“How do you block out your calendar?”
It’s a question I field a fair amount.
Managing multiple businesses and clients over the years, I guess people think there is a secret.
Some sort of magic I keep hidden that allows me to do what I do in an organized, not-too-harried fashion.
I can see where business owners would want to know that intel because there are many ways that you can arrange your calendar.
Some people only block out their appointments.
Others block out every single task plus appointments.
While some do a hybrid where they blockout very specific, very important tasks and appointments but every nitty gritty task does not show up on the calendar.
There’s time chunking and time theming, too.
I’ve mentioned before that blocking out every task and appointment causes me too much anxiety so I don’t do it. If I put an appointment in my calendar to work on my newsletter from 7-8am on Monday and that spills into 8:10am, I start to think I’m behind. And not just behind in that hour, but also that day, and that week.
It’s a recipe for overwhelm for me.
So, I adapt a hybrid approach which leans heavily towards appointments only on my calendar.
This method allows me to stay on track because I know where I need to be and when every single day.
I know that there are certain appointments, like calls with clients and my assistant that are recurring and happen the same day and time each week, every other week or monthly. Those go on my calendar first.
I have “self-coaching” listed as an appointment each and every morning. I don’t coach myself every day, but it is a strong reminder to continue being the watcher of my thoughts.
Sometimes, I’ll need to follow-up with someone down the road about a mutual client, so I add that as a calendar appointment, “Follow-up with Sally about Jane’s launch.”
Next, when it comes to scheduling one-off or less frequent appointments, I always leave myself a fair amount of buffer room before and/or after. This is a common mistake I see people making, not leaving extra time before or after an appointment and scheduling appointments back-to-back. If that call or in-person runs just five minutes over, you’re already late to the next place you need to be.
For example, if I have an appointment to catch up with my friend Britt, that’s great! And I know we usually talk about about an hour. Sometimes, though, our chats go a little long, so I know I can’t schedule another appointment on the back of that appointment.
Or, when I have a personal appointment or coffee chat with a local business owner or anything that takes me out of the office, I get ultra conservative on the amount of time blocked out on my calendar. It’s not uncommon to block out three hours on my calendar for a coffee chat or haircut that’s a quick 15 minute drive from my house.
Recently, I had an in-person, off-site business meeting that I knew was going to be four hours for the meeting itself. I had to drive there, which was 20 to 25 minutes each way, and I knew there’d be short chit chat before the meeting started, which would’ve made it about five hours. Knowing that six hours is my sweet spot for total working hours in the day, I just blocked the whole day for anything else.
Instead of saying “Oh, I could technically squeeze in a client session after the meeting,” I realized I really couldn’t add in any client calls to the day.
Good thing too, because terribly cold weather hit us that day and it ended with my car tires leaking so much air that they could no longer hold any air and my car needed to be towed. What was supposed to be a five hour day and had been blocked as a six hour day actually turned into a nine hour excursion. Was I glad there was nothing else on my calendar for that day.
The truth is, this is only a method and my experience of operating my business by it.
The secret is in what you can’t see in my calendar, that I have specific boundaries around my time and I hold myself to them.
If I have two hours of client calls on any given Tuesday, I know that I cannot schedule another call on that day because I’ve found that that number is my sweet spot if I want to be at my peak engagement and energy level for all of my clients.
And, if I have an out of the office appointment, like a lunch with a friend, I absolutely can and should schedule a client call afterward in the afternoon because I know that after the lunch, returning to a high level of focus that is required for analytical tasks is difficult for me, so I might as well maximize my time that day.
But, sometimes, you can’t avoid it. There’s an impromptu team meeting taking place and it’s better for the team to say “Yes” to that third meeting of the day than ask twenty people to shift their calendars again.
When that happens, I take a step back and look at the week as a whole. I see how many appointments are there on a total-week level and which day I have nothing going on. I know that that will be my catch-up day, the day when I regroup.
Plus, my weekends are sacred, no-work zones. Those are my clearly defined whitespaces to re-energize and rejuvenate, so that I can be ready for the upcoming week.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed each week or like you’re not getting to certain tasks, take a look at your calendar and see how you might better blockout time for yourself and add more buffer time between calls before jumping into a next call.
Be extremely honest with yourself about what it looks like on your calendar now and what it needs to look like on your calendar in order to have more clarity and ease.
What questions do you have about having more calm in your day? Post below in the comments – I’d love to get them answered for you.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash