

5. Get the blood pumping.

There’s no way to overstate how good exercise is for you.

“I find exercise the most natural and effective mood booster there is,” writes Richard Branson. “You only have one body and one shot to look after it – and the older I get, the more important I realize my health is.”

“If people feel their best, they will be their most productive selves at work,” adds Branson. “I find exercise the most natural and effective mood booster there is.” In addition to increasing your energy, this morning routine improves memory and mental sharpness, promotes creativity, and reduces stress.

Know that you might not have the availability as Branson. Ideally, though, you should try to squeeze on 20 to 30 minutes per day exercising. If you’re really crunched for time, at least go for a morning run or walk or a 10-minute yoga workout.

And if done consistently, it can keep you in better physical shape and better health, allowing you to be more productive. So try to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day, even if you can’t squeeze it into your morning routine.

6. Engage in self-care.

Entrepreneurs and founders rarely discuss self-care or don’t make it a priority. However, you must also take care of yourself if you want to succeed.

Self-care can take many forms, but one or two of these acts should be included in your daily routine. The key is to slow down whatever you are already doing. For example, instead of grabbing a cereal bar or hitting the drive-thru for breakfast, make a healthy omelet. And, while you do, listen to your favorite tunes.

7. Make your bed.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” said Naval Adm. William McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, in his commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”

“By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed,” he added. “Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right,” said McRaven.

“And, if you have a miserable day by chance, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

8. Jump into a cold shower.

Some highly successful people swear by cold therapy, even though a cold shower may sound like the absolute last thing you’d want to do to start the day. For example, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey begins his day by taking an ice bath every morning.

In addition to creating a jolt to the system, a cold shower can increase oxygen intake and circulation — getting you ready for an eventful day. Moreover, there is research that cold showers can strengthen your immune system and relieve symptoms of depression.

However, be aware of the risks as well. For instance, if you have heart disease, the stress of a cold shower could lead to an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia.

But, if you want to proceed, exercise physiologist Zach Carter, CSCS, recommends giving your body time to adjust. You can receive some results from thirty seconds under a cold stream. And, after three minutes, the benefits of drinking cold water start to wane.

9. Declutter.

When your home or office is clutter-free, you’ll feel less stressed and less anxious and spend less time getting ready for your day. But does that mean you have to spend several hours each day doing this? Nope.

You could dedicate 10-minutes in the morning to filing paperwork, cleaning out your calendar or inbox, or putting or your breakfast dishes.

10. Set your goals and priorities in stone.

If you want to succeed, you can’t ignore the importance of goals; they serve to motivate you while providing direction for your life. Many people, however, do not set smaller goals daily even when they have solid long-term goals. Examples could be spending less time in your inbox or mapping out your social media content calendar for the month.

Think about the day’s most important goals and priorities during the morning. What would you like to accomplish? What are your top priorities?

After identifying your goals and priorities, add them to your calendar. When you do, this makes them non-negotiable. And it prevents less essential items from eating up your valuable time.

11. Focus first.

Doing your most important work first makes sense, and many entrepreneurs swear by this concept. Why? Because this is often when we have the most energy and fewer distractions like your kids or non-stop notifications.

Dr. Ivan Zakharenkov, whose company helps veterinarians transform their business operations, says, “the first 90-180 minutes of the day is when the brain is most productive in combining the information deposited in the long-term memory during sleep.” So he takes advantage of this valuable time.

“I drop into doing the most important work that I lined up the night before with all distractions turned off.” While business coach Melitta Campbell plans each day ahead of time, “so I wake up with intention. Before getting out of bed, I remind myself of that day’s goal and my first steps toward this. It prevents me from being distracted by social media or email, i.e., other people’s priorities!”

The founder of the eCommerce store Brown Skin Dark Lips, Natalie Glover, has an innovative approach. “Every day, I log into Zoom at 5:30 am to join a power hour with fellow entrepreneurs. We sit in silence with our cameras on, and I focus on tasks which need uninterrupted quiet time and concentration before the children wake up.”

Glover is building her business while she finds companionship here. “Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, something only fellow entrepreneurs can empathize with. So if I can physically see that I’m not really alone, it’s encouraging and motivating on the difficult days.”

12. Be predictable, yet flexible.

Although most entrepreneurs don’t enjoy predictability, sticking with the same morning routine can sometimes be a good idea. When the following chain of events and activities is predictable, getting ready for the day requires less mental energy and focus. As a result, you can focus on what’s truly important and conserve your energy.

At the same time, if your morning routine is no longer cutting it or you feel that you’re in a rut, don’t hesitate to shake things up. Remember, it’s your routine. So, do what works best for you.

Image Credit: Taryn Elliott; Pexels; Thank you!

Successful Founders Do the Morning Routine Better was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Fall in Love This Month — With Your Online Calendar

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with your online calendar

With your online calendar, use it in different ways so you can increase work productivity and have some “me” time, since work-life balance can be stressful. You also may find that your productivity suffers. Trying to do too much throughout the day without scheduling time for relaxing and happy activities may affect your entire family. Use these techniques to make the most out of your online Calendar.

Use Recurring Events

Certain events happen every week, month, or year. For example, you may have a monthly team member meeting to discuss the progress being made or any task changes. You may also have some life activities that occur on the same day each month or year. For example, the family may celebrate anniversaries, date nights, or a child’s piano practice.

You just have to set that date and time aside once with recurring events. The online calendar function automatically sets aside that timeframe each day, week, month, or year for the specific activity. You don’t have to constantly jot the same info down as you would in a traditional planner or Calendar. Any event you do regularly may be set aside as a recurring event. This online calendar feature is an excellent function for constantly reminding you about recurring activities.

Sync Calendars with Teams Members and Family

One productivity killer involves making sure everyone attends a work meeting or family activity simultaneously. Waiting for someone to show up just wastes valuable time and sets back other activities. A common problem involves not having everyone jot down the activity in their Calendar or using different versions of Calendar apps that don’t integrate.

Consider using an online calendar designed to be used by teams of people. These online calendars will automatically synchronize schedules for everyone involved in the meeting or activity. So you don’t have to constantly remind other people to place the events in their scheduling apps. This tactic ensures meetings and activities start on time. So you boost productivity and won’t feel rushed throughout the day. It also helps you avoid double-booking activities for the same time slots.

Calendar synchronization also happens over all of your devices. So long as the devices access the same online calendar software, the syncing feature may occur even if different companies manufacture the devices.

Set Reminders

Forgetting things placed on the traditional Calendar or planner can quickly happen. You get so busy working on a task that you don’t remember to move on to the next activity. Online calendars have reminder functions to set for events.

How you want to see the reminder is up to you. A reminder is set to help you eliminate stress in your life, so you don’t have to worry about extra things. For example, some people prefer a pop-up to appear on the screen reminding you an event will be happening at a specific time. Other people also set the alarm to go off. You also typically have options on when you want the reminder to go off. For example, you could set it 15 minutes before the activity happens or even a day before the event.

The reminders could come over your phone, tablet, or PC. You could also have the feature send out an email to your inbox. A wonderful thing about this feature is that reminders may also be sent out to other people. So they are informed about an activity that may involve them, whether it’s for work or play.

Schedule Family Check-Ins

It’s easy to get so busy with other tasks that family events get set aside. You may have a spouse or other family member say something in passing to you about an event, but it didn’t register in your memories. Take a moment to set a family check-in event on your Calendar. Family check-ins allow you to set aside some time to reconnect with the family.

Take the time to just relax or ask questions about their days. You may also learn about events and activities that everyone wants to agree to. Then you can easily update your online Calendar at that moment to ensure time is set aside for everyone. With family check-ins, you may also reevaluate all your activities and come to compromises on when to do them that make everyone happy.

Family check-in times don’t have to only occur during mealtimes. Also, they don’t have to happen face to face if everyone has a busy schedule. You can set your Calendar to send out a check-in reminder to everyone. Then they can get back to you about things over the phone, text, or email.

Take Advantage of All Day Events

You may be a person that likes to micromanage every moment of your schedule. However, even if you are performing the same task, you need to have the event penciled in during each time period. Yet doing this task becomes tedious as you spend more time placing in calendar entries rather than doing work.

A seldom-used feature in online calendars is the all-day events function. This function allows you to set a specific task for the entire day. Typically, people use this feature to take the day off from work when out of the office. Yet you may use it for specific work projects that don’t have a set completion time.

