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Time Blocking 101: Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Your Daily Schedule

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. You’re here because you’re on a journey to find a way to manage your time better while boosting your productivity. While there hundreds, if not thousands, of options to achieve this goal, one surefire technique is time-blocking.

If you’re not familiar with time-blocking, then you’ve come to the right place. In the following article, I’ll describe what time-blocking is, why it rocks, and guide on how to implement it into your daily schedule.

What is time blocking, and why is it effective.

“Time blocking is simply a time management technique where you set aside a specific amount of time for a particular task,” explains Calendar’s Howie Jones. “For example, instead of checking your phone every time you receive an email or social notification, you would do this at clearly defined times.” However, how you decide to block out your day is at your discretion.

For Jones, he sets aside a block to check his inbox and social media before diving into his work in the morning. “There’s another block after lunch,” he adds. “And, the final one is later in the afternoon before calling work a day.”

Others, such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk, are fans of micro scheduling where their entire day consists of five-minute blocks. But, a more common practice would be to reserve an amount of time, like around an hour, to complete an important task or attend a meeting. A short break follows it, usually no more than 20-minutes, before getting back to the grind.

That’s all well and good. But why is time-blocking so effective?

For starters, while useful at times, to-do-lists are inferior. Mainly this is because they don’t account for time. You may have ten items you want to accomplish today. But, if the first two take longer than expected, you’re never going to complete the rest. Because of this, we tend to tackle those more manageable and less critical tasks first, meaning those delicious frogs just sit there getting cold.

Moreover, time-blocking discourages you to multitask. “By scheduling chunks of time for a specific task or problem, you’re promoting deep focused work,” explains Jones. “It also helps you focus less on ‘shallow work,’ which is urgent, but not essential activities.”

Time blocking also fights backs against perfectionism and procrastination since there’s a time limit attached to your daily responsibilities. It also makes it easier for you to reject requests for your time. And, it helps you reflect on your priorities by giving you a document of what you did and did not accomplish in a specific timeframe.

Are you ready to harness the power of time-blocking? If so, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you finally take control of your daily schedule.

Step 1: Untangle your mind.

Before you start adding blocks of time to your calendar, you first need to determine how you’re going to fill them.

It would be like building a shelf from scratch — if you possessed such a talent. You need to do a lot of planning upfront. If not, you may have a shelf that serves no purpose because the dimensions are all wrong. But, if you knew that you wanted this shelf to hold your vinyl collection, then you would first lookup plans. Now you would purchase the right materials to meet your storage needs.

Like most of us, though, there are probably a million things you have to do swirling around in your head. So, get them out of there by doing a brain dump.

It’s a simple activity where you literally write down everything that you must do. You can use a pen and paper, an app like Evernote, or your phone’s note app. Start by listing your commitments like attending a meeting or handing in an assignment by a specific date. Other items to include here would be things like your morning ritual, daily commute, or anything pertaining to your goals.

You’ll also want to include things that you would like to do but haven’t yet committed to them. And, also throw in anything that you wouldn’t mind doing down the road.

You don’t have to do this daily. But it’s something that you should frequently. Personally, I think that this should be a weekly activity, like Friday afternoon or Sunday evening.

Step 2: Identify your priorities.

With your list in tow, it’s time to prioritize it.

Thankfully, if you broke your list down into must, want, and perhaps, you’re halfway there. But, you still need to analyze it so that you can identify the items that must get done this week. Anything else can either be scheduled for a later date, delegate to someone else, or erased from your list.

If you’re stuck because everything seems essential, here are a couple of strategies to prioritize your list:

  • Determine your MITs. These are no more than three things that absolutely have to get done today.
  • Use a priority matrix. Here, you would place everything on your list into the following quadrants: urgent and vital; necessary, but not urgent; critical, but not important; and neither urgent nor important.
  • Determine the value of your tasks with the ABCDE method. Just assign “A” to your most important task, “B” for important, “C” for perhaps, “D” equals delegate, and “E” is for eliminating.
  • The Pareto Principle. Focus on the handful of activities that deliver the most results.
  • Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy. Jot down the 25 things you want to accomplish this week. Next, circle your top five and forget the rest.

Step 3: Prepare a daily blueprint.

Now that you’ve got your priorities figured out for the week let’s figure out where to place them in your calendar.

Your first option would be to work through your tasks in chronological order. Let’s say that you have then items that need to get down by Friday. Your first two tasks would be scheduled for Monday. Tasks three and four would be scheduled for Tuesday and so forth.

I like this. It’s pretty straightforward and not overwhelming. When I wake up on Monday, I know which fish to fry — as I do for the rest of the days of the week.

Of course, there are some considerations here. First, you need to estimate how long each of these tasks will take you. If each one eats up five hours, I doubt that you’ll complete both of them on the same day. It’s not that you can’t work a ten-hour day. But, that’s not feasible when you take into account breaks and distractions. In this case, you’re looking at more of a 12 plus hour day.

Another factor would be before commitments like conference calls, meetings, appointments, or hard deadlines. It’s going to be a challenge to tackle two large tasks when you’ve got two meetings already in your calendar.

And don’t forget to work around your energy levels. We all have different times when we’re most productive based on our own ultradian rhythms. Track your own so that you know when you’re most productive. As a general rule of thumb, we’re usually most alert and energetic a couple of hours after waking. Also, as the week goes on, energy levels begin to decrease.

With this in mind, you would want to schedule your most challenging tasks in the morning. You would then use the afternoon for less draining activities like meetings. Also, try to front-load your week so that you aren’t working on a high-objective item on Friday.

Step 4: Blockout your entire day.

Let’s take a breather here. I mean, I just threw a lot of information at you. But, we’re pretty much at the point you’ve all been waiting for — time blocking every day of your schedule.

Since you’ve already identified your priorities and came-up with a blueprint for your week, this shouldn’t be all that difficult. It probably goes something like this:

That’s an elementary daily schedule. But, I think you get the point. Your time has been accounted for the entire day. You’ve also blocked out time for your most important work and shallow tasks like email.

You’ve also dedicated chunks of time to your morning routine, daily commute, breaks, and family time. There’s even an unscheduled block of time just in case you didn’t complete your work in the morning, take care of back burner tasks, or you have to take care of an unexpected occurrence.

Step 5: Transition from block-to-block.

If you want to perfect the art of time blocking, then you must have buffers in-between each chunk of time. It’s unrealistic to believe that you’re going to jump immediately from one task to another. Your brain needs time to decompress and recharge.

What’s more, you need these transitional periods for things like traveling to a meeting. Let’s say that you have to go across town at 2 p.m. to meet with investors. You may have a meeting blocked out. But, if it takes you 20-minutes to get there, you should also block out from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. It’s just a simple way to prevent you from accidentally scheduling something else that may cause you to run late to the meeting.

Step 6: Turn off and tune out.

Another way for time blocking to be useful is to eradicate those pesky distractions. Alright, eradicate might be a bit harsh. But, you get the idea. Distractions interrupt you from getting things done.

The main culprit? Your smartphone. Thankfully, you can block apps at certain times by setting limits on your phone or using tools like Freedom or FocusMe. You can also put your phone on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. And, if that doesn’t work, you can always keep your phone in another room.

Besides your smartphone, you may also get distracted by co-workers or your family if you work at home. Sometimes this is unavoidable. But, you could close your office door when you need to focus on work. If they don’t get the hint, place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door or share your calendar with them so that they can when you’re free to chat.

I suggest that you keep a distraction log. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just make a note of what interrupted you and when. For example, if a noisy trash truck causes you to lose focus every Wednesday morning, put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones around this time.

Step: 7: Revise as necessary.

Finally, revise as needed.

To do this, review your calendar from the past week. How productive were you? What didn’t go as planned? For the upcoming week, move some blocks around to see if those changes were beneficial or not.

It would also be wise to use a tool like Calendar that can analyze how you’re spending your time thanks to the magic of machine learning. It can then make smart suggestions. For instance, it can keep tabs on your meetings and then recommend when they should take place, along with whom to invite.

6 Tips for Mastering Appointment Reminders for Your Clients

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Want to Get More Done? Organize Your Thoughts

Your clients are busy people. They don’t need a reminder for every email you send, but sending no reminders whatsoever isn’t a smart strategy, either.

You could take the age-old approach of sending three reminders — one far in advance, the second a few days before, and the third the day of — but that’s a lot of reminders. When the appointment rolls around, your client may walk in annoyed with you. 

Going the no-reminder route can leave clients wondering whether the meeting is still happening, or whether it’s slipped your mind.

The question is, how can you strike a balance between the two?

1. Always confirm via email.

No matter how you set the appointment — over the phone, in-person, via text, or in an email — make sure to confirm the scheduled time via email. An email is a searchable record that clients can check if in doubt of the details.

If applicable, copy the client’s administrative assistant to make sure it gets on their calendar. To avoid crowding the client’s inbox unnecessarily, ask whether reminder emails should go only to the assistant in the future. 

2. Make time to personalize.

It wouldn’t be wise to promote an event or product without a plan; take the same approach with your meeting reminders. Every email and text message you send is a representation of your brand.

To track your meetings and appointments, invest in an online calendar tool. Block off time to create customized reminders. If you’re worried you’ll forget, set your calendar tool to remind you to do it. 

This might seem a little extra, but the personal touch is important. If you allow your online scheduling service to fire-off automatic, robotic appointment reminders, chances are clients will dismiss them in the swarm of other system-generated reminders they receive.  

3. Stay on the radar.

Reminders do not necessarily need to be about a meeting. Clients encounter your brand in all sorts of contexts, so be sure to use those touchpoints as subtle, positive reminders.

Take social media. Encouraging clients to follow you on Instagram and Facebook keeps you top of mind while they’re using those channels. The content you post can trigger them to think about the upcoming appointment. 

