Part 5 of 5: Control Your Calendar

This is part of the series entitled, The Four Skills Every Executive Needs to Practice

In the introduction to this series, we made the case that grad school programs and most organizations don't teaching rising leaders the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

In Part 2, we discussed the importance of managing your email daily.

In Part 3, I taught a better way to run meetings

In Part 4, we talked about the ways that executives need to synthesize large volumes of information.

In this post, the last of the series, we wrap it up but not before we deal with the final skill: control your calendar.

I once worked with a wonderful woman who would listen to anyone's problems and offer sage advice.

The only problem was that her entire day would be caught up with person after person who wanted to sit and chat. And, you know what happens when someone sits down- they stay down for a bit longer than is really needed.  A five minute chat can quickly turn into 

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My friend's entire day (and week) would thus be consumed with the priorities of others. Instead of being "master and commander" of her own week, she operated at the whim of those around her.

That spells disaster for any executive.

Why? Quite simply, your boss doesn't care about the priorities of others. He or she only cares that you carry out your most important tasks.

So how do you avoid the situation that my friend found herself in and control your own calendar? I suggest three strategies:

If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.
— David Allen
  1. Use one calendar. Whether it's the old-fashioned print version or Google Calendar, it must be used. If you have multiple calendars (I.e. Family, work, civic duties), make sure that they all find their way onto or into your one total calendar. This strategy may seem simple because it is. The problem is that too many people keep their appointments in their head rather than on a calendar.
  2. Use one digital task manager. The second strategy is related to the first except that it deals with your many "todo" items. Just as you will place all calendar items on your calendar, the second strategy calls for the countless little todo's into one digital task manager. I've used OmniFocus and it's great. My current task manager of choice if Nozbe (full disclosure: affiliate link). A digital task manager is critical because it will clear your head with every small item you pop into your task manager. You'll have more peace of mind because you won't be constantly thinking about what you need to do. Your task manager will do that for you.
  3. Theme your week. This final strategy is where the best executives excel. By theming your week, you actually trick your brain into knowing what your day will basically be filled with. For me, this looks like the following:
    • Monday: Personal (I conduct 4 one-on-one meetings)
    • Tuesday: People (We have our two staff meetings)
    • Wednesday: Populous (Out and about day)
    • Thursday: Planning (Taking time off-campus to look at the top priorities)
    • Friday: Prep (Getting ready for the next week)

By practicing these three, simple strategies, you will gradually take control of your calendar. This is the final skill that will nudge your productivity over the top.

Did you enjoy this five part series?  You may want to subscribe to my mailing list and receive the eBook, "The 6 Fastest Ways to Supercharge Your Career".