In this manner, you only have to look at the online Calendar once to know your plans for the entire day. You don’t have to rush through each hour to the following time period only to find out you’re doing the same task.

Schedule Breaks

You’re allowed to take a break. Scheduling a break is especially important for people who work from home. Teleworkers face a common issue: they never “turn off” work. The projects are only a home office or laptop away. As a result, you may find yourself drawn back to the task even when you should be doing daily chores or spending time with the family.

If you’re experiencing this issue, an online calendar can become another incentive to use to create self-care time. For example, you may block in 10 minutes to step away from the computer and stretch your legs or a whole hour to let your mind decompress. Breaks provide needed downtimes that may allow you to lower your stress and find a moment of fun or happiness during your day. Then, with an improved mood, you’re ready to get back to work and improve your productivity.

When to schedule the break depends on the work and family schedule. You may extend a lunchtime break to include a time just to relax or make a reoccurring time each day after completing a task.

Use Online Calendars Efficiently

Online Calendars have many features designed to keep your work and daily tasks organized. In addition to the features mentioned above, make sure to spend some time exploring all the other functions. You may find one that helps to boost your work productivity further.

There may also be features that allow you to create more time for yourself and your family. For example, with an online calendar, you have more ways to place entries at set time periods and can be automatically reminded of the tasks. As a result, you’ll never forget a task or be required to constantly look at the schedule, as you would with a traditional planner or Calendar.

Image Credit: RODNAE Productions; Pexels; Thank you!

Fall in Love This Month — With Your Online Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Share Your Availability on Calendar for All Occasions

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share your availability

Connecting and sharing your availability on your Calendar with others is a pro-social behavior. This is due to the fact that “sharing is caring;” a phrase trademarked by the Salvation Army in 1950 — and for a good reason. Sharing, after all, builds trust, invokes gratitude, and increases feelings of well-being due to the release of oxytocin, which is the “feel-good hormone.” Medical News Today says that oxytocin is released with “pro-social behaviors.”

For example, this past Sunday, I went to my niece’s birthday. Her brother stole a toy that she was playing with at one point. I instinctively blurted out, “sharing is caring.” Since he’s just a little guy, he gave me a perplexed look before replying, “Huh? What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But, when you think of sharing, what springs to mind? Is your type of sharing allowing someone to sample the meal you ordered? Do you share by donating to your favorite cause? There are many ways to communicate with each other pro-socially that relieves stress and brings trust.

Through all of the sharing experiences you experience daily, have you ever shared your Calendar? There are fantastic ways to share your Calendar and some ways that are not as effective.

The Benefits of Sharing Your Availability on Calendar

Have you opened your inbox with a message from someone requesting your presence at an event? Whether your email is from a co-worker, client, or friend from college — their famous last words in the text message usually say, “Let me know your availability.”

What follows next is a series of unfortunate events in the form of the “back-and-forth” emails.

You reply, “Hey, Wednesday at 2 p.m. works for me!” Unfortunately, they respond with, “Sorry. I’m not free at that time. What about next Monday at 10 a.m.?”

The next thing you know, you have a long email thread with no resolution in sight. But, ultimately, you’ve spent days trying to pinpoint a day and time for a brief 15-minute video call. Heck, 40% of workers spend 30 minutes just looking for a collaborative space where they can meet and get caught up on work. Statistics show that the average worker spends one hour and nine minutes preparing for these meetings to collaborate, and that’s just to get the meeting scheduled.

But, things can be worse. What if you’ve booked an appointment only to be horrified that you’re unavailable? This scenario is one of the more embarrassing moments — and includes the obligatory asking someone to reschedule a meeting after you’ve already agreed to it.

As you’ve guessed, there’s a straightforward solution here — and that quick fix is sharing your Calendar.

Besides keeping your inbox in check, sharing your availability on Calendar has other benefits.

  • Improved communication and efficiency make planning a snap.
  • It eliminates the back and forth and protects everyone’s valuable time. Everyone can focus on their priorities instead of planning — and extra planning.
  • If you have a Team Calendar, you can view everyone’s availability to balance assignments. More about the Team Calendar below.
  • A shared calendar can keep both your personal and professional lives organized and conflict-free.

How Do You Share Your Availability on Calendar?

With most digital calendars or apps, sharing your availability is as painless as it gets.

Calendar searches your connected calendars to find all available times to schedule a meeting. You can customize the options by removing or adding meeting times and choosing the meeting length. Additionally, you can enter a physical address, a phone number, or a Zoom link to indicate a meeting location.

Your availability can be emailed to meeting attendees once you have set your preferences. Calendar notifies meeting attendees and puts the meeting on your Calendar as soon as they click on a time.

With these intelligent, customizable scheduling links, people can schedule meetings with you in seconds and avoid double bookings. Calendar uses machine learning instead of human judgment to suggest how your next meeting should be scheduled, where it should take place, and who to invite.

Your Calendar sharing adjusts for time zones, meaning it handles your availability instead of you having to figure timeframes when traveling or scheduling meetings.

Lastly, Calendar can integrate with your Apple, Google, and Office 365 calendars so you can view your life in real-time.

When Should You Use Calendar Links?

Sharing your availability can come in handy for the following situations;

  • Team schedules
  • Sales meetings
  • Networking opportunities
  • Follow-up meetings
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Sprint reviews
  • Introductory calls
  • Check-ins
  • Coordinating your family’s schedule

What’s more, you may want to drop your calendar link on your website so visitors can see your availability without asking for details.

The Calendar app is also beneficial for those in industries where appointments are a necessity, like doctor appointments or your hairstylists.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Sharing Your Availability on Calendar

Are you ready to share your availability on Calendar? Here are some pointers to keep in mind before sharing your Calendar.

Choose a calendar that is compatible with multiple platforms.

Sometimes, tech doesn’t like to play nice with each other. Yes, it’s possible to toggle between Apple, Google, or Microsoft, but it can get messy. Calendar can be accessed across multiple platforms, and you don’t have to worry about synching and sharing issues.

Don’t share too much information.

“Certainly, privacy could be an issue for successful calendar sharing,” writes Kayla Sloan in an article for Calendar. “But many people merge work and personal calendars without issue.”

Most online Calendars “have settings that let you make some entries private, and others shared, but not all calendars have the same capabilities,” adds Sloan.

Use customization to your advantage.

Regardless of which calendar tool you use, you can customize your Calendar to fit your specific requirements. The view of a Google Calendar can be changed between week, month, and agenda, for example. As well as changing the colors and title, you can choose which items appear on the screen.

One of the most problematic aspects of some calendars is the Calendar invites subject line. So, be sure to have a clear subject line for each invite so that it looks clean and professional.

Who will you share your Calendar with?

There’s no reason for everyone to access your Calendar unless you wish them to do so — Here’s how you can share your Calendar if you choose to. You’ll typically want to share your Calendar with people like your spouse and the person you’re meeting next.

Some people have a fully open Calendar, meaning anyone can access their Calendar. Consider your shared Calendar. You may wish to have one person at the office over the shared team calendar and only one of your home team over the home-family Calendar.

Add times to the email.

Regardless of the email client you use, allow your invitees to choose a meeting time right from an email. As a preview, your invitee will see the first three-time slots available for each day you selected as buttons. Of course, if those times aren’t convenient, they can always find another time using the included Calendar link.

Keep your Calendar updated regularly.

There will be times when your schedule must change, no matter how organized and prepared you are. For example, you may need to rearrange a meeting in some cases due to an emergency dentist visit. However, the other participants will still arrive at the original meeting time if you didn’t update your Calendar.

You can avoid potential conflicts with the help of Calendar, for instance — because Calendar automatically reschedules canceled meetings.

Avoid making last-minute changes.

What would you think if your day went according to plan and you were notified that a meeting had been moved up an hour or canceled? Of course, these things happen, and you handle them, but you should be respectful of others and avoid last-minute schedule changes. Ideally, if you must make a last-minute schedule change — notify people as soon as you know about it and reschedule as quickly as possible.

Enable timezones.

Because we work with people worldwide, enabling time zones makes sense. In addition, due to the Calendar’s ability to detect time zone differences, you will no longer have to worry about scheduling events at the wrong time.

Don’t over-do-or-under-detail events.

You need to find the right balance regarding how many details you provide in a shared calendar for an upcoming event. However, it is usually sufficient to tell your invitees the date, time, location, and who is attending the meeting at the very least.