Do the same if you send an email newsletter. Add clients to your list so that your business regularly shows up in their inbox. And if you host experiential events, be sure to invite clients to those activations, too. 

4. Send a response-worthy reminder. 

An unanswered meeting reminder can leave you wondering if the client is still planning to attend. The solution is to write a reminder soliciting a response.

Try opening your message with a question. You might ask about the client’s progress on her latest project, or whether she caught the big game over the weekend.

One way or another, get personal. A message that suggests a real person is behind it is harder to put off. Plus, it’s a great way to maintain a long-term client relationship

5. Include an agenda.

Appointments can be a big waste of time if the agenda for them isn’t set ahead of time. Shortly after the meeting is scheduled, develop an agenda and set it to everyone who plans to attend.

A reminder with an attached agenda not only serves as a reminder, but it also gives the client a way to prepare. Meetings are maximally productive when both parties arrive prepared. 

6. Make multiple reminders meaningful.

Sending multiple reminders is not always a bad idea. If a client schedules an appointment months in advance, it’s a good idea to send at least two: one confirming the meeting, and one a day or two in advance of the conversation.

Those messages should not look the same. Use them to build social capital with the client or to grow the client’s knowledge of your business. An introductory survey with questions about the client’s business, interests, and needs can both break the ice and help you provide a better service.

As you learn the art of appointment reminders, check in with your clients. Do they see the reminders you send as useful? Is there some piece of information you might be neglecting to include? You might be surprised at just how much they appreciate hearing from you.

How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

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How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

Entrepreneurs have it hard. Not only do they have to operate a business, but they also have to ensure that they can manage their day-to-day tasks on top of it.

Staying busy isn’t a bad thing, but many entrepreneurs find themselves trying to fit too many things into their schedules. 

If you’re an entrepreneur who is feeling overwhelmed, or the days just keep getting busier, here are a few ways you can free up your time for the most important things on your calendar:

1. Get Rid of Pointless Meetings.

Your time is valuable and deserves your respect. It might not always feel like it, but you have control of your own calendar. In order to free up your time, it’s critical to take a closer look at some of your meeting schedule.

Stop letting people put unnecessary appointments on your calendar.

Make clear to employees, clients, and vendors what constitutes a meeting and what the expectations are for that meeting. A meeting should have a defined purpose, an approximate start and end time, and a detailed agenda. 

Implement a policy that you won’t take a meeting that does not include these items. If someone feels they can’t include these items when scheduling a meeting, perhaps a phone call or email might be a better use of your time. 

Evaluate your current schedule and make changes as needed.

As a leader, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of your current schedule so you can make the most of your time. Are you meeting deadlines? Is your meeting schedule working each week? Do you feel the pressure of the clock? 

Answering these questions and making changes where you see fit will help clean up your calendar and free up more time in the day.

Learn to say “no.”

Although the word “no” has an inherently negative connotation, go ahead and get comfortable with it. Others will understand if you need to decline the occasional meeting. Offer to reschedule it or suggest an alternative solution. 

Leverage an online scheduling tool.

Appointment scheduling software like Calendar are incredibly helpful for calendar management. Use them to minimize email back-and-forth, avoid overbooking yourself, and getting a quick glimpse of your day’s appointments.

Go ahead and block off one day a week for deep work. A popular method is to implement a one-day-a-week no-meetings policy. Use that time to prevent or solve complex business problems. 

2. Reduce the Amount of Time Spent at Your Desk.

Entrepreneurs often feel like they are “too busy to take a break.” But that simply isn’t true.

Breaks are good for the brain, and spending 8 hours at your desk doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a productive day. When you find the luxury of a free, 15-minute time period, try filling it by doing something for yourself, rather than trying to cram in another task.

Options include:

  • Meditating: If you feel anxious or overly stressed during the workday, use your free time to meditate. It could significantly reduce your stress level and give you the boost you need to continue on with a productive day. Even something as simple as going into a quiet room, focusing on your breathing, and clearing every thought in your mind can make a huge difference in your day.
  • Listening to a short podcast: Podcasts can be a way to unwind, and a great learning tool. Thousands of podcasts are uploaded every day on topics like business, money, news, politics, comedy and more. Listening to a podcast that aligns with your line of work can offer inspiration on a slow day. 
  • Reading a book: A short, 15-minute break is plenty of time to catch up on a chapter of your favorite book. Whether you’re reading for business or pleasure, reading is relaxing and can heighten brain function.

Don’t be afraid to take that little bit of time for yourself. You’ll be less stressed and more productive.

3. Cut Out Busy Work.

While it’s important to fill up your free time with non-work tasks, you’ll also find that much of your schedule is filled with busy work. Identify these tasks and limit the time you spend on them. To assist with busy work, appoint your top employees to managerial roles, and don’t be afraid to delegate these tasks as you see fit. 

Cutting out busy work will free up time for business development. For example, you can focus on managing your business’ social media pages. As an entrepreneur, people want to hear what you have to say, and find your experience and opinions very valuable. By putting out thought leadership pieces or video content, you can gain your following, and next thing you know, you’re viral—and so is your business. 

You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you pare down your calendar. Be proactive, and don’t try to take on too much. And if you have already, make changes so you can be your best self. 

25 Brilliant Calendar and Schedule Management Tips

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Between all of your work-related tasks, the endless barrage of meetings, personal commitments, and those pesky to-do-lists items, how can you possibly get everything done? Do you even have the chance to catch your breath or do the things that you actually enjoy?

While scheduling may be a struggle for some, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The light begins to shin when you follow your calendar with exactness and start to see the benefits. You begin to see how Calendar and schedule management frees you.

That may sound like an impossible feat. But, it’s within reach if you try out the following 25 brilliant tips.

1. Put first things first.

“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities,” Stephen Covey famously wrote. “It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.”

If you don’t book your priorities, you can be certain that something of less importance will occupy that time slot. That’s why in order to protect what’s more important in your life, then take control of your schedule in advance. How far in advance? Well, some people prefer to create an annual plan.

Again, this will vary from person to person. But, an annual plan is where you simply block out time in your calendar for what’s most important to you. Examples would be business goals, industry events, doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, or your best friend’s wedding.

Creating your annual Calendar (that you add to) won’t just shield your priorities, it will also keep you focused. It will also make managing your calendar much easier since there are fewer blocks to fill.

2. Schedule the best week ever.

Wait. Didn’t you just draft an annual plan? Yes. But, schedules change and new priorities pop-up throughout the year. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less important. It’s just that you don’t have a crystal ball and see that far into the future.

Either every Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, map out your ideal week. You can start by listing all of your tasks for the week and then prioritizing the list. From there, add your priorities into your calendar.

Just make sure that you schedule the right tasks at the right time. For instance, base your schedule around your energy levels and deadlines. If a deadline is for Thursday morning, then it wouldn’t make sense to work on this task at ten o’clock on Wednesday night.

3. Seize the day!

You’ve got an idea of how you’re going to spend the next week and even year to an extent. But, what would your dest day ever look like? I doubt it would be sleeping-in, rushing to work, and working until the wee hours of the night.

Or, would you rather wake-up and start the day on the right foot? You know, squeeze in an exercise, catch-up on the news, and enjoy a healthy breakfast. How about knowing exactly what to work on and when so that you’re working smarter, not harder. And, wouldn’t you want to end the day by doing something that you enjoy like relaxing or spending quality time with your nearest and dearest?

Determine what would make your day the best day ever. Afterward, schedule accordingly so that you can control and seize the day.

4. Always think before you act.

We’ve all fallen into this trap. You set down at your desk and then open-up your inbox. Next thing you know, you’ve just spent 30-minutes going through your emails. Another example would be you start looking for a misplaced item and then decide that it’s a good time to declutter and organize your office.

These are both activities that need to get done. But, do they need to be addressed at this very second? Probably not. In fact, getting distracted by these less important tasks can throw off the schedule that you’ve already planned.

Before diving into an activity, ask yourself if it’s worth doing right now. If not, schedule it for when you have the availability.

5. Have a well-equipped toolbox.

If you’re a homeowner, then you should know the importance of having a well-equipped toolbox. It’s essential for basic tasks like hanging a picture or doing a little home repair. Even if you rent an apartment, you should still have a basic toolbox handy.

The same idea applies to your calendar and schedule management. Instead of relying on a wall or desktop-sized calendar, download a calendar app. It’s more accessible and portable than the old paper calendar. And, it can easily be shared with others.

On top of a calendar app, also look into tools like scheduling software. Calendar, for example, uses machine learning to make smart suggestions on how to schedule events. It’s much more convenient than going playing phone or email tag when planning a meeting.

6. Your kiss is on my list.

Unlike Hall & Oates, I don’t mean this literally. I’m actually talking about the KISS Principle.

Short for “keep it simple stupid.” The idea comes from a Navy design principle from the 60s. It’s great advice for all aspects of your life. But, it’s particularly useful when it comes to your calendar.

As a computer scientist and author of “The Laws of Simplicity,” John Maeda explains, “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” For example, you wouldn’t want to create a complicated calendar system just to keep track of habitual actions like brushing your teeth. Instead, you would add entries like deep work.

7. Pick-up timeboxing.

Ditch your to-do-lists and embrace a simple productivity hack known as timeboxing. As explained in another Calendar article, this is where you open your calendar and block off an exact amount of time to a specific task.

According to Marc Zao-Sanders over on HBR, timeboxing encourages you to get the right thing done at the right time. Additionally, it “enables you to communicate and collaborate more effectively.” Timeboxing also creates a “comprehensive record of what you’ve done, makes you feel more in control, and fights back against Parkinson’s Law.

8. Become a microscheduler.

You wouldn’t think that Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Wahlberg, and internet celebrities like Elaine Lui, and Casey Neistat would have much in common. But, they all share a scheduling habit where they break their days into five to seven-minute blocks.

