I am pretty sure I would be shocked if I added up all the hours I have spent over the past few years pfaffing about with my calendar and procrastinating because I didn’t have the right systems in place. Imagine what I could have done with that time! #eeek
Being an entrepreneur comes with its perks, one being that you are in control of your calendar. Which means all of us biz owners should be rocking a schedule that excites us and makes us want to jump out of bed each day… but that’s not the case for most biz owners. Not by a long shot.
Instead, way too many entrepreneurs fill their days with stuff that doesn’t serve them, or they jam their calendar full of meaningless tasks simply to get the slight thrill of ticking them off their to-do list (even though — if they were really honest with themselves — they’d have to admit that it’s all just fluff and filler that’s not moving them forward toward their big goals and dreams).
Worse still is when our calendar fills up with things we think we “should” do, yet have absolutely no desire to do — the stuff we do out of obligation, duty, or because we’re simply too scared to say ‘no thank you’. (Hello, resentment!)
When you look at your calendar it should excite you, not stress you.
I’ve been totally guilty of all of the above in the past. But in more recent years, I have mastered the art of controlling my calendar with grace — not filling my day with things that don’t light me up, not packing it with stuff that stresses me out, and being diligent about creating ‘white space’ for the stuff that inspires and is important to me. This last one has been both a good thing and a bad thing. I love seeing massive chunks of white space in my calendar, because in the past there was none. Zero. Zilch. Nada. But over the last few months I realised something… that I have created so much white space that I ended up filling it with stuff anyways — mindless email checking, endless social media surfing, and not actually getting important work done. Not exactly ideal!
So lately, I’ve been paying particular attention to my calendar and getting really conscious about my time. It’s a topic that absolutely fascinates me, so I wanted to share my biggest light bulb moments with you.
Here are my top 5 tips to master your calendar and power up your productivity.
I love pretty diaries and using coloured pens and highlighters, but in this fast-paced world we live in, we need to adapt quickly and handwritten diaries can start to look overwhelming with white-out over white-out, scribble everywhere, things crossed out, and time changes all over the place. Mine began to look like my 4 year old nephew had taken to it! So much so that when I looked at it, I felt overwhelmed and stressed out. Your calendar doesn’t have to make you feel like that. When you look at your calendar you should feel excited and joyful. That’s my goal anyway. So get digital. Use the free calendar that comes with your smartphone and sync it to your computer. That way you can share your calendar with your team or family and everyone knows what’s going on and when. I know it’s nice to write things down but do that for your journal. Instead, get with the times and get digital. It will save you loads of stress and overwhelm.
Close down email and schedule in email hours.
Email-induced stress is real, and it’s backed up by science. One recent study found that constant inbox-wrangling caused workers to experience raised cortisol, increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate — all massive indicators of stress, and all of which can trigger a cascade of other problems in the body (insomnia, gut issues, skin problems, weight gain… need I go on?!).
I know this to be true in my own life. The times I leave my email inbox open all day are the days I feel overwhelmed and stressed. Conversely, when I’m strict about only doing 2 specific blocks of emails per day (usually one at 10am and one at 3pm), I’m so much more productive and I don’t feel like a stressed-out slave to my inbox.
So, lock in your email hours in your calendar and do not check them any other time. Not only will your productivity skyrocket but your cortisol levels will decrease. When in doubt, remember this: responding to email is one of those things that makes you feel like you’re achieving something without actually moving you toward your goals and dreams. Sure, you might be ticking some minor stuff off your list, but is it super urgent and important? Are your projects more important? Are you achieving what you want? Are you reaching your goals by responding to other people’s emails that most likely can wait? All questions to ponder…
Schedule in social media time.
I aim to post, respond to DM’s and comments on social media once per day. I usually give myself 45 minutes and when I stick to this I feel awesome. The days when I am constantly checking and scrolling are the days when overwhelm and stress are at an all-time high. Today we are consuming more content in a year than our great grandparents would have consumed in a lifetime — it’s no wonder we struggle to disconnect! And social media is a massive contributor to this. So limiting the time you spend flicking through your feeds will superpower your productivity and sanity.
It also helps to turn off all notifications and leave your phone in another room to avoid distraction and procrastination. Even better, I turn my phone on silent unless I am waiting for an important call I can not miss — otherwise my phone is ALWAYS on silent and in the other room or in the draw. Seriously — when I am sitting at my desk it’s not in my sight. At first I had separation anxiety (!), but once you break the habit, you will love it.
Batch meetings in the afternoon.
I usually batch all my meetings in the afternoon, as I use the morning for my MITs (most important tasks), such as writing blog posts, books, creating content for online products and programs, mapping out talks or recording podcasts. By the afternoon, I am wanting to mix things up so this is when I will have any meetings, go for a walk or swim and get away from my desk. When you place meetings randomly throughout your day, you are constantly breaking your flow and concentration. Always batch your meetings and keep them confined to certain days if you can. In an ideal world, I would only do meetings on Monday and Thursday afternoons between 3-5pm, that way my flow isn’t being broken and I can get on top of my MITs.
Schedule in joy time.
Every afternoon I have half an hour to an hour of joy time. Usually this happens at around 4 or 4:30pm, depending on what I have going on that day. Then at the start of my day I ask myself, What will bring me the most joy today? Sometimes it’s a walk, a tea with a friend, diving in the ocean, a yoga class or taking my meditation outside. Then I do that thing in my joy time. It’s so easy to sit behind your computer all day and feel like you are achieving things, but most of the time, the most supportive, productive and sane thing you can do for yourself is to go and fill yourself up sans the guilt. Then, not only are you going to show up as a better person/ team member/ mum/ daughter/ sister/ friend/ wife/ partner, but you will feel so much better within yourself.