A simple way to avoid too many details is to send attachments like the meeting agenda and location so that attendees can get directions on their phones.

Likewise, you don’t want to be too vague. Do not simply block out the afternoon for “meetings.” More information is required so that everyone is prepared.

Set your availability and your inaccessibility.

Calendars are set to display the whole day by default. However, you’re not available 24 hours a day, especially in the morning and evening. It is possible to hide these blocks of time in online calendars, so clutter is avoided — and no one will try to book an event during these blocks of time. Also, blocking out clutter and unavailable times protects your time and prevents conflicts.

Don’t automatically add invitations.

In the past, spam has invaded Google and other Calendars. However, you can stop Google Calendar from automatically adding invitations you receive to prevent this. To learn how to block spam items added to your Calendar without your permission — take a look at The Verge’s tutorial.

Besides avoiding spam, the tutorial shows how to avert confusion and clutter. For example, it’s impossible to remain organized when items are added to your Calendar without your knowledge or permission.

Install buffers.

A buffer is simply a gap between two events. Say, for instance, a meeting ends at 3:00 p.m., then the next meeting would not be scheduled at the same time. As an alternative, you would take a break of about 30 minutes between each event so that everyone can grab a snack, use the restroom, and recharge before the next event.

More importantly, this prevents the possibility of anyone running late to the event.

Integrate events from other apps.

Additionally, synchronize your shared Calendar with Facebook, Eventbrite, Evernote, Slack, or even your project management software if there are events scheduled there. These tools typically integrate with leading online calendar services. By integrating these events from other apps, you can access all relevant dates in one place and not have to click on additional platforms.

Image Credit: Александар Цветановић; Pexels; Thank you!

Share Your Availability on Calendar for All Occasions was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

How Industry Leaders Manage Their Time

By | Time Management | No Comments
industry leaders

Focusing on your primary responsibilities, like driving sales and moving your company forward, can be a business owner or industry leader struggle. Because of this, it’s crucial to manage your time well.

Does this mean you need to get everything done? Nope. That’s not realistic. Instead, at the end of the day, you feel accomplished and satisfied without being burned out.

You’ll find some fresh ways (or reminders) to balance your responsibilities with this list of time management tips for leaders.

1. Keep your calendar fresh.

Leaders often find it very difficult to refuse an invitation to a meeting. It might appear that you’re violating the norms if you decline invites. You might be surprised at how many meetings you attended the previous week were useless upon further reviews.

The same concept can be applied to all of your calendar entries. For example, it made sense to attend local industry meetups to network two years ago. But, with more on your plate, this conflicts with your top priorities. Or, maybe you used to wear multiple hats as your business was growing. However, you can now offload some of your less important tasks with a larger team.

Regularly review your calendar and purge any entries that just aren’t priorities. This way, it won’t be as cluttered. You may even be surprised that you’ve unlocked some free blocks of time. And, as an added perk, it makes saying “no” to time-wasters much easier going forward.

2. Be agenda-driven.

In this Harvard Business School study, 27 top-performing CEOs of publicly traded companies worth, on average, $1.3 billion were followed around the clock. They tracked over 60,000 hours across three months with the help of their executive assistants. The study’s purposes were to analyze and provide recommendations on how time could be more efficiently spent.

I’m not going to go over the results of the entire study. However, I want to highlight the fact that these individuals are agenda-driven.

“CEOs oversee many organizational units and workstreams and countless types of decisions,” note Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria. “Our research finds that they should have an explicit personal agenda and that most executives have one.” A clearly defined agenda helps a CEO maximize their limited time. The loudest constituencies will take precedence without one, and the most important tasks won’t get accomplished.

Having a good agenda will help the CEO determine their priorities for the coming months, sometimes years. “But it is not unidimensional; rather, it is a matrix including broader areas for improvement and specific matters that need to be addressed. It combines time-bound goals with more open-ended priorities,” they add.

“Keeping time allocation aligned with CEOs’ top priorities is so crucial that we suggest that every quarter CEOs look back at whether their schedule for the previous period adequately matched up with their personal agenda,” the authors advise. “They should also update the agenda to reflect current circumstances.”

3. Think about tasks in terms of debts and assets.

“The key to time management is thinking about your tasks in terms of debts and assets,” Sujan Patel told RescueTime. But, what exactly does that mean?

“In other words, which tasks give you time, and which ones take it away?” Nico Prins explains in the article.

The cost of setting up time assets is usually low, and you’ll gain more time in the future as a result. You can accomplish this by streamlining processes, automating work, or delegating work, Prins adds.

The problem with time debts is that they are harder to calculate. In most cases, there are two kinds;

  • Tasks that take up time without freeing up more down the line. These will have to be done in many cases, but they can be automated or delegated. An example is answering emails.
  • Tasks that create more work for you later on. This is a classic example of starting over if you don’t get something right the first time.

Sujan says potential assets should be recognized before they turn into debts. This includes delegating tasks without sufficient instructions.

There is a tendency to assume that everyone has the same knowledge base, Prins states. However, doing so may result in vagueness and ambiguity.

To avoid this, Sujan recommends creating briefs that are detailed and precise. Then, with just a little effort, a potential time debt can change from being a liability to an asset.

4. Tackle tasks in the right order.

We all tend to fall into the same trap: spend too much time on the easy stuff. You might feel productive answering all your emails, organizing your computer files, and cleaning your desk, but maybe those things aren’t the most important and urgent.

For this reason, so many people believe that they should identify their most important task (MIT) first thing in the morning and tackle it first. As many people are the most alert and energetic in the morning, it’s the perfect time to work on your most pressing issues.

You can then slowly work your way through the “would-be-good-to-do” activities once you’ve completed all the “must-do” ones.

5. Reduce phantom workload.

“The words phantom workload was coined by Marilyn Paul, Ph. D., and David Peter Stroh,” writes Deanna Ritchie in another Calendar article. Phantom workload “is the unintentional work created when people either take expedient but ineffective shortcuts or avoid taking on such as essential.”

These include complex tasks such as:

  • Clarifying mission, vision, and values
  • Asking questions that challenge what is ambiguous or unrealistic
  • Identifying and resolving conflicts
  • Clarifying and streamlining decision-making processes
  • Providing candid, constructive feedback
  • Differentiating people with sanctions and rewards
  • Launching innovative projects
  • Making decisions that require disinvestment in programs or projects

“When not addressed, the phantom workload leads to various consequences such as rework, unproductive meetings, organizational conflicts, and fractured relationships,” Deanna. Moreover, the phantom workload is also a leading cause of wasted time since you have to deal with “the same problem over and over again.” Eventually, phantom work “leads to greater stress and a further reluctance or inability to engage in difficult tasks.”

How can you fight back? Deanna suggests the following;

  • Set a limited amount of realistic goals.
  • Plan for tomorrow the night before.
  • Be protective of your time, like eliminating distractions and not accepting all time requests.
  • Ask for help through delegation.
  • Use the right tools. Calendar, for instance, streamlines the scheduling process by eliminating back-and-forth communications.

6. Limit small decisions.

“Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs, or illicit sex,” says Roy F. Baumeister, a psychologist who studies decision fatigue and the co-author of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.”

As with lifting a weight, you can only lift the weight so many times before your muscles give up on you when you decide or avoid a temptation.

“It’s the same willpower that you use to be polite or to wait your turn or drag yourself out of bed or hold off going to the bathroom,” Baumeister told the New York Times. “Your ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower earlier when you held your tongue in response to someone’s offensive remark or when you exerted yourself to get to the meeting on time.”

Some of the best entrepreneurs and leaders wear the same outfit every day to keep their brains sharp by avoiding small decisions. Although you don’t need to go to that extent, focus on the big picture by letting go of small details.

7. Avoid the 25-minute meeting rule.

“People are regularly in meetings that last too long, often with little that directly involves them,” writes Rebecca Newton in Forbes. “One response can be to instigate a 25-minute maximum (or similar) meeting rule.”

“But this seeming quick fix can undermine collaboration and creativity, which typically requires longer, giving people space to brainstorm,” she adds. Take action against the root of the problem by challenging managers to constantly check and ensure that the right people are in the room and encourage them to take some conversations “offline.”

8. Stay DRY.

In 1999, Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas introduced the phrase “don’t repeat yourself” in their book The Pragmatic Programmer. According to their definition, DRY requires “every knowledge piece to have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within the system.”

