As a toddler mum who works from home, I know first hand what it’s like to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time.
Your clients have expectations of you to deliver what you’ve been paid to do.
Your family expects you to care for them and be present.
At the same time, the school expects you to be available as your kid(s) navigate school in the new normal.
If there was an award for Octopus of the year, you already know that you’re going to win it – even though it’s only March.
Since you’re being pulled in many different parts, how exactly are you supposed to thrive?
The secret is in how you use your calendar.
I know… I know… Most people hate their calendars. I mean, it’s common sense to use a calendar, but you dread looking at yours, because it screams at you, telling you all the things you need to do, that you don’t really want to do.
But listen, if you are constantly overwhelmed and overscheduled, there is a problem.
You are not the problem. Your calendar is also not the problem. The problem is that you have not made your calendar yours, and there’s a solution for that.
Here are 5 tips (and tools) for making your calendar yours
1. Include non-work activities on your calendar.
If your calendar is full of business commitments and no personal time, this negatively impacts your well-being, making you less productive.
Add family time and fun to your calendar. You’ll become a more balanced person, because you’re more likely to rest, exercise or spend time with your family if it’s on your calendar.
PLUS When you add things you actually want to do to your calendar, you train your mind to see your calendar as an ally.
RECOMMENDED TOOL: Google Calendar
2. Maintain control even when other people are involved.
Even when other people are responsible for scheduling time with you, set some boundaries around “who” and “when.” For instance, you should:
- Ask retainer clients to pre-book their sessions. This helps you to set expectations with your clients so they know that they can’t just wake up and expect to have your attention. It also helps you plan ahead and prepare mentally for the scheduled sessions.
- Prevent less than 24-hour cancellations. Of course, life happens, and the client may need to reschedule, but let them inform you early enough. This protects you from false emergencies and will also prompt them to honor the time slot they chose because they know that they will have to find another time on your calendar.
- Don’t fill up every time slot. Leave buffer time between sessions and meetings so that you have some time to breathe before your next appointment.
RECOMMENDED TOOL: Calendly
3. Book Appointments with yourself
If you don’t take yourself seriously, then no one else will. Just as you invest hours in client work, create some time for you too.
You can schedule these self-appointments for personal work tasks, personal development, or even thinking time. The idea is to give yourself time blocks to work on something without interruptions.
During this time, put your smartphone on silent mode to eliminate distractions, or turn on Focus Mode, where only a few apps are allowed to function.
Most people know they need these time blocks and intend to have them, but if it’s not on your calendar, you’ll treat it as free, available time and before you know it, you can’t tell where all the time went.
RECOMMENDED TOOL: Your smart phone
4. Be thoughtful with time slots
When you launch your calendar app to schedule an event, you may notice that it automatically allocates 1 hour to the event. Review that timing. Sometimes all you need is a 10-minute call or a 30-minute meeting. There’s a lot you can do in 30 minutes. Don’t mindlessly give your hours away.
RECOMMENDED TOOL: Your wristwatch
5. Have a separate preparation time
“I’ll do that when my baby sleeps” is something I said a lot as a new mom. I would often postpone work till when my daughter napped. And as soon as I put her down, I’ll scramble to decide what to do, and manage to get 3 out of 17 tasks done before she’ll wake up again.
Yes, time seems to fly faster when the baby is asleep, but I also found that I wasn’t getting much done because I wasn’t planning ahead.
So, I decided to plan in advance what exactly I was going to do at nap time, and make a list of tasks to complete. It worked like a charm! My productivity went up 50%
Planning ahead of future activities guarantees you will quickly settle in and focus on important things when it’s time to work.
It also provides an overview of important tasks, allowing you to determine how much time is left for other things.
Create a habit of reviewing your calendar ahead of the week and at the end of every day. I find Sunday evening works best for my weekly review, but you need to find a day and time that works for you.
The review gives you an opportunity to get anything you need on time, remove unimportant activities from your calendar, and reschedule things if your priorities have changed.
A calendar is a busy woman’s friend!
A calendar helps you get organized and see where your time goes. By scheduling tasks and events in my calendar, I don’t have to remember them or constantly decide what I’m doing every hour. I simply move.
Taking ownership of my calendar and planning my days and weeks have made me more relaxed and more productive. I hope this post helps you get there too.