Also known as microscheduling, this is a rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. However, it ensures that you maximize and protect your time. And, according to Insider, “Microschedulers feel calmer when they have their plan, prioritized to-do list, and an organized structure to their day.”

9. Work in batches.

Batching is one of my favorite time management techniques. Besides being easy to implement, it’s also effective. Simply block out time in your schedule to focus on a group of similar tasks. Examples would be running all of your errands at the same time, cooking all of your meals on Sunday, or checking your inbox at predetermined times.

The reason why batching works is because it prevents multitasking. It also reduces the time spent switching between tasks.

10. Aim to be early.

Let’s say that the due date for a project is on the twentieth of the month. Bump that deadline up by a couple of days. No matter how organized you are, Murphy’s Law is always lurking in the shadows. So, it’s better to have met this deadline in advance just to be safe.

You can also use this technique for meetings. If a meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., then plan to be there at 1:50 so that you don’t run late. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to prepare and review the agenda.

11. Put a “P” on your calendar.

She may have a song that emphasizes how much she works. But, in reality, Rihanna prioritizes downtime.

“I never used to be this way,” RiRi told Interview Magazine. “It’s only the last couple of years that I started to realize that you need to make time for yourself because your mental health depends on it.”

“If you’re not happy, you’re not going to be happy even doing things that you love doing,” she added. “It’d feel like a chore. I never want to work to feel like a chore.”

To make time for herself, Rihanna places “the infamous ‘P,’ which means personal days” onto her calendar. That’s it. She just puts a “P,” which is a different color, on her calendar to protect her personal time.

12. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.

I’m not actually a fan of Kit Kat bars. But, that jingle. It’s timeless. And, so is the advice it shares, “Give me a break.”

Make sure that you schedule breaks in your calendar. It gives you the chance to recharge and refocus. After all, we can only focus on one task for so long. Track your energy patterns to see when you’re most productive and when your energy begins to lag. It’s different for everyone. But, usually, we can work for around an hour before taking a break. After that, take a 10-20 minute break before getting back to work.

13. Schedule BBTs.

Back burner tasks are those things that you never get around to. Usually, this is because they’re not all that important and you just don’t want to do. Examples would be calling your insurance company or cleaning the bathroom.

Despite not being a top priority, they’re usually things that you eventually have to get around to doing before they pile-up. Don’t forget to schedule these responsibilities when you have spare time. Saturday mornings as an example, are perfect for scrubbing your bathroom.

14. Use reminders strategically.

Perhaps one of the most underutilized features of a calendar is reminders. Most of us just stick with the default. But, when used correctly and sparingly it can differently be an asset.

Let’s say that you have a meeting scheduled for next week. Set a reminder a week in advance so that you can send the agenda out to attendees. Set another reminder a day prior to giving you enough time to prepare. And, set a final reminder an hour before just in case you get in the zone and lose track of time.

15. Strike while the iron’s hot.

Earlier in my career, I was terrible at following-up with professional contacts. I’d meet people at an event and promise to keep in touch. But, because I didn’t schedule a meeting, I never did. Now, when I meet a contact, I share my schedule with them on the spot and schedule a follow-up with them.

The same is true of any event that you plan on attending. Whether if it’s meeting with clients, a dentist appointment, or conference, once booked add it immediately to your calendar. If not, you may accidentally schedule something else during the same date and time.

16. Stop playing the victim.

Growing up there was this older kid who got a kick out of being a bully. One day I finally had enough and stood up to him. Guess what? He never bothered me again.

I’m not suggesting physical violence here. I’m saying that you need to stop making excuses and stand up for yourself — especially when it comes to your time. If you can’t focus because your phone is constantly going off, then turn the thing off. If you feel like you’re stretched for time, then start saying “no” to time requests.

Heck, even if you do say “yes” you can always reclaim your time if the request seems like a waste. Just make sure to give adequate notice.

17. Change your view.

Did you know that online calendars offer multiple views? These include daily, weekly, or monthly. There are also more specific views like your work schedule or every two days. Find a view that works best for you.

Personally, I enjoy the one that displays every two days. It keeps me focused on today and helps plan for tomorrow. It also events me from getting distracted on what I need to do a week or so from now.

18. Set time limits on your tasks.

If you know that you only have an hour to clean out your inbox, update your social channels, and return a phone call, then you’ll be motivated to do all of these within that timeframe. If you give yourself too much time, then you’ll just goof around since you have too much time on your hands. It’s all thanks to that darn Parkinson’s Law.

I would track your time for more important tasks though. You certainly don’t want to under-or-overestimate how long these items take.

19. Eliminate back-to-back appointments.

Just because it’s acceptable in the business world to schedule back-to-back meetings doesn’t mean you have to. I would even go as far as to say that you should never book back-to-back appointments. The reason? It’s just going to end badly.

You need time in-between meetings to travel, prepare, or just decompress for five minutes. If you have any back-to-back appointments currently in your calendar, reschedule one of them immediately. And, going forward, always give yourself a buffer.

20. Revise your approach to meetings.

Speaking of meetings, you’re probably going about them all wrong. In most cases, meetings are unproductive. Even worse, they’re a blight on your schedule.

Only accept meetings that serve a purpose. If they don’t, find an alternative like a quick phone call or Slack message. If you must plan a meeting, keeping them short, invite-only key stakeholders, and stick to your agenda.

21. Keep your calendar or schedule visible.

We’re visual creates. So, it wouldn’t hurt to place your calendar where you can see it. It could be a giant wall-sized calendar or placed on your desktop. Now you’ll always have a visual reminder on what needs to get done today, tomorrow, or even next month.

22. Create titles that catch the eye.

Spice up your calendar by creating more helpful titles. Instead of ‘Meeting’ go with something like ‘Sales Pitch.” Also use color-coding, boldface, or different fonts for each title. It will make these important entries to stand out and will help you plan more accordingly.

23. Let AI do the hard work.

Artificial intelligence is here. And, it’s changing the world for the better.

Case in point, smart calendars. These calendars can track how you spend your time and analyze your activity in order to make recommendations on how you can better spend your time. These tools can then automatically add recurring events to your calendar.

24. Step back and take a big-picture view of your calendar.

Periodically, review your calendar. Make sure that it’s a current reflection of your priorities and is helping you achieve work-life balance. If not, then find out what items on your calendar can be delegated or dropped.

25. You do you.

Finally, in the immortal words of Jon Bon Jovi, “It’s my life. It’s now or never.”’

When it comes to your calendar and schedule, find the methods and tools that work best for you. It might take some trial and error. But, when you find a management system that suits you, stick with it.

How to Squeeze More Interviews Into Your Schedule

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Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is a phrase everyone in business has thought, if not said aloud.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, recruiter, sales leader, or another role entirely, interviews likely make up a good portion of your day. If you’re looking to make more time in your schedule, why not start with one of your biggest time commitments?

Here are some helpful hacks for fitting more interviews into your busy schedule:

1. Dig deeply into your goals.

As with any new personal or professional project, it’s important to first identify your objectives. If you’re an entrepreneur trying to find the right candidate for an open role, how long are you willing to wait to fill it? How many candidates do you want to meet before you make a decision?

Take your time with this. Hiring is not something to rush. The more narrowly defined your criteria and assumptions, the more satisfied you’ll be with the end result. Ask yourself:

  • How many rounds of interviews are required throughout the entire interview process (depending on the job position)?
  • What is the maximum number of candidates that can move forward to next-round interviews?
  • How long should interviews run to properly evaluate candidates for the position?
  • Do other executives need to be present? If so, can they fit these interviews into their schedules?

2. Determine availability digitally.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of interviewing is all the back-and-forth communication required to coordinate and confirm an available time slot for two or more parties. For internal meetings and interviews, be sure you’re using a consolidated digital calendar so you can see one another’s availability?

What about interviews with people outside the organization? Tools like Calendar simplify this by letting users embed their availability into their email messages. Calendar automatically prevents double-booking, just in case the interviewee selects a time that’s been taken. 

3. Account for interstitial time. 

Although it’s tempting to stack interviews one on top of another in order to maximize your time, avoid doing so. Allow for at least 5 minutes, and ideally 15, between each interview.

Interviews are unpredictable. You never know who will show up late or which interviews will go long. You don’t know what else might come up during the workday. Those buffer zones are a great time to catch up on email, take a break, or prepare for the next meeting. 

4. Learn to say “no.”

If you’re trying to fit more interviews into your schedule, you have to get better at refusing unnecessary meetings. Even a few meeting-happy clients can eat up hours of a workday that you may need to spend speaking with employees, candidates, or investors.

Just because you’re saying “no,” though, doesn’t mean you need to be rude about it. Do your best to help the person whose meeting you can’t take over email. Could you introduce them to someone else on the team who can handle the situation? If the client is insistent, could you suggest a shorter time slot or a different meeting time?

5. Automate what you can.

Sometimes, to have more time, you need to make more time. Besides refining your scheduling processes, it’s still a good idea to audit other tasks to see what can be handled via a digital automation tool.

Even if it’s something as simple as sending an automatic payment reminder, every little increment of saved time adds up. Email marketing, social media posting, sales follow ups, and even first-round interviews can be automated.

Interviewing takes time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t streamline the process. Use these tips to get more done, hire faster, and have more conversations. 

50 Calendar and Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs

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Don’t watch your time melt away. Many different factors can make or break you as an entrepreneur, but nothing is as important as being able to keep your time in check. If you feel that this is an area that needs improvement in your life, then you need to give the following 50 calendar, and productivity hacks a spin.

1. It’s all about prioritization.

Prioritization is the secret to both time and calendar management, as well as productivity. After all, if you don’t focus on your priorities, then you’ll end up spending the majority of your time on meaningless activities. Also, it provides structure to your days and keeps you organized.