Code repetition can be reduced by using DRY techniques in software engineering. When appropriate, coders streamline coding using reusable sources, aka “snippets.” This is why the name “don’t repeat yourself” is used, explains Calendar co-founder and CEO John Rampton.

“As well as saving time, writing the same thing multiple times means that there is less room for human error,” he adds. “After all, if you make a mistake once, you’ll probably make it twice. Plus, if you decide to make any changes, you only have to do this one time.”

In summary, less code is better. This conserves time and energy. Maintenance is much easier as well. And there’s less risk of bugs arising.

How can leaders use this concept to better manage their time? By identifying where you’re repeating yourself — like with phantom workload.

To start, write in a journal every day for a week or two. Then, for a better picture, track your time for at least a month. That way, you can see how you spend your time. Additionally, you should be able to identify less common occurrences using this method as well.

“Hopefully, you now have a bird’s-eye view of your tasks,” states John. “Next, you need to decide which tasks are best suited to DRY.” Ideally, you want to be on the lookout for bottlenecks, pain points, time-consuming tasks, and activities that you repeat. After that, you can create templates, automate routine tasks, and delegate specific tasks to others.

9. Create “if-then” rules.

It’s not unusual for a leader’s day to include constant interruptions. What’s more, your schedule is likely to change at the last minute because you need to put out fires. And, since your position carries so many responsibilities, it’s tempting to divert your attention from your top priorities.

As a result, setting if-then rules automates what you should do in any circumstances mentioned above. Why? These rules reduce your workload and allow your employees to work independently. And, by asking your team to find a solution, you can avoid reprioritizing your entire schedule.

For example, a high-profile client is threatening to take their business elsewhere. If this happens, then you can ask your business partner to take over the scheduled team meeting.

10. Don’t robo-check your email.

Don’t let your email inbox control your life.

I’m sure you’ve heard that piece of advice numerous times. But, it bears repeating. After all, an Adobe survey found that people spend an average of 3.1 hours a day sending and checking emails alone. So, that comes out to 15.5 hours a week and a staggering 20 weeks a year!

It’s essential to set a regular time each day in your calendar when you read and respond to messages. And more importantly, avoid being distracted by the constant pings and pop-ups that you’ll encounter throughout the day. Personally, I do this three times: in the morning before work, after lunch, and right before closing time.

Furthermore, turn off push notifications and other alerts if you’re unable to stop checking your inbox during the day. And, to avoid checking your phone in the middle of the night or early in the morning, turn off your phone when you go to bed.

Also, make sure your coworkers and employees know when you will be available electronically — sharing your calendar and creating automatic “out-of-office” messages will make this easier. Don’t forget to inform them that you’ll only be answering emails during the specified hours. During your “offline” hours, you’re only to be contacted for “urgent” issues.

11. Design delegation in advance.

As a leader, delegation is an essential part of managing your time. Leadership is about determining what they are uniquely qualified to do, and prioritizing those tasks while delegating to others. Always consider your employees’ strengths and competence when delegating tasks to them.

Another consideration? Don’t micromanage. When you hand a team member the ball, let them run with it — even if it’s not how you would do it.

Experts like Don Jacobson recommend arranging any check-ins or follow-up conversations during the initial delegating meeting to optimize time management. Consequently, both you and the employee can plan your schedules accordingly, so you both know when to talk again.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

How Industry Leaders Manage Their Time was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Zoom Can Be Your Best Friend

By | Business Tips, Scheduling | No Comments
zoom meetings

In short, you’re going to need Zoom meetings going forward. So, instead of groaning at that fact, we’re going to detail some ways that Zoom can be your best friend. I’ll be honest. This morning I received a Google Calendar invite for a Zoom call. I was not thrilled.

The reason? I had just Zoomed out and didn’t want another “quick” meeting. Obviously, I’m not the only one who is overcome by the phenomenon known as Zoom fatigue. But, to be fair, that’s not Zoom’s fault. Most of us have become burned with virtual meetings in general and long to return to normalcy.

The good news? It appears that we are finally heading back to a pre-Covid world. At the same, however, virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon — which means Zoom as well.

According to Upwork’s Future Workforce Pulse Report, predicts the number of remote workers will be nearly double what it was before COVID-19: by 2025, there will be 36,2 million remote workers, an increase of 16,8 million from pre-pandemic rates.

Moreover, Gallup’s September update of its monthly employment trends found that 45% of full-time U.S. employees worked from home either all (25%) or part of the time (20%). Moreover, Gartner predicts that 74% of American companies are currently using or permanently implementing a hybrid work structure.

Is this good for business? You betcha.

Whether you have a fully remote team or implement a hybrid model, this is a win for all parties involved. With a more flexible schedule and less commuting, employees tend to be happier and more productive. Besides increasing output, there’s also less turnover. And, you can save money by reducing utility costs or downsizing to a smaller location.

Here are several ways that Zoom can be your best friend.

 Focus on why Zoom is the best video conferencing tool.

In 2020, stay-at-home orders made video conferencing a necessity. But why did Zoom become the de facto video conferencing tool?

Zoom dominated the market mainly because it’s easier to use than traditional video conferencing platforms, which have a lot of complicated settings. As such, as long as you had a connection, anyone could use Zoom on any device.

What’s more, Zoom is an uncluttered interface that offers;

  • 1-click to join a meeting
  • Easy screen sharing
  • Prompts for sound and video are automatic
  • A built-in chat feature
  • Automatic recording for post-meeting notes
  • The ability to switch from large to small group meetings easily with breakout rooms
  • Audio transcriptions
  • Diagramming on the fly with a whiteboard

Zoom has the highest video resolution among video conferencing platforms despite its limitations. You get high-definition resolution with the free version, while paid accounts can get up to 1080p. However, your internet connection can also affect the quality of the meeting.

Speaking of the free version, you can host up to 100 participants and have unlimited group meetings for up to 40 minutes. And there are also endless one-to-one meetings with a 30-hour time limit per meeting.

As long as you properly schedule your virtual event, like having an agenda, these time limits should be more than enough. If not, you can opt for a paid plan depending on your specifications.

Become a Zoom master.

“Whether you’ve been using Zoom for years or have only just signed up in the last year or so, there are many helpful and fun tips, tricks, and hidden features you can find to upgrade your video chatting experience and make your video meetings a little less weird — and hopefully avoid Zoom fatigue and Zoom anxiety.” writes CNET’s Alison DeNisco Rayome.

  • Adjust your background. Simply go to Settings > Virtual Background and select or upload the image you want.
  • Change your name. At the bottom of the screen, click the Participants button once you are in the meeting. Click More > Rename once you have selected your name. Enter your desired name and click OK.
  • Become familiar with keyboard shortcuts. You can, for instance, press and hold the spacebar to quickly mute and unmute your mic right from your keyboard. Zoom’s complete list of keyboard shortcuts can be found here.
  • For smaller group discussions, create Zoom breakout rooms. Go to Account Management > Account Settings to set up a breakout room as the host. Ensure that the setting is switched on under the Meeting tab, under Breakout Room. Additionally, meeting hosts have the option of pre-assigning breakout rooms to participants.
  • Use emojis and the vanishing pen. Emoji reactions allow you to tell the hosts what you think even when you are muted in a meeting. And, you have 40 options to choose from. In addition, you can highlight text or objects with the vanishing pen when sharing your screen. The highlights will fade over time, so you don’t have to go back and undo them.

 Get organized and increase engagement.

“A disorganized in-person event will leave attendees feeling they didn’t get what they paid for,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “A disorganized virtual event will lose those attendees completely before the event has ended (and in many cases before it’s even started.).”

“This is why you want to use high-quality communication tech to keep everyone on the same page — and this isn’t just referring to paying for a Zoom account.” Also, additional tools can be invaluable to ensuring an exceptional event.

Companies were given some grace in the early days of the pandemic, as they figured out how to host an online event as smoothly and efficiently as possible, Deanna explains. “Now, event attendees no longer give grace to an unorganized virtual event.” Moreover, companies should ensure their virtual events are well-structured, well-organized, and produce results.

Increasing engagement through communication technology.

“The ability for attendees to listen to lectures and training sessions after the fact means many will jump ship as soon as they feel bored,” she adds. “They know they can come back later to listen to the recording (often at 1.5X speed to get it over with faster.).”

