The way we manage our calendar is one of the key culprits to the infamous “if I only had more time” excuse. Most common use of calendar is to see meetings invites or to call a meetings. Another use of the calendar is it to defend your time against time intruders. It’s a technique of guarding your scarcest resource, your time. It helps you achieve more of what you care by carving more time upfront and avoid wasting time on something that’s less important or distracting. In this post I’ll show you how to apply simple yet powerful mindset and technique to make sure you have plenty of time to do what you want vs. trying to squeeze in between myriads of irrelevant meetings that pollute you calendar.
Identify What Matters Upfront
Before blocking time in your calendar it’s essential to be clear what you want your time being spent for. If you know exactly what you need to deliver then list it first. Example:
- Resolve DB performance issue.
- Resolve bug in module X.
- Have lunch with old friend
- Create presentation to stakeholders.
If you still figuring out what deliverables or outcomes you need to put on the table then think of the key workstreams first, once the streams identified figure out the outcomes in each. Example:
- Debugging (Outcome: resolve issue #132432)
- Mentoring and Coaching (Outcome: meet with an old friend)
- Administration (Outcome: presentation, expense report)
- Software quality (Outcome: DB performance issue resolved)
Block Time Ahead
Now that you know what’s important, and what’s not go ahead and block time in your calendar week ahead. Create self meetings in the calendar for no more than three workstreams a day. Example:
- 9:00-11:00 – Resolve bug 132432
- 11:00-12:30 – Presentation draft done
- 2:30-4:30 – DB perf culprit identified
Do it for each day for the whole week ahead.
Step Back And Validate
Your time is planned for the whole week, step back and take a balcony view on it. Click on the Work Week view so you could see how you spread your time. What your gut feeling tells you? is it realistic? Do you invest your time adequately across the workstreams? Do you bake in some time buffers in case you are unable to accomplish what was planned originally? Do appropriate adjustments based on your examination.
Move Forward And Execute
You are all set. Your calendar now serves as a shield to less important meeting requests. In case you receive important meetings – such as fire drills, superior’s requests, or any meeting requests that you think are more important than those you planned ahead then at least you know what outcomes will need to be re-prioritized or de-prioritized altogether. In case you re-prioritization or de-prioritization you would have to reduce time you invest in it. Iin most cases when people will try to intrude your calendar they would see it’s being blocked for the current week so they either reach out to you asking for flexibility or set the meeting for the next week, by then I guess the issue will be irrelevant and the meeting will be called off.
Using this simple technique of defending your time you will be able to accomplish what matters most and keeping your work life balance under your control, not under Outlook’s control.
- Microsoft Outlook – Free and Paid
- Backlog, calendar, daily tasks, and weekly outcomes
- Zero item inbox, time budgeting, following up and other techniques
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