As a general rule, your priorities are essential tasks that help you reach a goal. If you need help determining what these are, consider employing proven techniques like the 80/20 Rule, Eisenhower Matrix, or rocks, pebbles, and sand.

2. Conduct a time audit.

You can work a million different calendar and productivity hacks and still expect to fail if you don’t know how you’re truly spending your time. Keep a time log or use tools like RescueTime or Toggl to see how long it takes you to complete tasks or empty your inbox.

It’s only after this that you can adequately manage your calendar. As an example, if you realize that email and social media eats up two hours of your day, then you can take steps to rectify this problem, such as batching these tasks together, so you’re not checking them throughout the day.

More importantly, this will prevent you from over-or-underestimating how much time to set aside for specific. Before I did this, I would only leave myself an hour to write a blog post. In reality, I needed two. Because I underestimated this time, it threw a monkey wrench into the rest of my day.

3. Paper, electronic, or both?

Despite the amount of fabulous electronic calendars on the market, you may prefer to use a paper one. There’s nothing wrong with that. You shouldn’t be forced to use calendar software if it’s a hassle for you. Instead, use the type of calendar that you’re most comfortable with and learn how to get the most out of it.

Personally, I prefer combining both paper and electronic. I keep a paper calendar on my desk so that it’s visible at all times. But, I use a calendar app to add and manage my schedule — I can also easily access and share it with others.

4. Plan your schedule around energy levels.

Determine when you’re most focused and alert. Then go ahead and schedule more important responsibilities around those times. Save less essential items for productivity lulls. So, if you are most productive between 10 A.M. and noon, then that’s when you should put your most crucial tasks in your calendar.

5. Optimize notifications.

I personally feel that one of the best features regarding electronic calendars is the ability to receive notifications, such as deadlines or meetings. But, to get the most out of these, you need to go beyond the default settings.

For example, you wouldn’t want to receive a reminder at 2 P.M. when that’s the start time. Instead, a 24-hour notice, along with a 30-minute, would give you more than enough time to prepare for the event. What’s more, you can add notes and even a map so that everything you need is right there in your calendar.

6. Use color-coding for various schedules.

Color-coding is a simple and effective way to quickly view and manage all of these responsibilities you put in your calendar. I’m a fan of the chakra system. The chakra system is where each color aligns with a different energy point. So, since red represents security and safety, you would use it for any work-related task.

7. Schedule the time you actually need.

Scheduling the time your need isn’t about tracking your time. It’s about taking into consideration things like travel time. In other words, if you’re meeting with a client or investor for lunch at noon, and it takes you half an hour to get there, you’ll mark travel time as an event so that you don’t schedule anything else in that block.

8. Implement the Arrow Method.

The Arrow Method was developed by Nicholas Sonnenberg, Co-founder of Leverage, with the goal “to make your weekly calendar look like an arrowhead.” The arrowhead means that you essentially front-load your week with a lot of items on the calendar and then taper “out to a fine point at the end,” he explains on Inc.com.

For example, you could schedule all of your weekly meetings on Monday or Tuesday. Scheduling your Calendar this way leaves some leeway. When Friday rolls around, you don’t have as much in your calendar.

9. Pencil in time to do nothing.

Nothing may sound like a pipe dream — and it is. But, this is a practice that Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, has done for years. The reason? Blocking out 30- to 90-minutes in his calendar allows him to “process what was going on” around him and “just think.”

“At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have been using the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to,” Weiner wrote in a LinkedIn post. “But over time, I realized not only were these breaks important, but they were also absolutely necessary for me to do my job.”

“Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” Weiner added. “The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use.”

10. Plan “themed” days.

How do entrepreneurs like Jack Dorsey manage their jam-packed calendars? They organize their schedules by creating different theme days.

“All my days are themed,” Dorsey told Fast Company. “Monday is management. At Square, we have a directional meeting; at Twitter, we have our opcomm [operating committee] meeting. Tuesday is the product, engineering, and design. Wednesday is marketing, growth, and communications. Thursday is partnership and developers. Friday is a company and culture. It works in 24-hour blocks.”

“On days beginning with T, I start at Twitter in the morning, then go to Square in the afternoon. Sundays are for strategy, and I do a lot of job interviews. Saturday is a day off.”

11. Harness the power of technology.

Thanks to technology, how we use our calendars have become much more efficient. Pretty much every schedule allows you to add and manage calendar entries using your voice. It’s so much more convenient than continually typing this information out.

Additionally, intelligent calendars like Calendar are using artificial intelligence. As a result, it can analyze previous data to make smart suggestions on how to schedule your days. There are also powerful tools that allow you to automate mundane and repetitive tasks.

12. Design a zero-based calendar.

A zero-based calendar is where you schedule everything into your calendar. Scheduling everything sounds excessive. If you account for every second of the day — there aren’t any blank spaces in your calendar. Even if you plan that time to do nothing but think, this prevents other, pointless activities from creeping into that timeframe.

13. Convert to-do-lists into a to-do-schedule.

“A list is designed to be added to, so it can make it hard to feel satisfied if you’re adding as much as your checking off,” Pete Sveen writes on Think Entrepreneurship. “To remedy this, try turning your to-do list into a to-do schedule.”

One way to do this is by writing your to-do’s next to your scheduled appointments. “If I assign an actual time to a task, I am far more likely to actually get that task done,” adds Sveen. Even better, this can encourage you to be “more realistic about how much I can get done in a given time.”

14. Maker’s schedule, manager’s schedule.

The legendary Paul Graham shared this piece of wisdom all the back in 2009. But, it’s still just as valid today.

The gist is this, entrepreneurs should construct two different schedules, or plans, for each day of the week. The first would be a maker’s schedule. The marker is where you would spend either a half or full day on activities like building a product or solving a problem.

The second is the manager’s schedule. This schedule would include time blocks for meetings, marketing, and sales.

“When you use your time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone,” wrote Graham. “Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.”

15. Define dedicated hours for the critical things in your life.

This all about setting boundaries. Determine when it’s time to work and to play. Establish “business hours,” as well as when you’re not available. It’s the only way that you’ll achieve a healthy balance between your startup and life outside of your business.

16. Find your ideal view.

If you’re using a calendar app, you have the option to chose between daily, weekly, or monthly views. You can even customize these views by different periods or schedules, such as two-week views or work schedule.

Select the view that you prefer. Personally, I’m a “less is more” type of guy. So, I’ve set my view so that it only lists what’s in my calendar today. If I go beyond that, I tend to get distracted by what I need to get done in the future.

17. Create and share a master calendar.

A master calendar is your go-to since it contains your most important responsibilities at work and in life. That may sound like a cluttered mess. But, you don’t need to fill the calendar with minute entries like brushing your teeth. It should just include the biggies.

The benefit of this is that it prevents any scheduling conflicts since you can consult the calendar before committing to a time request. After creating your master calendar, share it with people like your family and assistant so that they can keep up with your busy schedule.

18. You can have then one calendar.

At the same time, you can still have several different calendars that capture the various aspects of your life. For example, a family calendar doesn’t need to be shared with your team. But, it can help keep your home life organized. You may also want to subscribe to different calendars like a holidays calendar. Working with a remote team overseas, this lets me know when they won’t be available.

You could also have an optional calendar. An optional calendar is where you add events you’re interested in if you have availability. For instance, there’s a networking event this Wednesday night. You didn’t plan on attending because you had a conference call with a client. But, they had to reschedule so now you can attend.

Having this optional calendar ensures that you always have a back-up plan. It may not sound significant. But, it provides a way so that you’re spending your time productively.

19. Get a head start on your year.

“If it doesn’t exist on my calendar, it’s not real,” Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec told Entrepreneur in 2016. That’s sound advice. But, how can you stay on top of your calendar, both personally and professionally, when you’re continually inputting new events and tasks?

“Plan as much as you can a year in advance and stick to it,” he said. For instance, he never missed any of his children’s school events. Not missing the critical events was possible because he met with his assistant and kid’s school counselor every September to go through and coordinate calendars.

20. Review your calendar for this week and next.

“Every Friday, review your calendar and ask yourself how you spent your time during the previous seven days,” suggests Bryan Collins in a piece for Forbes. “Then, look at the coming week and consider how you want to spend your time.”

“Make appointments if you need to and cancel irrelevant meetings if you can,” Bryan continues. “Consider how close the reality of the previous week’s calendar matches up with what you want next week’s calendar to look like.”

“You might lack full control over your working week, but you can probably find weeds you can pull or activities requiring two mornings of focused work instead of one.”

21. Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain.”

Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity hack to motivate him to write daily has been embraced for years. It was also highlighted in Cal Newport’s Deep Work and the Netflix movie Jerry Before Seinfeld.

It works like this. Get a calendar and place an X on it if he’s accomplished his goal of writing for the day. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it, and the chain will grow longer every day,” he told software developer Brad Issac. “You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

22. Plan for interruptions.

No matter how much you plan, interruptions are inevitable. One way around this is to leave some time blocks blank in your schedule so that you can shuffle things around if need be. Another option is to track these distractions so that you can identify when they’re most likely to occur.

23. Pump up the jams.

Music and white noise can help you focus — particularly if there’s distracting background noise when working. The catch is to listen to the right tunes. Ideally, this would be music without lyrics, such as classical music.

If you feel like you’re showcasing your vocal talents — singing while taking a shower is a great way to do this. Singing can boost your immune system, lower cortisol levels, and release endorphins.

24. The “2-minute rule.”

Populated by David Allen, the man behind Getting Things Done, this simply means that if a task takes under two minutes, you should just do it. “Just do it” (just like Nike), prevents you from getting log-jammed with a series of menial tasks. Zipping through a ton of jobs may give you the nudge to get in the zone.

