I’ve been in the “working world” for almost 30 years, and one thing that is common to every job I’ve ever had is this: time will control if not controlled.
At SVDS, our agile nature means we need to iterate quickly and manage our time accordingly. There are many emotions involved with time management—worry, annoyance, relief—but it’s easier to achieve success if you act more tactically. In this post I share some tips for avoiding calendar panic, learned from years as an executive administrator.
Look to the future
I can’t overemphasize the importance of looking ahead. I have a system that includes looking to the upcoming month on the calendars I manage and building in pockets for project time, travel, and personal needs. Next, every Friday afternoon I look ahead to the upcoming week and identify any overlaps, problems or inconsistencies. Finally, at the end of each day I look to the next day to make sure what’s on “paper” makes sense. Of course this varies person to person and the different calendars I manage certainly reflect the personality of the owner. But time looking ahead is time well invested.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Everyone has some method of prioritization, but not everyone’s calendars reflect those priorities. I look at calendars as fluid tools to reflect the priorities of the day (which speak to the priorities of the week, month, year, etc). There is no shame in moving, rescheduling, or canceling things that don’t push you toward what is important. I’ve learned so much from leaders I support in watching how they move through their demands.
In that vein, flexibility is your friend. Calendars are a tool which allow us to manage the unmanageable. While time can’t be slowed or hastened, it can be leveraged to work in your favor. I’ve never met a person who is more productive while in the throes of frustration— deadlines, yes; pressure, yes; but frustration, no. Frustration is many times the result of trying to stick to something that isn’t working.
Be flexible with your calendar. In the workplace, you don’t want to be the one who doesn’t respect calendar appointments, but great leaders foster like-minded priorities within an organization and this underscores the need for flexibility when appropriate.
Busy vs productive
Finally, there is a distinct difference between being busy and being productive. Productivity trumps busyness every time, and my favorite rule in winning the productivity race is the well known “touch it once” principle. Applying this one methodology can make a significant impact in creating space within your time. Even when you must re-visit something, the simple awareness of the fact that this is repetitive is valuable.
These are just a few tips that can help you manage a busy calendar, and an unending todo list. I’ve included a couple links below to more resources. Everyone responds to pressure a little differently—share your time management tips in the comments.