Because of this, organizations must use the right communication tools to ensure their events run smoothly, she suggests. And this starts with pairing Zoom with an excellent digital calendar. There are several benefits to this combination.

One prominent example would be smaller meetings. “When your event includes a handful of people, you can use a digital calendar to inform everyone of the time of the event.” You can also include live-stream links, notes, and guest lists on most calendar apps. If any details of an event change, these tools can also generate notifications immediately.

“Along with smaller gatherings, a calendar is critical to larger events,” says Deanna. “As you begin to plan an event, you can use a calendar app to orchestrate logistical meetings and make sure that your team is staying closely connected.” With the app, you can also ensure that attendees remember the date of the event.

Don’t use up all 40-minutes.

Did you ever wonder why most TED Talks are under 20 minutes long? It’s because we have limited attention spans.

Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED conference, explained it as follows:

It [18 minutes] is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.

A short video call or presentation will keep your audience engaged just as effectively as an in-person event. Also, most of us are spending time staring at screens than sleepingAmericans spent 4.1 hours a day interacting with mobile devices alone in 2021.

Remember, if you’re exposed to too much blue light, it could cause problems like insomnia. So any attempt to reduce time spent watching screens is helpful. And that could be as simple as not using up that 40-minute time limit for free Zoom users.

Create theme days.

“Get your team together for a themed day,” suggests Esther Yoon over on the Zoom Blog. “Zoom’s internal Happy Crew does a great job putting together themed days where Zoom employees can get on Gallery View and share each other’s get-ups” on these days, like for holidays or special occasions.

Are you stuck on ideas?

Why not dress up as your favorite superhero or throw a formal black-tie event? Playing games, showing off your pet, or virtual lunches where you share recipes could also be fun activities.

Considering how many options there are, this may easily become a recurring event for your team.

Integrate human experiences into virtual worlds.

During the pandemic, a lot of people not only used Zoom to communicate and collaborate with others. But, some people even use it to make new friends. However, when it was time to meet in real life, these friendships didn’t last.

Amy Johnson, a professor of communication at the University of Oklahoma who studies long-distance friendships, told The Atlantic that this happens often. There’s a tendency for people to avoid conflict when communicating digitally because it’s become normalized as a face-to-face interaction (consider breaking up with someone in person rather than sending a text message or even calling). Online relationships can be idealized without conflict, and missing information about the other person can be filled in positively. However, when we meet in real life, we may feel less close to the person if their attributes do not match our expectations.

And, yes, this does apply to work as well. For example, there may be a time when remote team members finally meet up in person. Or, maybe you have team members who haven’t seen each other in a very long because of remote or hybrid schedules. In either case, Zoom can be used to break the ice or build authentic human experiences.

Some suggestions would encourage non-work events, like a movie night or book club. There are also virtual team-building activities you could explore. And, instead of large group events, schedule smaller groups or one-on-ones so that everyone has time to engage with each other.

Image Credit: Anna Shvets; Pexels; Thank you!

Zoom Can Be Your Best Friend was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Create Focus Time in Office 365 Calendar

By | Appointment | No Comments
focus time

While meetings are important, they can also prevent you from being able to create focus time. This is because everyone is too busy with excessive meetings. As these events build up, it is important to mark the time that you need on your Office 365 Calendar. Blocking time allows you to focus on what needs to get done before being filled with meetings. On Office 365 Calendar, there is a feature available to block out this focus time for important tasks.

The expansion of remote work means you will be taking care of much of your business through meetings with colleagues and bosses. It is not unusual to receive a “quick” call from a colleague who has a question. Have you ever had that surprise meeting added to your day? These meeting norms mean you need to be proactive in blocking out time so that you will not be disturbed. It is a great way to make sure you get your work done on time. That is why the focus time feature that Microsoft offers is so important.

Benefits of focus time

In jobs that rely on numerous meetings, it is important to make time to do more focused work. Technology allows colleagues and bosses to share calendars to ensure availability for collaboration and meetings. While great for collaboration, it is equally important to make better use of shared calendars to display your own focused time. Users can use the technology to set aside time during the day to do focused work and to block time for breaks.

This helps improve productivity and helps reduce fatigue by ensuring a proper balance of work activities in your day. Consider setting aside focus time as blocks of time during the workweek as needed for high-level thinking tasks. These tasks could include writing, strategizing, analysis, and tackling complex processes.

The focus time feature available in Office 365 Calendar allows you to block this time out to focus on your work. The time scheduled is shared across multiple Microsoft applications, so your Microsoft Office Outlook Calendar displays the time. In addition, your Microsoft Teams app also blocks out time. You can schedule your focus time for those apps using your MyAnalytics tool. These apps and tools are available on Microsoft 365. Here are a few tips on how to create focus time in Office 365 Calendar.

Focus time best practices

Office 365 allows you to automatically book your focus time while also allowing you to protect that time. You can do that by silencing chats on Teams and blocking notifications. It is important for your colleagues to understand what focus time means. Make it clear that this status on your Office 365 apps, like Outlook and Teams, means you should not be disturbed. Make sure you have sufficient focus time blocked during the workweek, and make adjustments to increase or reduce time.

It is also important to eliminate as many distractions as possible during your focus time. For example, if you work from home, you do not want to have the radio or television on. During your focus time, you should also ensure that you put your mobile phone away and turn off your email. The less distractions you have, the more time you have to focus.

Set your focus time

The focus time feature on Office 365 ensures you are not disturbed by others or by notifications from your apps. This can include blocking notifications, such as emails or meeting invites. You can set the focus time either manually or automatically.

If you want to set your focus time manually, you can do so at any time and on any day. To do this, you can simply change your status to “do not disturb” on the Office Calendar or in Teams. Office 365 also allows you to automate the focus scheduling process through the MyAnalytics application included in the suite of applications. Here’s how to use the automatic scheduling function.

MyAnalytics makes focus time easy

First, sign in to your MyAnalytics account. Find “focus” on the vertical menu and click it. You can define your focus period by identifying the amount of focus hours you want to schedule. The wizard will help you schedule this time. Whenever you start using this focus plan, you configure how you will book that time into your calendar. You get to customize your preferences using MyAnalytics, so it will book based on your chosen booking settings. You can choose the amount of hours for focus time you would like to schedule each day. You can also choose whether you prefer your focus time to be in the morning or in the afternoon. And finally, you can decide whether you would like to silence or accept the notifications for chat.

Once you have selected these options, you will get time blocked out on your calendar as focus time. For those focus time blocks on your calendar, your status in Microsoft Teams will display automatically as focusing. This presence status tells others that you should not be disturbed during this time. You can set priority contacts in Teams to ensure that you receive important messages from those select few you choose during focus time.

The focus time is now scheduled on your calendar like any other appointment. The focus time can be canceled or changed just like other calendar appointments. You can simply drag the event to another place on the calendar if you want to change the time. You can also delete the event from the calendar to cancel it.

Use MyAnalytics to Modify Focus Time

One of the advantages of using Office 365 is that it provides numerous applications and resources to make your life easier. When you use MyAnalytics, it can help you create a focus time plan, as noted above. It also allows you to update your plan settings by choosing Plan configuration in the upper right-hand corner of the MyAnalytics Focus dashboard. Then, the Plan Configuration navigation tab will open, where you have the option to modify how many focus hours you want for each day. And, you can update other preferences here as well. After you have created your focus time plan in MyAnalytics, your focus time will show up in your Outlook calendar. During those blocks of focus time on your calendar, your status will display as busy.

Block emails, notifications on a mobile device

Now that you understand how to schedule needed focus time to complete important tasks, you can block other distractions. You may find your focus time works well by blocking part of the day. You can avoid getting disturbed on Teams or with notifications on your computer. But, even after focusing on your computer, you can still be distracted by your phone. You can set your Outlook mobile app to “do not disturb” to stop the mobile distractions, such as emails on your phone.

Focus time on Microsoft Teams

After you create your focus time and it is listed on your calendar, Office 365 provides additional features to help you stay focused. Teams automatically sets your status as “Focusing” and “do not disturb.” That is important because your status in Teams does two important things. First, it tells colleagues who may want to send you a message on Teams that you should not be disturbed. Second, the status stops notifications that otherwise would disturb you. Both of these actions can help you avoid unnecessary distractions.