25. Pressure pushing down on me.

You don’t want to stress yourself out too much. It’s not good for your health or productivity to lot yourself with pressure until you crack. Scheduling in self-care is essential for mass-productivity. If you feel like you’re procrastinating, a little pressure can motivate you to buckle down. For example, if you have two hours to complete a task, cut that back to one hour so that you’ll be forced to tackle it right now. It will also help you remain focused.

26. Focus on just-time-learning.

“As an entrepreneur, you have to learn many new things to get a clear understanding of all your business operations and dynamics,” explain the folks over at Week Plan.

“It requires a specific time to get all these critical data, and you have to search for different platforms for it like searching on blogs, watching videos, and more.” To address, try out Just-Time-Learning.

This concept “originated from the manufacturing industry and more specifically by Toyota.” This approach calls for working on a task and only researching when it’s required. The work with no research plan helps “to ensure that you don’t waste your time on unnecessary research. Rather, you’ll focus your efforts only on essential research.”

27. Master the art of delegation and outsourcing.

No surprise here. Learning what and how to delegate and outsource frees up your schedule so that you can spend more time on what really matters.

28. Use site blockers.

When you’re plugged in all day, like so many of us are, you’re bound to get distracted by the endless amount of content online. To counter this, consider installing a website blocker. These are simply tools, such as StayFocused and Freedom, that prevent you from getting distracted by your favorite sites.

29. Ease into your mornings.

How do you wake-up each morning? Many of us hear the alarm and instinctively grab our phones. Next thing you know, you’re wasting mental energy responding to emails. Worse, you may lie in bed for an extended time watching YouTube videos.

For most of us, we’re most productive in the morning. So, instead of getting sucked into your phones, spend time building up your energy for the day by jotting down your goals, exercising, and taking a quick, tepid shower.

30. Closeout tasks.

“Even if a task doesn’t have a deadline (but you need to get it done), tackle it in one or two sessions rather than returning repeatedly,” Andrew Fayad from eLearning Mind told Inc.com. “Jumping tasks and returning to something multiple times requires a repeated mental ramp.”

31. Create and use templates.

Templates are mostly “fill-in-the-blank” documents. You can either create them from scratch or download one online. Whatever you chose, these will save you time since you aren’t always creating calendars, invoices, or email/social media updates.

32. Filter ideas.

“Steve Jobs was known for being somewhat brutal in his approach to management and leadership, intolerant of bad ideas and demanding of his employees — but he got results,” writes Jayson DeMers in a previous Entrepreneur article. “One of his most important productivity hacks was filtering out everything that wasn’t a top-notch idea; on corporate retreats, Jobs was known to collect a list of 100 ideas from his top executives on how Apple could improve in the next year.”

Jobs would immediately cross “out anything he thought was dumb, then kept crossing things out until he had a ‘top 10’ list.” He then whittled these down to three “and used those three as the focus for the company for the next year. Only three percent of ideas were worth spending time on, from his perspective.”

33. Learn keyboard shortcuts.

Whether you’re using Calendar, Google Calendar, Apple, or Outlook, every primary calendar has keyboard shortcuts that allow you to edit and manage your Calendar quickly. Each platform has different shortcuts. You’ll want to learn the shortcuts for your calendar before making the most out of this very productive hack.

34. Stop compromising.

“When we work in teams, especially among co-founding team members, we occasionally compromise to keep things going smoothly,” explains Praveen Chandran on Startup Grind. “We accept tasks without analyzing the ‘why’ and the ‘when?’ Accepting a task or scheduling meetings just because a co-founding team member said so, results in wasted time and effort.”

“Even if a co-founder gives a suggestion, it never hurts to have a discussion on the purpose or the timing of the task in a respectful way,” recommends Chandran. “Such discussions set a nice rhythm with your co-founding team in prioritizing things in the future.”

35. Reserve brainpower.

Ever wonder why entrepreneurs, like Mark Zuckerberg, always wore the same outfits. A part of it was to build their brand. But, it’s also to save time and prevent decision fatigue.

Preparing the night before, like laying out your clothes and packing your lunch, is one way around this. Another tactic is to make decisions on less important matters, like where to order lunch, by going with the first thing that pops in your head.

36. Work from home.

While there are distractions you most overcome when working from home, there are also some perks. The most obvious is that you eliminate the time spent on your daily commute. However, Brittany Hodak from ZinePak tells Business.com that this is “a great opportunity to disengage from the day-to-day tasks at the office and spend time thinking strategically about big-picture opportunities without the regular interruptions that come from working in an office with a larger team. It’s made a huge difference in my productivity.”

37. Upgrade your work environment.

You can try as many hacks as you want. If your workspace isn’t optimized, it’s going to be almost impossible for you to get into a state of flow. Make sure that your space is comfortable and free of clutter. Also, consider factors like the temperature, lighting, and the colors of your walls.

38. Give yourself a break.

You can’t bulldog through all of your calendar entries. Everyone needs frequent breaks throughout the day to clear their heads and unwind. Using the Pomodoro Technique is a popular way to encourage you to take a breather. And, you may also want to think about going on a much-needed vacation if you feel burned out.

39. Come on and get happy.

When you’re in a better mood, you tend to be more productive. One study shows that happy employees are 20 percent more productive than their unhappy colleagues. Ask yourself, “how can you turn that frown upside down?” Surround yourself with more optimistic people — those who watch for opportunities to do something nice for each other. or watch a funny YouTube clip.

40. Stop neglecting your health.

How alert, focused, and energetic do you think you’ll be if you eat like crap, don’t exercise, or hardly get enough sleep? The same is true if you always feel stressed and anxious. Stop putting your mental and physical health on the back burner and start making it a priority today.

41. Turn off electronic notifications.

It’s hard to maintain your attention on something important when it seems like your phone is going to explode. When in deep work, either turn your phone off or silence notification like email, social media, and text message.

42. Batch smartphone notifications.

But, what if there’s an emergency or you’re missing out on something important? Those thoughts are probably running through your head as you try to work. Researchers have found that the solution is batching smartphone notifications three times a day — when you arrive at work, during lunch, and when heading home.

43. Unsubscribe and unfollow.

Go through your social accounts and emails and see which ones no longer serve a purpose. Then, unsubscribe and unfollow them — tools like Unroll.me can do this for you. It’s one of the simplest ways to clean up your feeds and inbox and regain some of your time.

44. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Stop spending time on developing the perfect solution. It doesn’t exist. Besides, the longer you spend on making something different, it will already be obsolete. Do your best and make the appropriate adjustments as you go along.

45. Keep messages short and concise.

Whether if it’s an email, phone call, Slack message, or meeting agenda, don’t waste everyone’s time on lengthy messages. Keep them short and concise so that everyone can move on. You can go into more detail either at another time or through a different medium like a Word document.

46. Stop being passive.

You just sent an email to your partner asking if they can meet for lunch next week. You don’t hear back from them after a couple of days. Even though you don’t want to be a nag, you can’t sit there and wait for them to respond. Reach out again so that you don’t leave this slot open.

Remember, your time is your most valuable resource. You need to protect it so that there aren’t too many white spaces in your calendar.

47. Don’t use complicated project trackers.

Over the years, I’ve tried several different tools that tracked the progress my team was making on a project. Some of these were so complex and detailed that I spent more time inputting data than actually working on my part of the project. Sometimes all you need is a notepad or spreadsheet to keep tabs on what you and your team are working on.

48. Rethink your approach to meetings.

While essential, meetings are one of the biggest time wasters within your organization. Before scheduling a meeting, ask if the session is necessary. You may find that an alternative, like email, collaboration apps, online chats, or Wikis, is more effective.

If a meeting is needed, only invite key stakeholders and keep it as short as possible — 20 to 45 minutes should suffice. Don’t forget to prepare and send an agenda in advance so that invitees can prepare. And, don’t let participants get distracted. Ask them to their phones at their desks and only discuss the topics that are on the agenda.

49. Raise the bar.

Set an example for your team by continuing to seek opportunities for growth and development. Work with coaches and mentors. And, encourage habits like being respectful of other people’s time off — this means not contacting them at all hours of the night. Keeping office hours lets your team know that this is a culture where time management is encouraged.

50. Build your village.

If you’re at least somewhat familiar with Batman, then you know that he prides himself on being a loner. However, there are times when he needs the assistance of Alfred, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and the Justice League. In other words, Mr. Wayne has a team around him when needed.

For you to get everything done and maintain your sanity, you also need to surround yourself with your allies. Your allies mean everyone from partners and employees who will pick up the slack when needed, as well as those outsides of work that you can depend on, such as cleaners, babysitters, accountants, attorneys, etc. It’s much easier to have these people in your circle, as opposed to frantically finding them when needed.

The Science Behind Procrastination and How You’ll Beat It

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I had every intention to crank this article out immediately following my morning routine. Already had the material put together in an outline, and I’d put it in my calendar to-do-list. I kept dragging my feet on writing the piece all morning. Even worse, while I’m usually a pro at blocking out distractions, I was more than willing to get a fantastic amount of work done quickly. This action is my favorite procrastination mojo — catch up and fix problematic back issues that are driving my team or me crazy. What’s the science behind procrastination and how you’ll beat it?

What’s going on here? Obviously — this is my go-to for procrastinating — something that everyone struggles with at some point. But you’ll want to figure out and know yourself well enough to answer this question precisely, “what is my procrastination mojo.”

Joseph Ferrari is a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. Ferrari is the author of Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done. Dr. Ferrari claims that “roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators.” But, the statement by Ferrari begs the question, Why do we procrastinate, and what can we do to topple it?

What exactly is procrastination?

Before answering the questions above, let’s quickly define procrastination. And, let’s go over why what it’s such a big deal. If you conducted a search inquiry for “procrastination definition,” the first result is probably this: the action of delaying or postponing something. As pointed out by Piers Steel Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article, “if procrastination means simply delay — then we should be comfortable placing it along with the similar concepts of scheduling or prioritizing.”

