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How to Manage Your Calendar and Get Things Done

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February 25, 2021

Our calendars have gone way beyond something we look at to keep track of the holidays! They have transitioned into a tool to keep track of everything we do. A calendar is critical to plan our days and relieves the mind from trying to remember what comes next.

I know that many people keep separate calendars for work and home, yet I believe in integrating them. This has become increasingly important now that many of us are working from home / living at work. We are one whole person with one life. Keeping everything in our life together gives us the big picture of our days, an overall view. In essence, our calendar is our to-do list and using it effectively keeps us productive.  

If your calendar is on your company’s network, you likely cannot integrate your personal appointments on it, especially if it is visible to others. You can, of course, create private appointments for your calendar but that doesn’t give you the best visual of your total day. In this case, I suggest keeping a separate personal calendar on Google or other digital calendar platform where you have immediate access to it.

A planner is another option. It may seem “old school” but it can actually be very useful. I keep a small Day Designer planner with me at all times to avoid having to scroll through my phone to check my availability to schedule appointments when I’m away from my laptop. This is a time-saver and I move appointments from my planner to my Google calendar when I am back on my laptop so everything is in synch.

The new year is a great time to start a new calendar practice. Gaining control of your calendar gives you a feeling of control over your life because you are creating a real-time plan to work from. As administrative professionals, we are planners. We are proactive. We strive to stay ahead of the game to keep our executives on track. Often times, we are so focused on others’ calendars that we “forget” to look at and utilize our own. I always felt like I was “living” in my executive’s calendar and would find myself neglecting my own. How many times have you done that? It’s easy to miss a call or a meeting, or to dismiss a reminder when we aren’t looking at our own calendar as well. Our goal is to optimize our calendars first in order to support and execute the priorities on our executive’s calendars.

In a virtual world, keeping an updated calendar is especially key because we don’t have the opportunity to converse with others and benefit from casual reminders and discussions about upcoming activities. I recommend scheduling a weekly touch base with your executive and teams via phone, Zoom, or email to check-in on calendar items. This helps you stay connected and in sync which is meaningful when we are working from home or in the office, alone and with minimal staff. It is an important way to let people know you are present and engaged, that you place a priority on communicating details for upcoming appointments, meetings, and events, and it demonstrates your value to your executive and team.

Here are some ways to manage your calendar and get things done.

Calendar…

  • Confirmed appointments, meetings, and events.
  • Tentative appointments (those pending confirmation) and confirm them when firm.
  • Schedule a minimum of 15 minutes buffer time between meetings. Back-to-back Zoom meetings without downtime or prep time can lead to Zoom fatigue, especially for the host.
  • Holidays, out of office days, and times during the day when you are unavailable. Communicating your availability is key in a virtual world.
  • Daily breaks and a lunch. Don’t get in the habit of working nonstop, especially when working from home allows for flexibility.

Color code…

  • Like and recurring meetings in the same category to provide a visual cue of the meeting content. Do not overuse color coding. Reserve this tool for recurring (blue), tentative (orange) and critical meetings (red). Too much color can be distracting and create confusion.
  • Leave white space. Sometimes we feel compelled to fill in every space of our calendar like completing a puzzle. Seeing open space on a calendar is like a breath of fresh air!

Meetings…

  • Calendar confirmed meetings and revise attendee lists and details as they are refined. Send updated invitations when information changes so attendees are apprised of changes in real-time and can prepare in advance.  
  • State the goal(s) of the meeting in the meeting invitation. Know what the meeting is to accomplish, think carefully about who is invited, and include an agenda that shares enough details so attendees can adequately prepare.
  • Schedule 30-60-minute meeting durations. After 60 minutes, most attendees with mentally “check out”. Reduce meetings by 15-minute increments as needed.
  • Set reminders for attendees when you send meeting requests, especially when attendees have deliverables due for a meeting.

Tasks and projects…

  • Block work time to complete tasks and projects. Work backwards from the deadline date and break down projects into small blocks of recurring work time. Set reminders to keep yourself moving forward. Allow more time than projected to meet deadlines in anticipation of new and competing priorities that may arise and slow down progress.

Article by Lisa Assetta, Founder and Owner, Office Assistance Plus & ASAP Member

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APCEA Summit  EA Ignite