How to Use Online Calendars to Increase Productivity
When it comes to productivity, there isn’t one surefire method. We all have our own tricks and hacks that work well for us. But, I have noticed that you can use online calendars to increase productivity.
Use only one calendar.
Before there were online calendars, it was uncommon for people to use multiple calendars to keep their lives organized. For example, one calendar would be used for business meetings, the other for doctor’s appointments, and another for important events like birthdays.
To be fair, it wasn’t the worst system in the world. I saw it work out just fine for my parents and grandparents. The problem was that you didn’t have one location for everything.
With online calendars you have just one calendar in one convenient location. Better yet, you can color code your calendar so that you can easily differentiate between meetings, work-related tasks, and personal events.
Chunk or block time.
Chunking time isn’t a revolutionary time management or productivity hack. But, I don’t think it gets the respect it deserves.
For those new to this idea, chunking, as perfectly explained by Tony Robbins, “is the grouping together of information into ideally sized pieces, so they can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want without stress or shutdown.”
Think about when you started a large project, like updating your home. When you look at the whole picture, it’s overwhelming. As a result, you begin to focus on a million different things instead of doing one thing at a time. Ultimately, this prevents you from reaching your goal.
“When people don’t reach their goals, it’s often not because of ability,” add Tony. “It’s because of the way they’re focusing on the number of items, or rather, the way they are chunking things that are alike all together. By taking all that is coming at you and putting it into ideal-sized groups your mind can handle, you are positioning yourself to accomplish your goals.”
You can take this concept and use it for time/task management by:
- Breaking your day into practical chunks of time (usually 30 – 120 minutes).
- Analyzing your levels of focus and productivity for each chunk of time.
- Assigning the types of activities to each chunk of time. This allows you to use that time slot most effectively.
- Only focusing on these activities until they’re completed or time is up.
If this is too restrictive, you could create bigger chunks of time (1/2 day or full day) and assign larger groups of activities to each. For example, in my routine, I usually set aside Tuesday afternoons for meetings.
The purpose of a calendar is to only record appointments or actions that must happen at a specific time or date. If there’s a small task that can be done whenever, then you probably don’t want to add it to your calendar. After all, you don’t want to fill-it with clutter.
At the same time, having a deadline or appointment guarantees that you will make a task a priority instead of constantly blowing-it off. It could be as simple as booking your hotel for an upcoming trip to scheduling a “meeting” in a coffee house so you can’t leave your home office.
Set check-in reminders.
One o of my favorite functions of online calendars are reminders. Even though I have important dates stored in the back of my mind, they keep me on track and prevent me from having to remember a million little details.
Let’s say that I have a deadline an approaching for a project. I create check-in reminders to make sure that I’ve reached my milestones for that project. If I’m collaborating with others, I use those reminders to see if they’re also on-track.
Besides check-in reminders, I love that my Google Calendar reminds when of appointments and events. I may know the day I’m checking into a hotel, but that reminders tells me the check-in time. It may not sound like much, but not having to store all of that information allows my brain to focus on more pressing matters.
Set out-of-office (OOO) time.
Create blocks of time on your calendar as “unavailable,” “not working” or “OOO.” It’s a simple trick when you’re not working a certain day or are traveling since it prevents you from scheduling anything else.
“Everyone needs to take breaks throughout the workday. In fact, they are vital for your productivity,” writes Renzo Costarella in a previous Calendar post. “Try your best to schedule yourself a few breaks and take that time to temporarily disconnect and recharge.”
“I try my best to get outside and take a few walks throughout the day to clear my head. When I get back to my desk I’m rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next job,” adds Renzo.
“Something to remember though is to stay disciplined. Try to schedule your breaks around your daily schedule and don’t take more than you need.”
Set buffer times.
Make it a point to schedule at least an extra 10 minutes on either side of every meeting. This way you have time to to clean up from the current meeting, prepare the next, and recharge. Buffering time between meetings will also prevent that feeling of rushing from meeting to meeting.
Record appointments immediately.
When you agree to an appointment, you’re promising the other party. As such, they expect you to meet them on the date and time you’ve set.
Can you imagine if you didn’t because you forgot or double-booked appointments?
It’s embarrassing and will do some damage to your credibility. Even if it’s a friend.
When you make an appointment, mark it in your calendar. Since you’re using an online calendar, you should be able to do this right from your phone.
Integrate contacts and scheduling tools.
Most online calendars from the major players (Google, Apple, Microsoft) will integrate your calendar with your contact list. This way you can share your calendar with them seamlessly.
There’s also scheduling tools, like Calendar, that eliminate the back-and-forth messages with scheduling. You just share your availability and then they select the best time slot for them. Once they they, the event is added to everyone’s calendar.
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