However, being comfortable with placing procrastination in blocks alongside related issues is generally not the case. For example, your flight is delayed due to inclement weather. A delayed flight — and the weather are both issues entirely out of your control.  These matters occur and cannot be interpreted as you being “lazy” or “unmotivated” in any way. Timothy Pychyl says that “all procrastination is a delay, but not all delay is procrastination.”

If all procrastination is a delay — to me, that makes procrastination a unique type of postponement — since we often recognize the negative consequences. A better definition might be the one found in UPMC HealthBeat. The site describes procrastination as “the avoidance of work or necessary tasks by focusing on more satisfying activities that are due to a chemical in the brain.

Procrastination boils down to a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex,” further explains UPMC HealthBeat. “The limbic system is a set of brain structures containing the pleasure center, while the prefrontal cortex controls planning and decision making.” Since the prefrontal cortex isn’t as “developed and thus weaker, so often the limbic system wins out, leading to procrastination.”

The effects of procrastination.

Sometimes the argument going on between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you may choose to delay doing something because it’s the best idea at the time. For example, I wasn’t going to write this article until I was more focused — I didn’t want to write a half-hearted piece.

Others who have embraced procrastination have claimed that they make better decisions, provides insights, and sparks creativity. Sometimes structured procrastination can help you get more done and eliminate unnecessary tasks. At the same time, chronic procrastination should be avoided. Restraining yourself from procrastination is because practicing poor habits can become — well — habits. Patterns have severe consequences, and you don’t want the habits that will harm you.

The most apparent negative impact would be missing deadlines. For instance, not filing your taxes on time, failing to submit a project by the due date, or waiting to buy a birthday present for your spouse at the last minute. All of these actions and non-actions will affect your career and personal life. As a result, poor-action habits can damage relationships and put your health in jeopardy.

Science Behind Procrastination: The Different types of procrastination.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what procrastination is and what impact — for good or not-so-good — this action will have in your life. Keep in mind, non-action is still an action. If you have made a decision and taken the “action of not acting” — there will always be a consequence.

Now it’s time to figure out which type of procrastinator you are so that you can get to the bottom of why you’re not getting things done. Or you’ll want to know why you are doing other things instead of making a plan and working the plan. According to psychologist Neil Fiore, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self, there are five common types of procrastinators:

  • The Perfectionist.

    Perhaps the most common kind of procrastinator who strives for the best and is their own worst critic because they don’t want to be embarrassed. “They may spend too much time on one component of a project, failing to manage their time properly. Or, they avoid the project altogether, then rush to finish it at the last minute,” writes Fast Company‘s, Gwen Moran.

  • The Imposter.

    “Afraid of being revealed as unqualified or inferior, this procrastinator puts off doing anything to avoid that risk,” adds Moran. “Often, this type of procrastinator has learned to feel like an imposter when they are surrounded by people who are difficult to please.”

  • The Dread-Filled.

    Out of all the different types of procrastination, this person is the most rational. After all, when you can’t stand what you’re doing — it’s almost impossible to find the motivation to get started.

  • The Overwhelmed.

    The overwhelmed individual is a more contemporary type of procrastinator and one that I feel a lot of entrepreneurs fall into this category. “Sometimes, there’s just too much to do, and it’s hard to figure out where to start—so we don’t do anything,” Fiore explains and is quoted by Moran.

  • The Lucky One.

    “Some people believe they do their best work under pressure, so they procrastinate until their back is up against the wall,” Nicole Bandes, founder of the consultancy the Productivity Expert,” told Moran. “If they have a history of doing this without consequence, they’ve essentially been rewarded for procrastinating.”

What drives procrastination.

We’ve briefly gone over why some people put off getting around to specific tasks. But, let’s dive a little deeper here. For starters, as Ishan Daftardar explains on Science ABC, as humans are simply wired and driven toward procrastination. “We can picture this whole process as a fight that has been sparked between two parts of the mind when it’s faced with a tedious task: a battle of the limbic system (the unconscious zone that includes the pleasure center) and the prefrontal cortex (the internal “planner”).”

“When the limbic system dominates,” continues Daftardar, “the result is putting off until tomorrow what could (and should) be done today.” Simply put, procrastination “all comes down to one simple thing – the wiring of your brain.” It should also be noted that the limbic system is one of the most dominant parts of the brain. It also controls mood and instinct.

An “instinct” means that emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, insecurity, and pleasure are all a part of this vital system. If emotions and instincts tie into procrastination, it’s easy to see that if you have to do something painful or stressful this system will urge you to stay away from it. Your instincts or emotions may be telling you something like, “danger, too much work,” when if fact, there would be less work if you just hurry and get the work done.

But you already know that emotions often have something irrational going on — somewhat like a “history program” running an app in the background of your mind. The old “history program app” is going to serve-you-up images, maybe even sound, to the weaker portion in your brain — the prefrontal cortex. “The prefrontal cortex (as we’ve just read), “is where you assimilate information and make decisions, says Daftardar. “The prefrontal cortex is what eventually forces us to complete a job or task.”

However, it takes some effort on your part to get the job done because the prefrontal cortex doesn’t work automatically. The reason behind this fact is that the limbic system takes control whenever we don’t succeed at a particular task. As a consequence, “you become more interested in doing something else that pleases you,” adds Daftardar.

Don’t forget about the amygdala.

There’s also the amygdala in there competing for attention. This “is the section of the brain associated with our automatic emotional reaction to a situation.” Whenever we feel stressed or overwhelmed, such as when having to tackle a challenging activity, a fight (resistance) or flight (ignore) reaction kicks into play.

“Both are forms of procrastination  — the brain is protecting us against possible negative feelings,” concludes Daftardar. “The norepinephrine chemical takes over, causing increased levels of fear and anxiety. That’s when adrenaline gets pumped into the picture.”

Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, has a much more straightforward explanation in the New York Times. “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” Is this statement by Dr. Pychyl is true? I hate to think it’s true — but anything to do with how you get your business accomplished each day — and how you face the demands of making a living — bears taking a close look.

Here are other reasons why you might procrastinate.

There are, of course, more specific reasons why people procrastinate. For example, technology has changed our cognitive control thanks to frequent buzzings throughout the day. In other words, all of those notifications on your smartphone are diverting your attention.

Another reason is that we have difficulty visualizing our future selves. According to a study conducted by psychologists Neil Lewis of the University of Michigan and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California, “when people viewed distant events as days, instead of months or years, they took action more quickly.”

Pamela D. Garcy Ph.D. adds that procrastination can be caused by:

  • A lack of self-compassion.
  • Learning this habit from role models like your parents.
  • Believing that you can’t effectively complete a task.
  • Being bias towards a specific task.
  • Underestimating how long it takes you to get something done.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Feeling physically or psychologically uncomfortable.

Finally, avoiding anything that has negative associations is rewarding. “Our brains are always looking for relative rewards. If we have a habit loop around procrastination but we haven’t found a better reward, our brain is just going to keep doing it over and over until we give it something better to do,” psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, told the New York Times.

How can you overcome procrastination?

You can’t tell yourself to you snap out of it. Sometimes it requires you to do some rewiring of your habits. Dr. Brewer recommends that you give your brain a “Bigger Better Offer” or (B.B.O.).” What the BBO is saying, is get a reward for yourself that’s more substantial than the avoidance is giving your brain.

Forgive yourself quickly whenever you dilly dally. Other times you can stop procrastinating by merely establishing goals and routine. And, if that doesn’t work, then you should also try out the following techniques to overcome procrastination once and for all.

Awareness.

According to Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the first steps to overcoming procrastination is to understand the reasons why you procrastinate:

“As with most problems, awareness and self-knowledge are the keys to figuring out how to stop procrastinating. For a lot of people acquiring this insight about how procrastination protects them from feeling like they are not able enough, and keeping it in mind when they are tempted to fall into familiar, unproductive, procrastinating habits goes a long way to solving the problem.”

After you’ve identified the root cause of procrastination, you can begin to take action. You may actually discover that it doesn’t take a whole lot to stop procrastinating. For instance, you may only need to change your environment, set deadlines, eliminate common distractions, or try telling others about your goals.

Do the worst thing first.

“We have a limited, depletable supply of willpower and resources,” says Piers Steel, Ph.D., a professor of human resources and organizational dynamics at the University of Calgary. Steel is the author of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done. To counter this depletable supply of willpower, tackle your most challenging or heinous task first thing in the morning when you have the most energy.

Mindful training.

You will usually procrastinate because you feel anxious or overwhelmed. One of the best ways to combat this is through mindfulness. “Research has already shown that mindfulness meditation is related to amygdala shrinkage, expansion of the pre-frontal cortex, and a weakening of the connection between these two areas.” This statement was said by Prof Tim Pychyl from Carleton University to the BBC. Apps like Calm or Headspace can help you get started in becoming more mindful.

Get rid of catastrophizing.

“One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is because they catastrophize, or make a huge deal out of something,” writes Elizabeth Lombardo Ph.D. for Psychology Today. “It may be related to how tough, how boring, or how painful it will be to complete the task; whatever the case, the underlying theme is that doing the task will be ‘unbearable.’”

“In reality, challenges, boredom, and hard work will not kill you — or even make you sick,” adds Lombardo. “Procrastination, on the other hand, is associated with stress. Think of the stress you feel when you avoid making a phone call you know you need to make.” The solution then is to “keep things in perspective and assuring yourself that you can “get through it.”

Use the five-minute rule.

“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” says Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” This strategy of “just starting” works for a couple of reasons. The first is that it encourages us to break down larger goals into more manageable pieces. The second is because of a psychological phenomenon called the Zeignarik Effect. This “effect” means that you have the tendency to remember unfinished tasks. So, in theory, if you start something, it will stick with you until it’s completed.

