Calendar Management

Learn how to manage your calendar and protect your time so you have time to work on important work.

Everything that’s in your calendar MUST be done. It’s an appointment with someone else or with yourself.

Calendar Management Basics

  • Accept a meeting in your calendar so the invitee can see if you are attending
  • Be on time - or let someone know you’ll be late
  • Don’t overrun the meeting end - respect people’s time, they might have another commitment
  • Block out the times you have lunch break. Either as a recurring meeting or schedule it each week in the weekly planning session
  • Schedule a meeting as soon as possible. The longer you put it off, the more likely you are to have scheduling issues
  • SChedule the meeting as short as possible. You can always schedule a new meeting
  • End the meeting when the outcome is achieved, don’t wait until the end just because you scheduled it

Calendar is only for time-sensitive tasks

Don’t schedule a full calendar, because most tasks, like thinking time, are not scheduled.

Each meeting should have an agenda

A meeting has a written agenda shared over email.  If it’s easier to communicate synchronously, set up a short meeting. If it’s a complicated matter that requires a lot of back and forth, set up a meeting.

Add documents to the meeting as attachments if applicable, so everyone can reach them easily.

Check availability prior to sending (if access is available)

It’s a good habit to check your colleagues’ availability before you send them an invitation. Take one minute and you’ll see they’re on holiday, have a day off or something else scheduled already. Save yourself and colleagues time by checking their availability.

If you don’t have this, get access to your colleagues calendars. It’s possible to share just the availability without the meeting details.

Schedule focus time in your calendar or create a time-blocking schedule. In this article, I'll show you how to create a time-blocking calendar to be in control of your own time and plan things proactively.

Mark attendees as optional

This is helpful if you are scheduling a meeting with many people and you’re not sure who should attend. It’s an invitation to join if they have time, but otherwise the meeting will continue without them (and doesn't have to be rescheduled).

Move meetings to the afternoon as much as possible

Schedule focus time in your calendar or create a time-blocking schedule. In this article, I'll show you how to create a time-blocking calendar to be in control of your own time and plan things proactively.

Document the meeting preferences the team

Everybody works differently. Don’t break someone else’s deep work if it’s not necessary. Create a shared document with each person’s preferences.

  • Preferred meeting-free days, e.g. no meetings on Mondays
  • Preferred meeting times, e.g. after lunch or end of day
  • Meeting Locations, e.g. office, walk & talk or when I’m commuting home
  • Video meeting or in-person meeting or audio only
  • Preferred buffer between meetings, or maximum number of meetings a day
  • Restricted times / deep work rules, e.g. no meetings before 11AM

Pro tip: Creates a shared team calendar with everyone’s holidays, out-of-office days or no meeting days.

Use scheduling tools to plan meetings more easily

If you schedule a lot of meetings, it’s worth investing in scheduling tools like Calendly, AcuityScheduling or the tools within Pipedrive or Hubspot.

Schedule time to process email

Block out time in your calendar to process email. My recommendation is to create 3 time-blocks to process email. Read how to process email.

Schedule time to plan next week

If you want to go home on Friday with closure of the week, I recommend setting aside some time to plan next week. Friday is a great time to go over next week’s calendar and see if any conflicts have arisen, or if you want to shift priorities and cancel or postpone a meeting. It’s better to let the meeting attendees know before the weekend.

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How to protect your time

Besides your smartphone & desktop sending nudges all day, there are other sources of distractions. You are constantly being pulled from different directions. If you're not prepared for that, life is tough. Make sure you minimise distractions and set up time-blocking to prevent this from happening.

Meetings tend to break your schedule of working in focus mode, so I’ll address it separately.

  1. Meetings breaking your day up in smaller chunks
  2. Ideas, tasks & other ‘oh, wait!’s popping up in your head
  3. Noise & co-workers standing at your desk

Schedule less meetings yourself

Perhaps you’re part of the problem, so let’s start with your own behaviour. Again, this is simple but hard: Just have less meetings.

  • Is the meeting really necessary, or are you too lazy to send an email?
  • When creating a meeting, do you think about who to invite?
  • Do all your meetings have an agenda?

Use video voicemail instead of setting up a meeting

One of the reasons to set up a quick call is, because it’s faster to explain something with voice than drafting an email. There is a medium that is both quick & easy and also doesn’t require to disturb team members if they’re in focus mode.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Sharing images, links or a video about what you’re seeing makes it so much easier to help you when you’re stuck.

Record your voice, body language and shared screen

Record a video with Loom, Awesome Screenshot or Vidyard to get the message across quickly. The good thing is that the body language and other meta-communication is also recorded. Added benefit: the receiver can watch the video at 2x speed or skip to parts relevant to them. Nice!

Pro tip: Share the video and ask for a video response

Ask your coworker(s) for a video where they record their response and add their ideas. You still get the benefit of vibing off of each other’s ideas.

Remove recurring meetings that don't add value

Recurring meetings are usually accepted mindlessly. Once they stop serving their purpose, it’s time to say goodbye to recurring meetings. If your manager complains about the decision, make it clear that you are doing this to make more impact. 

Ideas to reduce the number of meetings

  • Can the meeting be removed altogether?
  • Can you remove yourself from the meeting?
  • Can meetings be shorter? (e.g. 45 mins instead of 60 mins)
  • Can it be moved to the afternoon / end-of-day?
  • What is the agenda? Is it possible to send an email with reporting to make the meeting shorter? (or Slack channel with questions?)
  • For recurring meetings:
  • Lower the frequency, e.g. 3 times a week instead of daily, 2x a month instead of weekly meetings
  • Remove people that aren't necessary / use the 'optional' option in Google Calendar

Stop mindlessly accepting meeting requests (No MAS)

If your calendar is full of meetings, you might be too trigger-happy to accept meetings. This video explains it well:

Ask for a meeting agenda before you accept a meeting.

Say "No" to update meetings

It’s annoying to be in an update meeting for an hour, while you could’ve read it in 10 minutes. Consider using project management tools like Asana or Clickup that have ways to update the project stakeholders within the tool.

Reflect on last month’s calendar

At the end of the month, look back on your schedule. What can you learn from how the past 4 weeks look? It could give you some insight into priorities shifting or protecting your time better from unannounced meetings.

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About Ewoud

Ewoud Uphof

Ewoud Uphof is an experienced Growth Hacker, certified funnel optimiser and investor.

In the past decade he has co-founded multiple companies. As Head of Growth he has helped grow 50+ companies ranging from start-ups to multinationals. He has worked for Camptoo, NU.nl, Sophia Mae, Koffievoordeel and many more.

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