Teams also provide another feature, just in case your colleagues do not get the hint with your “do not disturb” status. You can set an automatic message to send in chat if someone attempts to contact you during your focus time. To create a status message in Teams that automatically displays when someone tries to message you during focus time, go to the Teams app. At your profile picture at the top of Teams, select “set status message” to view your options. Type the message that you want others to see in the box. Then, select “show when people message me” to have the message display automatically when someone messages or mentions you in Teams.

Image Credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thanks!

Create Focus Time in Office 365 Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Adding Your Goals to Your Calendar is Not Difficult

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your goals

Have you already given up on your goals for New Year’s Resolutions? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Only 8% of people actually reach their goals. But, why?

Well, there are a lot of factors. But, here’s a problem that often gets overlooked. We don’t set goals correctly.

Typically, when we set goals, we assign a deadline to them. And that can be counterproductive.

“We focus on the end goal that we want to achieve and the deadline we want to do it by,” explains James Clear. “We say things like, ‘I want to lose 20 pounds by the summer’ or ‘I want to add 50 pounds to my bench press in the next 12 weeks.’”

“The problem with this is that if we don’t magically hit the arbitrary timeline that we set in the beginning, then we feel like a failure … even if we are better off than we were at the start,” he adds. “The end result, sadly, is that we often give up if we don’t reach our goal by the initial deadline.”

“In my experience, a better way to achieve your goals is to set a schedule to operate by rather than a deadline to perform by,” adds James.

“Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal by (and then feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve it), you should choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently,” he suggests.

I can get behind that. But, to make this possible, you need a Calendar. So, to make this less intimidating for you, here are eight pointers on how to add your goals to your Calendar as easily as possible.

1. Determine how long you will need to accomplish each task (to plan your day accordingly).

Have you ever had one of those mornings when you woke-up feeling like the world was at your fingertips? In your mind, you tell yourself that you’re going to cross everything off your to-do list. You’re also going to finally return those essential phone calls, schedule meetings for the next year, and still make it to the gym — while somewhere still squeezing in family time.

I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm. But, seriously, how likely are you to succeed in accomplishing all of that?

In addition, most of us drastically underestimate the amount of time we spend every day managing email, making phone calls, preparing meetings, and commuting.

When it’s all said and done, you’re lucky if you’ve accomplished half of what you hoped. In response, you feel defeated and frustrated because your expectations were not met.

This is precisely when a Calendar can be useful. It can help you plan your day more effectively by estimating your time more accurately. And, when you know how you’re time is being spent, you can learn how to schedule your goals appropriately.

To help you figure this out, you can use time tracking tools or a productivity journal — or both if you prefer. Ideally, the longer you record your daily activities, the more accurate picture you’ll have.

2. Know thy goals.

With that out of the way, which goals deserve to be scheduled? That varies from person to person based on their priorities and values. But, whatever they are, they need to be specific and challenging.

According to Edwin Locke and Gary Latham’s research, people who follow these two principles (specific and challenging goals) perform better 90 percent of the time. For example, if your goal is to shed 30 pounds before the start of summer, that might be too ambitious. It’s also too vague and not specific enough.

Instead, break this goal down to be more specific and achievable. For instance, “In March, I will lose five pounds by reducing sugar, bread, and sodas. In addition, I will walk briskly for 20 minutes a day.” The more precise your goals are, the more likely you are to reach them.

In short, there are definitely right and wrong ways to set goals. However, setting your goals incorrectly will almost certainly lead you to miss something. In turn, this will force you to go back and redo things, or otherwise deviate from your intended course.

With that said, once you’ve identified your smart goals, you can insert them into your Calendar so that you don’t schedule anything else ahead of them. So, for example, you could schedule your brisk walk daily from 1 pm to 1:20 pm.

3. Choose your Calendaring method.

You know how you’re spending your time and have set your goals correctly. What’s next? Well, it’s your Calendaring method.

By this, I mean do you want to use an online Calendar? App? Paper planner? That’s totally up to you as each has its own pros and cons.

For example, an online Calendar or app gives you 24/7 access to your schedule. That can come in handy when you need to update or review your Calendar. What’s more, you can receive reminders, customize, or share your Calendar with others to help with accountability or prevent conflicts.

At the same time, digital Calendars can quickly become cluttered or time-consuming if you’re frequently adding notes. In addition, Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University in California conducted a study with 267 participants on goal setting. Putting your goals on paper increases your chances of achieving them by 42 percent.

Overall, there’s no right or wrong Calendaring method. The most important takeaway here is that you actually have a Calendar to add your goals to you it.

4. Divide your day into blocks of time.

As with your Calendaring method, this is totally up to you. It depends on what time of the day you’re most productive. For example, most people are most alert and energetic between 8 and 9 am. As a result, you should focus on your most important task or goal during that time.

Moreover, you may want to try 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest when working towards a daily goal. In sports, this is called interval training. The authors of Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg, and Steve Magness, concluded it wasn’t only for gifted athletes to adopt an interval-based productivity approach.

According to one study, its most productive employees usually spend 52 minutes immersed in their work, then take a break of 17 minutes before returning to their work. Therefore, to remain productive toward meeting your goals, you have to work smarter by taking frequent breaks throughout.

5. Let’s be honest; less is always more.

If you are prone to packing too many tasks into one day, you’re not alone. However, you may be headed in the direction of Burnoutville.

A Calendar can show you how full your schedule actually is. You can use this visual to keep your daily goals realistic and spread out your activities.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Keep your Calendar light. Trying to fill your day with too much may leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and less likely to meet your goals.
  • Make time for the things you care about. Plan activities and hobbies that you enjoy in your Calendar. By switching off ‘busy mode,’ you have a chance to rest and recharge to stay energized and focused on your goals.
  • Schedule time for breaks between your meetings, appointments, and tasks. You can make the most of your momentary pauses by reflecting, preparing, and resting your mind. During these breaks, go for a walk or just sit silently in reflection.

This structure may make you wonder how you’ll accomplish your priorities. However, not taking frequent breaks can leave you feeling zapped and overextended.

6. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Want to succeed in reaching your goals? Then you need to stay focused by reducing distractions.

As an example, let’s go back to your weight goal. If you surround yourself with people who don’t have a healthy diet, then there’s a good chance you’ll be eating just as poorly. Or, what if you don’t go grocery shopping and the only thing to eat in your home is junk food? And, if you don’t protect your time, someone meets to schedule a meeting with you during your walk.

I know. That’s a lot I just threw at you. But, in short, you can keep your eye on the prize by;

  • Add your goals to your Calendar before anything else. This way, if someone tries to schedule time with you, it won’t be during that block.
  • Share your Calendar. Another way to prevent others from eating into your valuable time. When they view your Calendar, they can see when you aren’t available and when you’re free.
  • Block out electronic distractions. If you need an hour to focus on your goals, then block or turn off any notifications during that time so that you won’t get distracted.
  • Schedule declutter and organization time. Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly event, your environment plays a huge role in achieving your goals. According to research, you have a harder time focusing on one visual stimulus when multiple ones compete for your attention. So, set aside time to declutter and organize everything from your desk to Calendar on a consistent basis.

7. Record your progress.

According to research published by the American Psychological Association, the more often you monitor your progress, the more likely you are to succeed if you have a goal. In addition, by reporting your progress publicly or physically recording it, you increase your chances of success even more.

“Monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action,” said lead author Benjamin Harkin, PhD, of the University of Sheffield. The study appears in the journal Psychological Bulletin. “This review suggests that prompting progress monitoring improves behavioral performance and the likelihood of attaining one’s goals.”

How often should you track your progress? Again, that depends. When it comes to daily goals, you should reflect on what worked on what didn’t at the end of every day. You can do this every couple of days or make this a weekly event for larger goals. No matter how often you do, make sure that this is also scheduled in your Calendar.

8. Follow through.

“Ok, so you’ve created your schedule, figured out the tasks/steps you need to take to accomplish your larger goals, and put them tidily into your daily planner. Now what?” asks entrepreneur Alexandra Hsie.

“The follow-through is the hardest.” And while sticking to your schedule helps, this is all about making incremental changes.

“Establish small habits that build up into greater habits,” Alexandra advises. “For example, want to wake up earlier? Change your wakeup time by fifteen minutes each day until you get to your goal wakeup time.”

What if you’re still missing your goal? Your wakeup time should be changed by 15 minutes every week instead of daily. “The point here is to make a large goal, like waking up at 6 am when you generally get up at 11 am, a set of manageable and small tasks that build into a habit.”