Practice self-compassion.

Research has found that self-forgiveness is one of the best cures for procrastination. Sounds simple? Not really. But, the sooner you forgive yourself and move on from past procrastination, the more likely you’ll experience any further delays.

Change your thinking.

“You may be procrastinating because you feel that you’re being forced by someone else to perform a task that you don’t want to do,” writes entrepreneur and lawyer Marelisa Fabrega. For example, you may feel like your co-founder is manipulating you in fixing a bug on your app. Obviously, you don’t like feeling this way — so you do everything but fix the bug issue. To get around this propensity inside yourself — start telling yourself that you choose to fix the app instead of believing that you have to.

Use your calendar.

“Put the tasks you need to do in your calendar — and commit yourself to get them done,” suggests Paul Petrone in a LinkedIn post. “The act of writing things down (as well as the satisfaction of crossing them off your list) will increase the chances you’ll do them on schedule.”

 

How to Schedule Your Day for Optimal Productivity

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Schedule

Introduction

We all have the same twenty-four hours each day. So why do successful people get so much done in their twenty-four hours while others struggle to accomplish the tasks on a basic to-do list?

One answer is time management. Many people have trouble using their time efficiently throughout the day. But if that’s you, don’t worry. By using productivity tips and creating and sticking to an efficient daily schedule, you can do more and do better every single day.

Why Scheduling Your Day is Important

How to Schedule Your Day

Types of Scheduling Techniques

Why Scheduling Your Day is Important

Time is a finite resource for all of us. Leaving your limited number of days and hours up to chance is not responsible resource management. Instead, use a schedule and reap the rewards:

  • Reduce Wasted Time: Unless you’re putting “Spend 2 hours on Social Media and Video games” on your daily schedule, then using your schedule keeps you from wasting time on things that aren’t on the agenda.
  • Increase Happiness: Even science agrees. Following a schedule makes you happier!
  • Improve Productivity: You get more done when you follow a schedule.
  • Reduce Stress: Scheduling creates more certainty which reduces stress–and that improves health. Win-win!
  • Facilitate Collaboration: Anytime you’re working with a team, a schedule keeps you all on the same page in the same place at the same time.

How to Schedule Your Day

It’s clear that scheduling your day is valuable. However, you can’t just throw stuff onto your Cute Kittens calendar and hope for a productive life.

Instead, you need a strategy so you can schedule for productivity and get the important work done efficiently. Here are some guiding principles to help you use a schedule for efficient days.

1)    Define Your Why

Let’s face it. Not everything we do in a day is fun. There are definitely tasks we simply don’t want to do. We can rely on grit and determination to power through, but that can sap energy. Instead, find internal motivation by defining your why.

Everyone’s why is different, but it’s the meaning and purpose behind everything we do. This concept was popularized by Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why. Sinek demonstrates that “why” can truly motivate individuals and businesses to reach their goals.

Your why should be bigger than “Because I have to,” or “Because someone told me to.” For an individual, there why might be to provide a safe and happy life for their children. For businesses, a why might look more like, “To help people succeed.”

Then, everything you do as a person or as a company should be in service to that why.

2)    Set Priorities

There are literally millions of ways you could spend each day. And you can’t do everything. Without priorities, you may find yourself spending time on tasks that don’t get you anywhere. And if you’re a team leader or manager, you want to set priorities for your team so they know what’s important, too.

So you have to figure out what you really need to get done in order to achieve your goals in service to your why.  First, write down everything you can think of. Then eliminate anything not related to your why. Then put your priorities in order of importance.

Having a direction to go in is just as important as going. A journey without a destination might be interesting, but without a destination in mind, who knows where you’ll end up.

3)    Estimate How Long A Task Will Take

Once you’ve figured out what you need to do, figure out how long it will take. And we’re not talking about how long it will take in fantasy land. You need to know how long it really takes you to do the thing.

One of the most common scheduling mistakes people make is not correctly estimating how long a task or project will take. “If you over-or-underestimate on how long this will actually take, you’re more likely to throw your entire schedule off. Even worse, you may miss a deadline or waste valuable time for you and key stakeholders like employees and customers.”

So, you need to get real with yourself and encourage your team to do the same. Take a week or two and track your time. How long does it take you to write 1,000 words or answer emails? Then, you can plan your schedule realistically, improving your chances of success.

4)    Work Smarter, Not Harder

Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Work Week is onto something. In the age of hustle, sometimes we feel like we have to go go go all the time. But what if we used our time in such a way that allowed us to work less? Then we’d be onto something, too.

Ferriss advocates a work smarter strategy using systems that make it “impossible to misbehave.” Then he doesn’t have to rely on the finite resource of willpower. So, establishing productive systems is a key step for Ferriss.

Other ways to work smarter involve identifying your most productive times of the day and then scheduling key tasks for that time period. For many of us, energy levels are highest in the morning. However, if you’re a true night owl, feel free to take advantage of that time to get things done.

You also need to be strategic. Yes, there are many ways to reach your goal. When choosing which path to take, factor in the risk-benefit of what you’re doing. You could cold call 100 people and get one yes. Or you could cold call the right ten people for the same benefit.

Types of Scheduling Techniques

There’s no one size fits all solution to creating the most productive schedule. But these scheduling techniques can help you along your path.

1)    Create a Productive Morning Routine

Start your day off right with a morning routine that reinforces productivity.

According to Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, “How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days.”

Elrond turned his life around by waking at 5 in the morning to spend time in silence, meditating, reading, and exercising. This set the tone for his days and he was able to pull himself out from under crushing debt and achieve new levels of success.

Your perfect morning might look different than Elrond’s, but it makes sense to set aside time early each day to determine the course of the rest of the day.

2)    Avoid Task Switching

Multi-tasking may seem efficient. After all, you’re getting more done at once, right? Wrong. In fact, although you’re doing more at once, you aren’t truly getting more done. You’re getting less done.

In fact, the true cost of multi-tasking can be up to 40% of your productivity. Each time you move between tasks, it takes your brain time to switch. Additionally, people are more prone to mistakes when task switching. And the more complex the task, the bigger the losses.

So, it makes sense to do only one thing at a time. This allows you to truly focus on what you are doing. Then you can do it more efficiently.

When you’re scheduling your day, avoid task switching if possible. Give yourself enough time to complete tasks at one go. Oh, and when you’re doing it? Don’t check your email.

3)    Batch Tasks & Block Scheduling

We’ve seen how task switching can impact productivity. However, we all have more than one thing to do in a day. So you can minimize the effect of the task switching by batching tasks and using block scheduling.

You can define “like tasks” in many ways. But the key is that the tasks should have a unifying feature that makes them more efficient when done together. Think about running errands. It makes more sense to go everywhere in a certain geographic location.

Similarly, you can batch tasks in terms of the mindset required to do them. For example, administrative tasks take one kind of mindset, but creative tasks like writing a blog post or debugging code require something entirely different. But grouping tasks by mindset, you can reduce the impact of totally switching gears.

Elon Musk famously uses task batching to make sure he gets everything done for his business and still spend time with his family. Task batching is the process of scheduling like tasks together so you can do them more efficiently.

4)    Expect the Unexpected

You can’t predict the future, but you can be pretty sure that something unexpected will happen at some point. You don’t know what it is or when it’s coming, but it’s out there. And a productive schedule will take that into account.

It’s probably happened to you. You identified your why and created your priorities and tasks. You scheduled the key tasks into your most productive time. You were a productivity rock star.

Then suddenly, an emergency comes up. You push everything to the side to address this urgent task. Your efficient schedule dies a painful death.

It doesn’t have to be an urgent project, either. It could be a sick kid keeping a team member home. It could be a weather emergency keeping everyone home. It could be unexpected server downtime slowing everyone’s pace. The little things can kill productivity just as effectively as the big things. And frankly, they are more common.

Just like it’s smart money management to have an emergency savings fund, you should also have an emergency time fund. Of course, you can’t stockpile time, but you can build a time cushion into your schedule. That way when the unexpected comes up, you’re ready.

5)    Leverage Technology

Technology is really good at scheduling. After all, on a basic level, a schedule is just a spreadsheet. But scheduling technology can go way beyond a simple grid.

Tools like Google calendar help you schedule recurring tasks, color code tasks, set reminders, and even share calendars among teams. All of these increase the efficiency of your schedule. Plus they keep you from forgetting that client meeting.

However, you can also do so much more. Use an iPhone app to access your calendar on the go. Eliminate the back and forth phone calls and emails to schedule meetings by allowing others to schedule meetings right in your calendar.

The possibilities are endless!

6)    Paper Planners, Bullet Journals, & To-Do Lists

As good as technology is at upping your scheduling game, don’t discount the value of paper in this digital world.  Paper planners, bullet journals, to-do lists and other analog tools can be just as useful.

In fact, planner industry leader Erin Condren’s Lifeplanner received the Good Housekeeping seal of approval as a productivity tool. And notebook systems like Ryder XXX Bullet Journal are also trending as productivity tools.

Of course, nothing beats a good, old-fashioned to-do list for keeping individuals on track. Writing things down saves you the trouble of remembering them. And the reward of crossing things off your list can be highly motivational.

7)    Eat the Frog

According to Mark Twain, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Using this logic, one scheduling method is to put the most difficult, most important tasks first. And if you have more than one such task, you should do the harder one before the easier ones.

To use this method, you must be able to identify your key priority for the day. Ultimately, priority should be singular, since we can’t do two things at once. (See Task Switching!)

The more difficult tasks are often the most prone to procrastination. After all, most of us really don’t want to eat a frog. So doing them first thing in the morning keeps you from pushing them off all day. Plus once they’re done, you have the free time to do more fun tasks.

8)    Evaluate and Pivot

Scheduling for productivity can be a moving target. And you may have a perfect schedule but So take time to assess the results of your efforts. Are you and your team being truly productive people?

