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Google Calendar just keeps getting better. The search giant is rolling out a new feature that analyses how much time users spend in meetings each week. You might be surprised by how much productivity you could claw back with some judicious calendar management.
Taking control of your calendar enables you to get more done each day. With so many responsibilities, it’s critical for your professional and personal well-being.
Effective calendar management demands the right tool. Paper calendars might have worked 20 years ago, but they can’t deliver the personal or team productivity benefits you need in modern connected environments. This is why connected software calendars are so crucial.
For Jennifer Chew, Aircall’s Senior Integrations Product Marketing Manager, Google Calendar tops the list.
“I live and die by my Google Calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it won’t get done,” says Jennifer, noting its ability to manage tasks and appointments together. “For me, it’s easier to look at my meetings and tasks all in one place rather than bouncing between this and another project management app.”
Tools alone won’t save you from distractions, though. Here are eight calendar management practices that top professionals use to keep their schedules locked and loaded.
1. Batch Tasks
Have you ever felt completely absorbed in a task, exhilarated in your work as the rest of the world seems to fade away? It’s a well-known but rare state of mind called “flow”, first identified in the 1960s by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Achieving it means quieting the mind and focusing on what you’re doing.
One of flow’s biggest enemies is hopping between different types of tasks.
Task batching is a way to solve that problem. It groups similar tasks together so you can focus on one kind of work for a longer period. It improves your focus, saves you time, and might just help you get into that flow state.
2. Block Your Calendar
Calendar blocking is a calendar management technique to help with task batching. It arranges blocks of time in your calendar to focus on specific task types. It removes the distractions of answering emails or breaking for meetings.
“I block off three hours on my calendar every day for deep work, usually in the afternoon when I have the least meetings,” explains Max Bailey, Customer Marketing Manager at Aircall.
Calendar blocking offers two advantages. First, you can schedule the blocks for the most suitable time. Some people might be better at certain tasks early in the morning, while others might get their energy rush during the afternoon. Second, blocking out time for specific tasks on your calendar prevents other people from booking meetings during that period.
“On Fridays, I assign tasks to each of the blocks, and I don’t usually plan on doing more than one big task in that time frame. I also color-code my calendar to delineate what’s an actual meeting versus a time block,” Max says.
3. Use a Scheduling Tool
The less time you spend arranging meetings, the better. That’s where a scheduling tool can come in handy. These can range from simply displaying times when you’re free all the way through to more sophisticated tools that let others book meetings with you. Google Calendar is such a popular tool that most third-party schedulers integrate with it.
Look for a scheduling tool that supports your meeting workflow. Several tools will let you decide the length of meetings colleagues can schedule with you. Some allow you to send a collection of specific times when you’re free so participants can vote on the most appropriate slot.
You can also configure some schedulers to book a conferencing system of your choosing, ranging from Microsoft Teams to a cloud-based calling system. The most important aspect of any booking system is that it checks your existing calendar and only allows others to book appointments when you’re free.
4. Schedule Time for Breaks
It’s disconcerting to run from one meeting to another without taking a breath. This is why it’s important to schedule time for breaks. Create gaps between your calendar blocks to compose yourself and prepare for different kinds of work. Use your scheduling tool to automatically insert preparation time before meetings.
Schedule time for activities that revitalize you, including working out and spending time with your family. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey advises concentrating on your P/PC balance. P stands for production, which is the work you achieve. Production is a factor of production capability (PC), which is your ability to do that work. Your production capability depends on you being healthy and well-rested. Without time for self-care, it will begin to drop.
5. Reserve Time for Planning
On that note, schedule time to plan so you can make the most of your day. That includes setting your goals and allocating time to achieve them.
“I try to choose just two key projects to complete each day and add maybe a couple of extra things on my backlog in case I end up having extra time,” Jennifer says.
You can plan for short- and longer-term periods. The important thing is not to cram too much in, warns Daniel Dawson, Field Marketing Manager at Aircall.
“Make sure to not overdo it and leave room for flexibility in your schedule. Take the time to get to know yourself and your working style so you’re able to set yourself up for success,” Daniel says.
6. Optimise Your Meeting Lengths
Take control of your calendar management strategy by optimizing meeting lengths. That means identifying the purpose of each meeting so you can allocate only the appropriate time and no more.
7. Add Time Zones to Meetings
It’s important to respect everyone’s time zones, especially when you work with a globally distributed team (like we do at Aircall!). Add time zones to meeting details so everyone understands when to dial in on their local schedule. Some meeting schedulers can display availability in participants’ local zones to make appointment booking easier.
8. Integrate With Your CRM
Meetings go better when you have all the information you need about participants. Our top tip? Integrate your calendar with your CRM to get an instant history of your interactions with your participants.
How Aircall Can Help You Be More Productive
Aircall’s cloud-based voice communication system can supercharge productivity by integrating neatly with your calendar management system.
You can use its open API to create custom workflows, synchronizing agent availability with your Google Calendar, for example.
The Aircall App Marketplace also offers integrations with dozens of applications ranging from CRMs to productivity applications and sales automation solutions.