Another tip? Organize a group of people to hold you accountable for your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, schedule a time to go with friends or have a text chain to motivate each other.

Also, be sure to recognize and celebrate your accomplishments. “Say out loud to others what you’ve achieved that day. Accept their congratulations and allow yourself to be proud of what you’ve done,” suggest Alexandra. “And if that feels weird to you, at least take a moment to yourself to fully realize what you’ve accomplished because you deserve to be recognized for all of your hard work.”

Image Credit: Freestocks; Pexels; Thank you!

Adding Your Goals to Your Calendar is Not Difficult was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Want to Save More Money This Year? Put it on Your Calendar

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save more money

Each day, you probably consult a common item that can help you save more money. It’s probably sitting right there on your desk, wall, or conveniently on your phone or laptop.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m referring to the trusty Calendar.

We all have them on hand, whether they are in the form of the old-fashioned paper copy or an app that can be edited and shared. Without a calendar, you wouldn’t be able to remember deadlines, important meetings, or social functions. But, besides making our lives more organized and productive, we can also use calendars to help save more of our hard-earned money.

Use Your Calendar to Create a Budget

Do you put together a monthly budget? If you don’t, you’re not alone. A survey by The Penny Hoarder shows that over 55% of Americans do not manage their money with a budget.

But, it’s never too late to budget. And, thanks to your online Calendar, this has never been easier. After all, when you use an online calendar for budgeting, you track your spending, schedule savings reminders, stay motivated with milestones. So, for example, if you planned to save $1,000 in six months, you could book an affordable weekend getaway to reach that goal.

If you want to buy a new car or eliminate debt, then budgeting is how to do it. And, thanks to the Calendar app — it can help you budget like a pro.

To get started, create a repeating event for the first of the month. Then, make sure you check your expenses against the targets you set to see if everything is still intact. If not, don’t be afraid to revise your targets – or spending – if they’re too low or too high.

Put Due Dates on Your Calendar

According to a report from several years ago, about one in five credit card accounts incurs late fees. That cost is added to the amounts in 170 million accounts. According to this astounding statistic — $11.4 billion is going to credit card companies instead of your pocket.

However, while past-due credit card debt rose during the pandemic, 30-day delinquencies declined to an all-time low in early 2021. Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that missing any type of payment could have serious ramifications.

Usually, this is a late fee charge of around $25 to $45. That’s not a lot. But, when you’re trying to save more money, every dollar counts. More problematic, though, is that late payments can increase your interest rate, decrease your credit score, and show up on your credit score for up to seven years.

When it comes to recurring bills, whether if you’re manual or automatic payments, never be taken by surprise. Place these due dates into your Calendar and set reminders to ensure that these payments go through without a hitch.

Schedule “No Spend” Days

There are days when you don’t spend a dime, don’t you? Shocking, I know. But let’s say that you’re working from home all day since you’re fortunate enough to have a hybrid work schedule. Because of this, you aren’t spending money on gas, Starbucks, or ordering takeout for lunch. Instead, you brew your own coffee and make a salad from the items you have in your fridge.

Of course, that’s not the daily day for most of us. Even if you aren’t going to the workplace, you still might be spending a ton of money online — probably on stuff you really don’t need. The average American drops $18,000 a year on non-essentials.

To balance this out, consider imposing “no-spend” days.

Your online Calendar should contain and maximize both types of days. For example, if you need to get out of the house, then block out Friday afternoons for grocery shopping, dinner, and maybe a movie. However, on Thursday and Saturday, put the brakes on your spending and look for free activities, like going for a hike and making your meals at home.

Set Reminders for Free or Reduced Days

Many locations offer certain popular family attractions for free on certain days of the week, such as museums and aquariums. And, on certain days, like Tuesdays or Wednesdays, movie theaters offer cheaper tickets and snacks.

In addition, you can usually save money at your favorite restaurants during the midweek period. On Tuesdays, for instance, you might find $1 tacos at your favorite Mexican restaurant. But, what could is that going to do you on Wednesday when you’re craving a taco?

To make sure that you can take advantage of these deals, mark them down in your Calendar. Of course, you don’t have to partake every. But, at least it gives you options when trying to save money.

Add To-Do-List Items to Your Calendar

In addition to recurring bill payment dates, you should also mark the due dates of your personal federal and state taxes for the upcoming year on your Calendar. Adding a reminder to yourself to prepare your taxes sooner is better than waiting until the last minute.

Moreover, you should also schedule the following household items into your Calendar;

  • Appliance warranty dates. Note on your Calendar how long it is until the warranty expires. Let this serve as a reminder to take advantage of the warranty before it expires.
  • Vehicle maintenance and inspection dates. Make sure those car maintenance and inspection dates are on your Calendar. Treating your car well can prevent expensive repairs, as well as tickets if you’re driving around with an expired inspection.
  • Household repair and maintenance. Just like your car, add home maintenance reminders, like HVAC and gutter cleaning, to your Calendar to keep your home in tiptop shape.
  • Insurance. Check all of your insurance policies, whether your home, auto, life, or renters. It doesn’t hurt to know about these dates in advance, even if you receive alerts from companies during the year.

Also, don’t forget to schedule doctor’s appointments and check-ups. Staying on top of your health could prevent costly medical bills down the road.

Note When Free Trials End or Set Reminders to Cancel Subscriptions

You may have taken advantage of Netflix’s free trial because you had to check out that new Ryan Reynolds flick. But, if you aren’t using Netflix after that trial ends, make a note to cancel it before you get charged.

Or, maybe you used to love going to the gym but now prefer to work out from home. Cancel your memberships instead of forking over this money each month.

Implement Savings Challenges

“Sure, everyone wants to have more money available for their needs and wants, but the process of actually doing it?” asks Lisa Rowan in Forbes. “It brings up images of depriving yourself of activities you enjoy or eating the same meal over and over to save a few bucks.”

“But changing your approach to saving money could motivate you to develop better habits as you watch your nest egg grow,” she adds. Making saving a game, even if it’s a brief one, can increase your chances of saving money.

Many money-saving challenges run over an extended period of time, like an entire year. However, if you set a resolution to save long after January 1, you can still start any of these saving challenges whenever you want. And to track your progress, you’ll also need to rely on your Calendar as well.

  • 52-week challenge. As you save each week, you will put away $1 on week one, $2 on week two, and so on until you reach week 52: you will have saved $52.
  • Dollar savings challenge. Set a goal of saving a dollar each day. You can keep this up throughout the entire year to build your savings fund in a manageable way.
  • $20 savings challenge. Is saving $1 a day too easy for you? How about multiplying it? Put aside $20 each week for the year.
  • The 26-week challenge. Those who get paid every other week, do this rather than the 52-week challenge. Savings will be the same over the year but adjusted according to your biweekly pay period.
  • The 33.3 challenge. You only have 30 days to save $1,000. You might feel more able to achieve this if you think of it as $33.33 per day.

Schedule Meetings With Your Advisor

According to one poll, 44% of Americans without financial advisors said that major events in the United States in 2020 and their effects on their finances have made them realize the advantages of working with a professional. Of these, 54% are 18-to-34-year-olds, 58% are 35-to-44-year-olds, and 60% are Hispanic.

It will be a challenging job for advisors, as Americans have a variety of goals and priorities related to their money. In 2021, Americans with financial advisors (33%) and Americans without financial advisors (30%) both identified and prepared for long-term financial goals as their top priority in working with a financial advisor.

What are the top priorities among Americans without advisors? The creation of an emergency savings fund (28%) and paying off debt (26%)

Set up a regular meeting with your financial advisor of choice in your Calendar. A monthly meeting should suffice to start. But, depending on your preferences and needs, the frequency can be adjusted in the future. Be prepared to discuss your game plan with your advisor at each meeting by bringing your questions and thoughts.

A financial advisor will, for instance, ask you about your goals during your first meeting. Next, your advisor will outline a preliminary plan and provide risk management advice in the next step. Eventually, meetings can focus on specific assets or how you should spend a bonus, raise, or tax return.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

Want to Save More Money This Year? Put it on Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

Declutter Your Brain by Decluttering Your Calendar

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You can feel overwhelmed when you have so much on your mind. So, you do the right thing and get these thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Eventually, you use this to generate an extensive to-do list that will clutter your Calendar.