Here are some key questions to ask yourself and your team to evaluate the effectiveness of your schedule:

  • Are you meeting deadlines?
  • Were time estimates correct?
  • Did unforeseen issues interfere with timelines?
  • Did you feel under the pressure of the clock?
  • Did our meeting schedule work?

Once you’ve gathered your data, you can make informed decisions about where to go from here. Missed deadlines may indicate poor time budgeting, a problem that is easily solved in the next month, sprint, or quarter. Extraneous meetings can be eliminated. More padding can be added to accommodate unforeseen issues.

Conclusion

There are so many tricks and tools for creative productive schedules that really work in the workplace and at home. If you aren’t giving them a try, you may be throwing money out the window. And we can’t think of anything less productive than that!

What are your best productivity tips and routines?

How to Create and Manage a Team Calendar at Your Startup

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Team schedule

If you want to keep everything running smoothly at your startup, then you need to live by a team calendar. After all, a shared calendar improves communication and efficiency, balances out assignments, and boosts productivity. Oh yeah, your team calendar is also ideal for startups since they make long and hectic days more organized and manageable. Here’s how to create and manage a team calendar at your startup.

Specifically, team calendars are used for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Reminding everyone of deadlines and due dates.
  • Scheduling meetings, client calls, one-on-ones, and work schedules.
  • Notifying others when you’re available or busy.
  • Mapping out projects, such as a content schedule.
  • Tracking the progress of a project.

That’s just scratching the surface. But, as you can see, a calendar doesn’t just keep your team on the same page. It also creates accountability and keeps them focused on their priorities.

However, the only way that your team will receive these benefits is by adequately creating and managing a team calendar from the get-go. And, here are the best ways to get you started.

1. Find and use a cloud-based calendar app.

The first step is to find a calendar tool for your startup. Of course, this depends on what you actually need in terms of a calendar. But, at the minimum, it should be easy to use, shareable, and fits within your budget.

Here are some of the more popular options you can look into:

  • Google Calendar. It’s free, straightforward, and can be used for scheduling meetings and reminding your team of important milestones. You can also create your own calendar templates using Docs or Sheets.
  • Microsoft Outlook. This is a little more complicated, but most people are familiar with it. It’s perfect for generating schedules and agendas. Also, you can design your own template with Excel.
  • Apple Calendar. A very easy-to-use calendar if you and your team rely on Apple products.

Besides the “big three,” you may want to look into some other options. For example, TeamUp and Teamweek are calendars explicitly built for keeping teams organized. Project management software that helps organizational efforts are Trello and Wrike.

Also, make sure that whatever online calendar you use can be synched with other tools. Calendar, as an example, syncs with your existing Google, Outlook, or Apple calendars so that you can schedules events with your team. Since it uses machine learning, Calendar can also make smart suggestions on scheduling your next meeting.

2. Assign a calendar keeper.

After you’ve chosen your calendar app, make sure that only one person is in charge of it — this can be either you or an assistant. If you have too many people adding and editing entries, then your calendar is going to become one hot mess. With so many people adjusting the calendar, it’s going to become cluttered and full of scheduling conflicts.

Obviously, you want your team calendar to be collaborative and inclusive. But, that doesn’ mean that everyone should have the power to make changes to the calendar. Instead, it should go through the calendar keeper first to keep it clean and organized.

3. Customize your calendar.

Perhaps one of the best things about online calendars is that they can be customized. For instance, you can create as many calendars as you like, like one for tasks related to a project, another for meetings, and another for when employees are on vacation. You can then color-code each calendar so that they’re easily differentiated.

Additionally, you can change how and when reminders are received. For instance, you could turn off desktop notifications to reduce distractions. Also, you can determine when to send reminders out, like 15-minutes before the start of a meeting.

4. Add non-negotiable items.

These may not be precisely the same for you and your team. A non-negotiable item would include items that are essential such as a project due date or an in-house client meeting. These could consist of essential appointments, predetermined meetings, and daily activities that help reach a goal.

Placing these items into your team’s calendar ensures that something less important won’t steal any valuable time from your startup. However, the sooner you insert them, the better. This way, when someone tries to schedule another activity during this timeframe, it’s already blocked out.

5. Determine your team’s peak productivity.

We all have different times when we’re most productive thanks to our natural rhythms. But, researchers have found that a majority of us are most productive before lunch. So, what does that mean for your team as a whole?

You’ll want to schedule your most essential tasks when everyone is alert and focused early in the morning. You would block out this time for everyone to work undistributed, as opposed to having them sit in a meeting. You would then plan for less critical work to be scheduled during productivity slumps. Productivity changes during different times of the year, as well. Calendar your most vital issues early in the year — like January and February. Keep in mind productive months like October and the not-so-much months of summer.

To find out when you and your team are at peak productivity, have everyone track their time to see how it’s being spent. You can then review the data. Or, you can issue polls or surveys to find this information out.

6. Stagger employee schedules.

While this may sound like a lot of work up front, this allows for more flexible scheduling so that you’re never under-or-overstaffed. It also allows you to plan accordingly. For example, if your entire team asks for the same time off during the summer or the holiday season, then you won’t have anyone available to work. However, with a team calendar, people can view when other’s have planned a vacation so that they can select a different time to getaway.

7. Include time buffers and blank spaces.

Unlike the Engineer Bunny, humans can’t keep going and going. We need to take breaks throughout the day to clear our heads and prepare for what we have planned next. To account for this, schedule time buffers and white in your calendar.

For example, don’t plan back-to-back meetings. Leave 30-minutes before each event so that everyone can digest what was just discussed, grab something to eat, and prep for the next meeting. Also, leaving chunks of time free gives your calendar a little more flexibility in case your schedule shifts because of an emergency.

8. Consider synching personal calendars.

Synching doesn’t mean forcing your team to share every detail of their private lives. But, it does let everyone see when they’re free or busy. For instance, if a colleague is traveling to meet a client for lunch, then the rest of your startup will know that this person is unavailable during this timeframe.

Also, it can come in handy when someone plans a vacation. Again, you don’t need to know the specifics. But, at least everyone will know when this person is out of town and when they’ll return.

9. Don’t forget about the holidays and time zones.

As remote teams are becoming increasingly popular, time zones are definitely something that you should be aware of. It may be 3 P.M. for you, which is an excellent time for a meeting, but for some of your team, it could be noon, meaning that they’ll have to skip lunch.

Furthermore, if working with an overseas team, they may have a national holiday where they request off. As such, you don’t want to plan a meeting or due date for that day.

10. Toss out everything you thought you knew about meetings.

Having a meeting for the sake of doing so doesn’t just harm productivity. It can also kill morale. So, before filling the calendar with a ton of meetings, make sure that it’s necessary. If it is, then don’t use the default time suggested by your calendar. Instead, change the time to how much you actually need — most of the time, this is under 30-minutes.

And, speaking of meetings, please don’t schedule any at the last minute. Not only is this disrespectful, but it can also lead to confusion and poor attendance. If you need to go over a topic at this very minute, consider alternatives like email or Slack until you can schedule a meeting.

11. Review your team calendar frequently.

Finally, review your team calendar frequently. After all, projects are completed, schedules change, and new responsibilities pop-up. If you don’t factor in these changes, then your calendar is outdated and obsolete.

As an example, team members who are parents may require more flexible schedules around various points throughout the year. A more flexible schedule may be especially true during the summer and holiday breaks.

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Holiday Hours

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3 Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Holiday Hours

 As I visit different stores to do my Christmas shopping, I always wonder how different companies decide when they will be open during the holidays. 

I see some stores and companies shut down for a few days, or even a couple weeks as the year comes to a close. Others seem not to skip a beat and remain open all the way through Christmas and the New Year. 

Setting holiday hours is a matter of balancing competing needs: On one hand, it’s important to respect employees’ need for work-life balance. On the other, don’t you want to maximize the time your customers can spend in store?

So what should your holiday hours be? That’s up to you; make the call with these considerations in mind:

1. Holiday rushes happen.

Although you should set regular hours for most of the year, your holiday schedule needn’t be set in stone. Sometimes it’s best to be flexible on certain weeknights or over the weekend to take advantage of big shopping rushes. 

A business that chooses to stay open for even 30 more minutes on a few nights during the Christmas season stands to benefit when competitors are closed. Earn enough, and you might be able to give everyone a few extra days off. 

2. Your customers have similar shopping habits.

Of course, you still want to predict busy periods when you can. Don’t just sit around and try out different things: Talk to your customers.

You sell one set of products to similar audiences: Chances are, those customers have similar shopping habits. When do they want to shop? What products should you be sure are stocked during those periods?

Ask, too, about incentives. Is there anything else you could use to draw them in? Are there certain deals your competitors are offering?

3. Your staff has holiday plans.

It’s a busy time for everyone during the holidays. Family members come in to town, there are plenty of activities for kids, and travel is common during the week between Christmas and New Years.

One way to honor your staff’s holiday plans without losing out on sales? Build your holiday schedule around the hours that your team is most motivated and productive. Morning hours might be a smart bet, when most people’s energy levels are higher. 

What if you run a restaurant or other service that people tend to visit at night? In that case, you stay open only at night. You’ll keep your servers and bartenders busy, giving them ample opportunities to collect more tips from generous customers.

Making the Call

As 2020 approaches, it’s natural to want to celebrate. But before closing up shop, remember that you’ve got visitors who are checking their list twice and thinking of you. 

Staying flexible with your hours to accommodate shoppers is a powerful way to boost your bottom line. It can make you a bigger name in your community, put some extra cash in your staff’s pocket, and ensure everyone gets the gifts they want. 

So what should your holiday hours be? Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all schedule. Be flexible, check with your team, and ask your customers. Soon enough, the answer will present itself.

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