What happens next? Not only is your brain cluttered, so is your Calendar. That makes it impossible to focus on your priorities. And even worse, this leads to unnecessary stress.

While you’re on the right track by writing things down, you also need to declutter your Calendar so that you’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.

Of course, that may sound easier said than done. So, here are some of the best ways to declutter your brain by decluttering your Calendar.

Acknowledge the fact that you can’t do everything.

“We can only do so much,” Mike Burns writes over Becoming Minimalist. “We have unlimited options but limited resources.” As such, some decisions must be made to eliminate certain things.

When we’re feeling especially productive and superhuman, we struggle to admit this reality,” he adds. But, no matter how hard we, it’s impossible for us to do it all. “We have to remove the clutter.”

Clutter is all the stuff that gets in the way of living a happy life. As a result, we cannot do the things we value the most. “It’s that unnecessary stuff that we entertain but doesn’t help us get where we want to go,” Burns adds. “And it needs to be removed.”

Take stock and track your time.

“I always say if you want to spend your time better, you have to figure out how you’re spending your time now,” asserts Laura Vanderkam, author of, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. “People have a lot of stories they tell themselves about their time,” she adds, but those stories aren’t always accurate.

Therefore, you must first take stock of what is in your Calendar to truly clean it up. Reviewing past appointments and calendars can give you some historical information to give you some insights into how you’ve spent your time. However, you should also track how you spend your time.

Here, you are generally presented with two options. One is a productivity journal, while the other is a time tracker. The most crucial step is to record all your daily activities for a week or so. From there, you can decide which entries you can remove from your Calendar.

Additionally, Vanderkam recommends channeling your inner Marie Kondo. If, for example, you no longer enjoy that cooking, music, or yoga class on Wednesday nights, dump it.

“It’s a ridiculous thing to think that everything will spark joy,” adds Vanderkam. “You might love your job, but your commute will not spark joy. Likewise, you love your children but changing a diaper will not spark joy,” she says.

Consider asking yourself, “What is causing the most pain? And what is something I can actually do something about?”

Question the validity of any recurring commitments.

Piggybacking from the point above — You should make a detailed inventory of what exactly is filling your schedule before attempting to declutter it.

We all do things the way we do because we are accustomed to them. But nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that we should continue doing them as we have day-in-and-out. And another way to achieve this is by questioning your recurring calendar commitments.

As a starting point, ask;

  • Why am I doing this? Is your Calendar full of entries that it easier than more essential tasks? Does it exist because you were told to do it by someone else?
  • Are my priorities aligned with this activity? Do you do this because you have to, or does it help you move closer to your goals?
  • Is this beneficial to my family or me?
  • How will this affect me? Is it draining or energizing?
  • Is my Calendar a reflection of how I want to live? Are you living your life on purpose? What do you think is the best way for you to spend your free time?

Get it off your Calendar whenever you don’t have a real reason to do something. At the same time, be careful not to remove something working well to make your schedule seem more organized.

You must be intentional about your Calendar if you want more space and time for what matters.

Delete old tasks.

When you have a minute, please glance over your to-do list. The chances are that you haven’t updated it in quite a long time. And, that’s alright. Some of these items are just habits that have become second nature. But, here they important or still relevant?

In reality, those items are nothing more than clutter. So, go ahead and remove them from your list. As for the remaining items, you might want to use something like the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your list.

You would do anything urgent and essential right away — meaning they get scheduled first in your Calendar. Then, you would schedule essential but less urgent tasks later. And, don’t forget that anything that’s urgent but not necessary can be delegated or outsourced.

Use the “Rule of Three.”

By following the Rule of Three, you will succeed in reaching your goals and getting more done. Apparently, according to Dan Silvestre, it was introduced by J.D Meier in “Getting Results the Agile Way. And, it works like this.

The Rule of Three stresses that you should only focus on 3 of your most important goals instead of aiming for everything. By limiting the number of tasks you do simultaneously, you can increase your focus and output. And it’s also helpful in keeping your Calendar in check so that you don’t feel as overwhelmed.

As an example, let’s say that you’re mapping out your week. Rather than trying to cram every to-do list item into your Calendar, only schedule three priorities for each day.

Verify your timeslots.

If you share your Calendar with others, then people can not only see your availability, they can also book these open slots. That comes in handy when someone needs to schedule a meeting or phone call with you. But, here’s the thing, schedules are likely to change.

Let’s say you have an upcoming trip or the other party had to attend to a personal matter. The chances are that something like a 15-minute phone call isn’t a priority. As such, to prevent wasting everyone’s time, you should verify this time slot.

You can use a calendar reminder to make sure that everyone can still meet at the agreed-upon time. Usually, this could be a couple of days in advance. But, if you know that you have more pressing matters coming up, like a vacation, you might want a longer timeframe, like a week or two ahead of time.

That might seem a bit much. However, it’s an effective way to safeguard your Calendar from last-minute cancellations and conflicts. I would suggest being a pro and giving others a deadline when your open slots will close.

And, one more thing, When you’re booked or off-the-clock, double-check that your Calendar shows that you’re unavailable. When you do, then others won’t be able to reserve that time slot.

Don’t make your Calendar annoyingly inflexible.

For better or worse, Elon Musk is known for many things. However, he’s also known for using a productivity hack in which he schedules his time into 5-minute segments. While Musk has denied this, it’s understandable why this technique is appealing. It not only protects your valuable, but it also can keep your Calendar so organized that you’ll get more done.

Here’s the problem, though. This technique is ridiculously inflexible that there is zero wiggle room. What’s more, it takes a lot of upfront planning to schedule your time so meticulously.

I’m all for time blocking. But that doesn’t mean you have to full each block of time. Instead, you should leave some blocks blank. The reason? Let’s say there’s a fire that needs to be put out? Then, you can more easily shuffle your schedule around to attending to this emergency without throwing your entire schedule off-track.

Make use of a scheduling assistant or calendar app.

Calendar apps and scheduling assistants offer a quick and efficient alternative to back-and-forth communication when scheduling a meeting or event. Furthermore, they keep your schedule from getting cluttered.

Calendar, for example, allows users to share their availability with others via e-mail or embeddable links. As a result, people can choose a time that works for them when they see your schedule. By doing so, you won’t overload your Calendar. It also lets you buffer meetings between them and avoid last-minute meetings, so you never have a congested Calendar.

As if that weren’t enough, Calendar uses machine learning to make smart scheduling suggestions. It can also determine the breakdown of your day by task type by analyzing your schedule.

Merge your calendars.

People often like to keep several calendars to keep the various facets of their lives organized. For example, you may have a calendar designated solely for work and another for your family’s schedule. You may also have calendars for birthdays, holidays, medical appointments, or even when your favorite sports teams are playing.

I get the appeal with this strategy. But, conflicts are ultimately more challenging to avoid when juggling multiple calendars. I know this from personal experience. Back in the day, I kept work and a personal calendar. Eventually, I would agree to an after-hours work event only to notice that I had already committed to going to a birthday dinner for a friend.

Aside from that, switching between calendars was inconvenient and a huge waste of time. So I found the simple solution to be consolidating all of my calendars into one master calendar.

How am I able to remain organized? I use color-coding.

“Most calendar apps will allow you to order your events by color, making it easy to distinguish them at a glance,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Your online Calendar will have different events for work, home, and leisure. Assign a color to each category, and it will be easy to locate exactly what you’re looking for.”

“For example, the color red can distinguish all of your work-related events from the rest of your calendar,” Howie explains. “You might use blue to indicate your at-home priorities.”

The best part? “You can customize your calendar with whatever palette you choose, making your online calendar unique to your style and preference.”

Make decluttering a priority.

“Finally, there’s more to decluttering than just cleaning and organizing,” notes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “It is also about staying committed to living a clutter-free life.” You can easily keep on top of this by scheduling frequent cleaning sessions.

“For instance, you could block out from four p.m. to five p.m. on the last Friday of every month to tidy up your office,” Denna suggests. “Every Saturday morning could be reserved for household chores. And, so forth.”

It’s important to schedule these sessions in advance to commit to following through with this. Remember, your word is your bond as if you were meeting with a client or doctor. In addition, you won’t have to stress as much about cleaning and organizing your Calendar because you’re keeping it lean and mean before it becomes too overwhelming.

Image Credit: RODNAE Productions; Pexels; Thank you

Declutter Your Brain by Decluttering Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

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